It started with successfully growing different varieties of Kashmiri apples. Now the Telangana has started experimenting with Saffron and it has reaped the first yield. A Hyderabad-based startup, Urban Kisaan, has piloted the spice project. The start-up, co-founded by Dr Sairam Reddy Palicherla, collected details of the crop in Kashmir and flew the seeds in August and created Kashmir-like weather conditions in the laboratory. The innovative lab farming envisages using only 40 times less space and creating 20 times better crop than Kashmir. On the lab agenda is something new. Since the Saffron grows once a year and the plant lays dormant for the rest of the season, they want plant dormancy to break so that it gives two crops. They have adopted vertical farming using the hydroponic method, a farming style that doesn’t involve soil.
Lt Governor Manoj Sinha has said that investments in industry in Jammu and Kashmir will touch Rs 35,000 crore by the year-end as the number of tourists has crossed 12.83 lakh.
Goiwara village is excited as the resident skier Arif Khan will be participating in the Winter Olympics 2022 in Beijing. Currently practising in Austria, Khan, 30, has participated in at least four global skiing competitions. Son of a travel agent who would put on skis for fun and occasionally to contest, Arif was selected to represent India in Dubai. Two things have enormously contributed to making him a world athlete – he lives closer to Gulmarg, the major winter sports destination of Kashmir and his father being perpetually in Gulmarg as part of his job. Khan has rigorously trained himself with some of the best skiers who would frequent Gulamrg for its powder snow, the only such destination outside the Alps.
In the last championship Khan participated in, he had got 140 points from five slalom races for the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang. He was on track after good performances in Turkey, Bulgaria, Norway, and Sweden. Before actually being selected for the top skiing spectacle, Khan qualified hundreds of FIS-conducted races across Europe and other regions. The FIS is headquartered in Switzerland and holds competitions in Alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, ski jumping, Nordic combined, freestyle skiing and snowboarding.
So far, four players including two from the Army have qualified from Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh for the Winter Olympics but one has got a medal. A smart skier who has literally mapped every curve of the Gulmarg slopes has earlier participated in South Asian Games, Asian Games and World Ski Championships.
“I am in a race to put India and it’s skiing places especially Gulmarg Kashmir on a global listed skiing destination in the world,” Khan wrote in October, before leaving from Austria. “So join me along, in my journey this winter towards the preparation for upcoming winter Olympic Games 2022 Beijing.”
The government is planning to rationalise almost 2000 schools across Jammu and Kashmir to ensure an adequate pupil-teacher ratio. Any school having less than 15 students may be closed down. In 2015, around 2400 schools were merged for lack of adequate enrolment.
With half of Srinagar seeking options to manage the foul smell emanating from the Brari Nambal lagoon, the Lakes Conservation and Management Authority is planning to open several food courts on its banks. The last time when it floated a tender, nobody applied to indicate the potential bidders knew it is not possible to serve Wazwaan on the banks of a cesspool. Though the governments invested good money in retrieving the urban wetland, it has not been able to cleanse it. A number of beautiful wooden structures erected on its banks are now playing host to drug addicts. It has already lost almost 23 per cent of its area, part of it going to homes and commercial structures and the rest to the roads. The residents have been seeking an upgrade in the STP so that it could be managed better but the officials are investing in pavements and other things.
The Government is appointing 450 medical officers to improve the patient-doctor ratio
Police Chief, Dilbagh Singh said the operation in Poonch-Rajouri launched on October 14, is going on in Bhatta Durrian forests. Nine soldiers including two officers were killed in the twin attacks by elusive fugitives in the forests. Police have arrested almost a dozen civilians including two women for allegedly providing logistic support to the militants. “We had similar incidents like Sunderbani and Nowshera where operations continued for some time after the infiltration,” Singh said. “We suspect that there (Bhata Dhurian) is some presence of terrorists after infiltration in that area and I am sure RR would be able to account for them.”
On Hyderpora, Singh said a Special Investigation Team (SIT) is investigating the case but the police have evidence suggesting “there was a terrorist and terror network around him.” He defended the Rambagh shootout in which three militants including Mehra Yasin Shalla was killed and asserted that 20 militants operating in Srinagar have been killed and one is around, who is being searched. “As such no active terrorist is left in Srinagar but we always have a hybrid kind of terrorist available, who looks like a normal civilian but he is involved with terrorists as their associate and picks up weapon for committing some offence as and when a task is given to him. We are always on the lookout for such elements. We have been able to identify many of them and have already taken action in a big way,” he was quoted as saying in the presser.
Apart from throwing open a series of developmental projects, visiting finance minister; Nirmala Sitharaman made a series of statements in Srinagar and Jammu. Unlike UPA, she said Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave Armed Forces full rights to take appropriate decision at the appropriate time. The minister said that abrogation of Article 370 has brought in transparency and improved discipline in fiscal management. “If that (Article 370) was an obstruction for bringing in a transparent, accountable and democratised Government, we have done ourselves a biggest favour by that abrogation,” Sitharaman said. She said nearly 2.5 lakh of the five lakh people on government rolls were appointed through the backdoor.
