LADAKH

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The contest in high-altitude Ladakh is getting intensely interesting. It is Leh versus Kargil. Unlike past, Kargil responded to the situation differently. It convinced Sajad Kargil and Kacho Mohammad Feroz to opt out of the contest for Haji Hanifa Jan, a consensus candidate of the district. He is now pitted against BJP’s Tsering Namgyal (Congress) and Tashi Gyalson (BJP) – both Leh Buddhists. Earlier, the understanding was that NC and PDP would support Congress’s candidate. At the last moment, Kargil decided against it and fielded a consensus candidate as independent. When NC pressurised its cadres in Kargil, they rebelled and resigned from NC en masse. Region’s most senior NC leader, Qamar Ali Akhoon announced the resignation after he sent his resignation letter to the party. Ladakh seat will go to polls in the fifth phase on May 20. Dividing Kargil votes has been a time-tested formula. Seemingly, it failed this time. Now the situation is that all votes that will be polled in Kargil will go to Haji unlike Leh, where the votes will divide between BJP and Congress. Ladakh constituency has 184803 electorates of which include 88877 voters in Leh and 95926 in Kargil. For the first time, Kargil is expected to make it to the Lok Sabha.

In 2023-24, Kashmir witnessed over twelve hundred accidents, resulting in 185 fatalities and 1530 injuries.

DELHI

Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad prevented Dr Farooq Abdullah’s fall on the stairs on March 14, 2020, when the two leaders came out of the meeting in Srinagar in March 2020.

After Article 370 was abrogated, two images emerged from Lok Sabha – one a lawmaker tearing his shirt apart and the long speech of Ghulam Nabi Azad broadcast live by all TVs. Now out of Congress and master of his own Azad party, Ghulam Nabi Azad has now been saying that he was the “sole voice advocating for the preservation of Article 370 while others remained conspicuously silent.” Perhaps he did not know that the entire political class of Jammu and Kashmir including three Chief Ministers – Dr Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti were in “detention”. So where is the room for the attack on Kashmir parties?

Talking about youth involved in stone pelting, Peoples Conference’s Sajad Lone today said: “We cannot afford a system where 25 to 30 per cent of the people are kept away from society.”

POONCH

An Indian Air Force (IAF) convoy was fired upon by militants in Jammu and Kashmir's Poonch district
An Indian Air Force (IAF) convoy was fired upon by militants in Jammu and Kashmir’s Poonch district

Vikky Pahade, a young IAF corporal was killed in a militant ambush at Bakrabal Mohalla near Sanai in Surankote (Poonch) as five of his colleagues survived with injuries. The attack came at around 6 pm on May 4. The injured were identified as Basit, BL Singh, AK Mishra, Sham Lal and Dabhi SH. They were part of the convoy that was on the way from Shastar to Jaran Wali (Sania Top). Pahade, 33, hailed from Nonia-Karbal village in Madhya Pradesh’s Chhindwara district. He was supposed to return home to celebrate his son’s birthday on May 7. He had visited his family in April to attend his sister’s wedding and had joined the unit on April 18. Pahade joined the IAF in 2011 and is survived by his wife, Rina and son, Hardik, three sisters and mother.

Jammu and Kashmir Police have detained more than 26 residents for questioning and some sketches have also been drafted to locate the assailants. Subsequent investigations suggest the militants used a US-made M4 carbine and steel bullets to cause maximum casualties. Around 200 bullets were reportedly fired upon the vehicle within 15 minutes. The area is known for such “hit and run” ambushes. The counter-insurgency grid is busy searching for the attackers. They are armed with drones and sniffer dogs. Posters offering a cash reward of Rs 20 lakh for any information leading to the arrest of the two individuals, believed to be the prime suspects, have also been put up in Surankote. So far there is no breakthrough.

Officials said mustard production, which stood at 11.8 lakh quintals last year is expected to surge to 14 lakh quintals in 2024.

SRINAGAR

Srinagar is a huge city that is home to nearly two million people. It lives on the two banks of the Jhelum River, the Dal Lake and even within the river. This is a bird’s view of part of Srinagar city as captured in April 2023. KL Image: Bilal Bahadur

The High Court has clarified that areas designated as notified under the Lakes Conservation Management Authority (LACMA) are beyond the jurisdiction of the Srinagar Development Authority (SDA). Justice Sanjeev Kumar, addressing a petition regarding the Jammu and Kashmir Civic Laws (Special Provisions) Act, 2014 and the Jammu and Kashmir Development Act, 1970, upheld the validity of a policy to regulate unauthorised constructions around the Dal Lake. The petitioner had contested clause 2.2 of the policy, arguing its exclusion of areas under the Lakes and Waterways Development Authority was beyond governmental competence. However, the Court ruled in favour of the government, citing legal authority and jurisdictional delineations, and dismissed the petition. Meanwhile, the Sonamarg Development Authority (SDA) submitted the satellite imagery to the High Court following which the Division Bench ruled that anyone seeking construction of a hotel has to demonstrate his land falls under the earmarked satellite imagery.

TANGDAR

The High Court of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh has ordered the reinstatement of Naseer Ahmad into the Border Security Forces, 16 years after his dismissal. Justice Wasim Sadiq Nargal’s bench allowed Naseer’s petition, criticising BSF for ignoring due process and flouting natural justice principles. The court reinstated Naseer with all benefits from February 4, 2008, minus monetary benefits. A resident of Tangdar, Naseer was a cook in the paramilitary force. He has pleaded that he was unwell and admitted to the hospital between June 15, 2007 and February 26, 2008.

