Briefing March 6-12, 2022

   

SRINAGAR

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Illicit liquor recovered from a bootlegger.

The Jammu and Kashmir government has decided to open six new liquor shops across Kashmir. Tourist destinations will be a priority. The likely opening of outlets will be in Gulmarg, Sonamarg and Pahalgam, one in Baramulla and two in Srinagar. Under the new excise policy, the government had identified 51 new locations, 45 in different parts of Jammu and six in Kashmir. Of the 224 liquor shops across Jammu and Kashmir, 220 are in Jammu province.

In the sensational cricket association scam case, the Enforcement Directorate has “provisionally attached” immovable properties worth Rs 7.25 crore of Ahsan Mirza, the third attachment, so far. Earlier Dr Farooq Abdullah’s property was also provisionally attached.

DELHI

Army imparting training to Village Defence Committee (VDC) members on weapon handling, cleaning, musketry, firing and weapon maintenance drills at Mendhar (Poonch). Pic: PRO defence Jammu

MHA has announced that the huge extra-constitutional VDC network will start operating again after a restructure that will give it the name of Village Defence Groups. There are around 17000 people associated with more than 4000 VDC which were not functional. Now, they will be get a salary of Rs 4000 – Rs 4500, a month. The decision was announced after BJP leader Sunil Sharma led a delegation of VDC members to the Home Minister, Amit Shah on March 1, 2022. Now, each VDG will have eight to 10 members and all of them will have equal rank. It was not, however, immediately known if the VDGs will be revived in Jammu alone, which is comparatively militancy free. Politicians have reacted to the development saying the decision negates the peace claims in Jammu and Kashmir. Even the rights activists are unhappy saying the Jammu and Kashmir have filed 221 criminal cases against VDC members in Jammu, including 23 cases of murder and seven cases of rape, 15 cases of rioting, three anti-drug cases and 169 other cases, out of which charges have been filed in 205 cases.

Jammu and Kashmir Infrastructure Development Finance Corporation (JKIDFC) Ltd is lifting another loan of Rs 1000 crore, this one, from the Indian Overseas Bank to fund the completion of the languishing projects across Jammu and Kashmir.

WASHINGTON

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with US Vice President Joe Biden during former’s US visit a few years before Biden was elected as the President of USA

A news report quoting a US diplomat said that the Government of India has taken some steps to restore normalcy in Kashmir. It claimed that the Joe Biden administration “is keeping a close eye on the security situation, including terrorist threats in the region”. Assistant Secretary of State, Donald Lu has told members of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had an outreach to a range of Kashmiri Indian politicians. Interventions leading to Kashmir normalcy include numerous visits by several ministers to Kashmir, restoration of cell phones. “There are challenges to the human rights situation in Kashmir,” Lu was quoted saying. “We have not seen the holding of Legislative Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir. We have not seen the free movement of journalists. We have seen the detention in fact of some prominent journalists in the Kashmir Valley.”

The political grapevine in Delhi is that an election is being planned this fall.

In Medical Colleges across Jammu and Kashmir, only 42 per cent of berths are unreserved for open merit.

MOSCOW

At Delhi airport, it was an interesting situation. When friends of various students flying in from invasion-hit Ukraine were waiting to receive them, another group of young men and women broke into dance. This, a separate group, had arrived to welcome Sadia Tariq, 15, daughter of a journalist, who had flown home with Gold from Moscow in a junior Wushu tournament. This exhibited a dichotomy of response emanating from the two countries currently at war.

That, however, did not impact the two Kashmiris. Even Sadia said that in the war situation, the internet outage left her in the lurch as she could not talk back home, a situation many Kashmiri students from Ukraine said. Upbeat and vocal, Sadia has been very happy of managing a medal in the midst of a war. She would even like if somebody films her struggle and generates a movie. She wants the government to have a martial arts academy in Jammu and Kashmir that can follow the Haryana model. Meanwhile, less than 50 students from Jammu and Kashmir have been able to reach home and all others are struggling to find an exit and fly home.

In 2022, more than 162,664 domestic and 490 foreigners visited Kashmir. Almost half of them ensured they visit Gulmarg.