Highlighting her government’s priority, the finance minister said the money taken away from the banks will be taken back as the Government is actively pursuing the cases of loan defaulters and will not let them go scot-free. “Every NPA shall be pursued actively and that shall apply to J&K as well,” she said.
However, NC MPs termed her assertions on the security situation as a “bundle of lies”. “She has been outlandishly lying to whitewash the devastating outcome of its August 5, 2019, unilateral and undemocratic decisions,” the MPs said. “Why have bunkers, night raids, civilian killings returned to haunt people? How has the unemployment ratio skyrocketed to an all-time high of 21.6%, which is thrice the national average? Why are people associated with manufacturing, horticulture, tourism and trade in the throes of a profound crisis? What yardstick has the concerned minister employed to gauge the development in Jammu and Kashmir?”
Federal anti-terror agency, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) arrested prominent human rights activist Khurram Parvez, 44, after raiding his office and home on November 22. He is the coordinator of the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS). Recipient of the Reebok Human Rights Award, Khurram also heads the Philippines-based Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD. He has lost a leg to an IED explosion on April 10, 2004, while monitoring the assembly elections in Lolab.
Family sources said the NIA has arrested him under Section 120B (party to a criminal conspiracy) and Section 121 (waging war against the state) of the Indian Penal Code and under Section 17 (funding a terrorist act), Section 18 (conspiracy), Section 18B (recruitment for the commission of a terrorist act), Section 30 (membership of a terrorist organization) and Section 40 (offences for raising funds for a terrorist organization) of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). Before flying him to Delhi, they took all his gadgets. The NIA had raided his residence on October 28, 2019, also. On September 14, 2016, Khurram was prevented from attending a UN meeting on human rights at Geneva. Eight days later, he was arrested by Jammu and Kashmir Police under Public Safety Act for 76 days and moved out after his detention was quashed by the High Court.
Khurram’s arrest was widely condemned by human rights bodies across the world. “I’m hearing disturbing reports that Khurram Parvez was arrested today in Kashmir & is at risk of being charged by authorities in India with terrorism-related crimes … He’s not a terrorist, he’s a Human Rights Defender,” Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders said. David Kaye, a former UN Special Rapporteur for freedom of expression, tweeted, “If, as reported, Khurram Parvez has been arrested by India’s ‘counter-terrorism’ NIA, it’s yet another extraordinary abuse in Kashmir.” Geneva-based World Organisation Against Torture called for Parvez’s immediate release, saying that they were “deeply concerned about the high risk of torture while in custody.” Now, six major human rights organisations including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Front Line Defenders, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), and the International Commission of Jurists have sought his early release.
Nitin Gadkari, the road transport and highways minister inaugurated 267 km highway projects worth Rs 11,721 crore. In a public meeting in Doda, he said tunnels worth Rs 50,000 crore are being implemented even as his ministry will invest one lakh crore in the next two years. Of all the tunnels being constructed in India, more than half are in Jammu and Kashmir. He said the Delhi-Katra Expressway being constructed will make Jammu-Delhi travel a 4-hour affair and Srinagar-Delhi, eight hours. He gave two years for completion of the Srinagar-Jammu highway, however. Apart from the tunnel on Mughal Road, the minister announced new highways:
Kathua-Basohli-Bani-Bhaderwah-Doda; Doda-Bhaderwah-Chamba; Surankote-Bafliaz-Shopian-Srinagar; Atholi, Machail-Kargil, Dayalachak-Challa-Billawar-Manpur-Basohli; Tawi bridge-Jammu Airport-Miran Sahib-RS Pura-Indo-Pak border, and Narabal- Tangmarg-Gulmarg- Baramulla in Kashmir. He said against 1695km national highway length in 2014, it is 2664kms now.
The Ministry of Home Affairs has approved the continuation of subsidised helicopter services on five routes in Jammu and Kashmir for the next five years. These areas remained delinked from the rest of Jammu and Kashmir because of passes getting closed. These routes include Kishtwar-Sounder-Navapachi-Ishan-Kishtwar; Jammu-Rajouri-Poonch-Jammu; Jammu-Doda-Kishtwar-Jammu; Bandipora-Kanzalwan-Dawar-Niri-Bandipora, and Kupwara-Machil-Tangdhar-Keran-Kupwara. MHA will pay three-fourths of the costs or charge a flat 20 per cent of actual operation cost to the passengers. It will entail a subsidy of below Rs 10 crore a year. With policy approved, now the tendering process for identifying the choppers will start.
Three Jammu and Kashmir police personnel were given Shaurya Chakras by President, Ram Nath Kovind. Unlike head constable Subash Chander, families received the awards in the case of Sub Inspector, Imran Tak and SPO/Follower Ashiq Hussain Malik. All three were honoured for their counter-insurgency operations. Tak, a resident of Udhampur, was killed in a militant attack near Zakoora on November 17, 2017. The SPO Malik, a resident of Chittergul (Anantnag) was killed in an encounter in Bijbehara on June 22, 2018.