HANDWARA

Engineer Rashid (KL Image: Bilal Bahadur)

Amidst the tumult of Kashmir’s political landscape, Engineer Rasheed, the outspoken advocate for Kashmiri rights, finds himself ensnared in a five-year stint behind bars on charges related to terror funding. Despite the adversity, he “exists” in the ongoing Lok Sabha elections in which he is a candidate after he filed his papers from the Tihar Jail. It is his son, Abrar Rashid, who is campaigning for him. Leading a heartfelt campaign that winds its way from Baramulla to Uri, Abrar invokes the enduring legacy of his father, rallying fervent support from the grassroots up. With meagre resources but boundless determination, the Rashid family’s campaign is gaining momentum, fueled by the hopes of a populace yearning for change. An engineer, he resigned from government service and joined politics and won twice. In the 2019 Lok Sabha election, Rashid stunned everyone by obtaining 102168 votes (22.41 per cent) as an independent. Mohammad Akbar Lone who won the seat for NC polled 133426 votes. His son is campaigning for his father. “I have seen my father for the past five years. We don’t have money for banners, posters and vehicles. Our hope is our people who will come out in big numbers to vote for Engineer Rashid,” Abrar tells people. “Today’s vote is for innocent Engineer Rashid and the vote can take him to the Indian parliament and also get him released.”

SRINAGAR

The Federation of Chambers of Industries Kashmir (FCIK) has petitioned the Jammu and Kashmir government to enhance subsidies and implement policies to enhance the viability of the PM Surya Ghar rooftop solar scheme. The industry body outlined concerns including low subsidies and the absence of incentives for larger systems above 3kW capacity. These factors deter middle and higher-income households from adopting the scheme. Besides, challenges such as reduced solar generation in winter and lack of metering in rural areas hinder widespread adoption. FCIK proposes extending subsidies for systems up to 5kW to make the scheme more accessible. They highlight the financial burden on consumers, urging for additional state subsidies like those in Assam. Despite Jammu and Kashmir’s favourable conditions for solar energy, its installed capacity remains low.

AWANTIPORA

Right now, when Kashmir rescuers are still hunting for one of the seven persons who was washed away in a boat capsize in Srinagar, two individuals are missing after another incident was reported in the Jhelum River near Awantipora. Of the nine onboard, seven labourers were rescued. Efforts by the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF), police, and locals are underway to find the missing. The missing are from Uttar Pradesh. The tragic incident echoes a similar one last month, where seven, including children, perished. The incident highlights the perilous journey locals undertake due to inadequate infrastructure. The government has offered financial assistance to affected families. The recurring incidents underscore the urgent need for improved safety measures and infrastructure along the river.

AKHNOOR

The Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) imposed a fine of Rs 25,000 on an official of the Jammu and Kashmir Services Selection Board (JKSSB) for negligence that caused a candidate to lose six years in securing a patwari position. Kushal Dev Singh deposited the required fee, but the JKSSB failed to issue his admit card. Despite court orders, the matter remained unresolved until transferred to CAT. The tribunal directed JKSSB to declare the candidate’s result and recommend him for appointment within four weeks. Besides, it ruled that the fine be recovered from the erring official’s salary or pension, emphasising the gravity of the oversight.

KASHMIR

Amidst the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) decision not to contest on three Kashmir seats, the party’s local leaders’ campaign sans party symbols, urging voters to reject National Conference (NC), Congress, and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). It was exactly what Home Minister, Amit Shah said in Jammu where he announced that the party was not in haste to get into Kashmir. Instead, he said the voters can support anybody other than JKNC, PDP and Congress.

The party’s decision against the contest has landed them in a piquant situation. Neither the party leaders are urging people to vote for a particular candidate, nor are they carrying BJP symbols with them while canvassing in poll-bound areas of Kashmir Valley and twin border districts of Poonch and Rajouri in Jammu province. This might be the only party that is asking people not to vote for three political parties.

RAJOURI

A man in the Rajouri district was charged with violating the ban on virtual private networks (VPN), imposed to safeguard sensitive election data. This marks the third such incident in two days. Officials stated Mohammed Dishan of the Brehvi area downloaded three VPN software, contravening the district magistrate’s order. Meanwhile in Ramban, Jammu and Kashmir Police implemented an AI-based facial recognition system near a tunnel on the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway.  The system, integrated with a database of militants and criminals, alerts police upon matching faces. Developed by a Chennai-based company, it bypasses masks and enhances smart policing initiatives, with plans for broader implementation across Jammu and Kashmir, police said.

SRINAGAR

Jammu and Kashmir Bank revealed its exceptional financial performance for the fiscal year 2023-24, marking a significant milestone with a net profit of Rs 1767 crore, a 48 per cent increase from the previous year. Managing Director Baldev Prakash highlighted the bank’s robust growth, reduced NPAs, and dividend declaration of Rs 2.15 per share. With a focus on regional economic growth, the bank demonstrated strong deposits and advances growth, along with a commitment to corporate social responsibility initiatives. Prakash addressed governance concerns, emphasising regulatory compliance and technology enhancement to regain 14 per cent market share – that it has lost in five years – and manage costs effectively. Looking ahead, the bank aims to strengthen digital initiatives, invest in HR, and foster entrepreneurship for continued success.

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