KULGAM

PDD employees repairing the power supply lines. Pic: Internet

The snowfall displayed the inherent courage that Kashmir’s power distribution network has in terms of its human resource. They worked in the snow and restored the supplies in the shortest possible time at a time when their leader was about to retire. The government also responded positively by announcing the regularisation of services of around 12000 staffers who were working on an ad-hoc basis. However, the spectacular performance was displayed by the JKPTCL staffers in Kulgam and the other four places where the 132-kV high power transmission lines were devastated for 12 km. For this restoration, almost three months are too little but they deployed the Emergency Restoration System (ERS) – imported from Canada in 2018 for Rs 9.5 crore, and restored the supplies within a week. This was for the first time that a 120ft high ERS was erected and successfully used. Now, they will take their own time to revive the giant towers that were decimated by the heavy snowfall.

Addressing the human resource crisis in the energy sector, the government regularised services of 12,000 daily wagers. The decision was welcomed across the board.

NOWHATTA

After 30 weeks, Jamia Masjid in Srinagar, witnessed the first Friday congregation last week. The grand mosque is routinely getting locked for issues linked to pandemics or the law and order situation. It was after a series of pleas by the faithful and their leaders that the top officers visited the mosque last week and the prayers were permitted finally. In 2021, the mosque was closed on April 28. In 2020, it remained closed for almost five months. It was almost the same situation in 2019 as well. Even before the elected government, the mosque would be closed quite frequently.

After spending time for 30 months at home, children brought new life to nearly 13,000 schools last week.

POONCH

Meeting of delimitation Commission for Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday February 18,2021.

In the amended proposal, the Delimitation Commission has opened the Poonch Assembly segment and instead reserved Rajouri for Scheduled Tribes (STs) and merged parts of RS Pura with the Jammu South seat to rename it as RS Pura-JS (Jammu South) while restoring Suchetgarh and Habbakadal constituencies. However, Suchetgarh has been reserved for Scheduled Castes (SCs) going by the population criteria. The Panel has also redrawn boundaries of several other segments including Poonch, Mendhar, Surankote, Thanna Mandi, Rajouri, Banihal, Marh, Jammu North and reversed the name of Mughal Maidaan seat of Kishtwar as Inderwal. Most of these suggestions had gone from BJP. The Commission has not altered the Lok Sabha segment that annexed most of South Kashmir with Pir Panchal valley. Now, five seats reserved for STs in the Jammu region are Surankote and Mendhar in the Poonch district and Rajouri, Darhal and Thanna Mandi in the Rajouri district. Four seats are reserved for STs in the Kashmir division.

SRINAGAR

Kashmir agriculture scientist, Dr Nasheeman Ashraf has earned a prestigious Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB-POWER) fellowship in Life Sciences. Earlier she bagged a CSIR Raman research fellowship to work as a visiting scientist at the University of Kentucky, USA, and an EMBO short-term fellowship to work in Spain. She is currently working as a Senior Scientist in the Plant Biotechnology Division of CSIR-Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine (CSIR-IIIM), Srinagar. She is researching saffron, the costliest spice that Kashmir produces.  Dr Nasheeman has done her master’s in biochemistry from GB Pant University of Agriculture and Technology and completed her PhD from JNU’s National Institute of Plant Genome Research before flying home in 2010.

PULWAMA

Fahad Shah

Kashmir journalist Fahad Shah, 33, who was granted bail by an NIA special court (TADA court), was rearrested in another case. He was arrested on February 4. Police have said Shah has had three cases against him in four years. His lawyer Omair Ronga told reporters that Shah was rearrested in another case hours after he was bailed by the court of law. Ronga said when his family and friends were waiting outside the Pulwama police station after the bail order; they were informed that he has been re-arrested in another case registered at the Imamsahib police station in Shopian.

Meanwhile, the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir has directed the Superintendent of Central Jail, Kot Bhalwal, Jammu to make necessary arrangements for facilitating journalist Sajad Ahmad Dar alias Sajad Gull’s appearance in an examination to be conducted by the Central University of Kashmir. The order came in response to his application that he be permitted to write his third-semester examination. Gul is in detention since January 6, 2022. Though he was bailed out, police re-arrested him in another case.

DACHIGAM

A group of Hangul or Kashmir Stags pass through grassy slopes in Dachigam National Park Srinagar, on Friday, December 27, 2013, the wildlife population of Kashmir has increased
photo by bilal bahadur

After talking after a census, year after year, and getting no positive response, the Wildlife Department, this year, did the unusual. It captured footage of a huge herd of Hangul, the Kashmir stag and put it on social media. This vindicated their yesteryear claims that though there have been changes in the food chain pyramid in the wild, the Kashmir stag is alive and, possibly, kicking. One can count a herd comprising 50 adult stags in Upper Dachigam on February 27. Off late, its numbers had gone down to around 150 but now officials say the population is positively improving and must be upward of 350.

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