Briefing October 25 – 31, 2020

SRINAGAR

Lieutenant Governor, Manoj Sinha (Image: DIPR)

For all these decades, the main activity of the government in Jammu and Kashmir was to hire the staff. In fact, the government has remained the employer of last resorts in the hilly state. A year after the decade-old structure was demolished, now the government has announced its “fire” policy. As per the public announcement, all the employees serving the government will have to be reviewed after putting in 22 years of service or attaining the age of 48. In the public interest, the government said the deadwood would be removed under Article 226 (2) of the Jammu and Kashmir Civil Service Regulations that has been amended recently. Now every head of the department must have a register to locate the officials in both the categories so that their conduct would be reviewed. Hire and the fire is an employer’s right as long as it is just, reasonable and transparent. But there is a twist. The amendment came after a news leak in August 2020, suggesting the government intends to sack 500 employees in Jammu and Kashmir for “proactively promoting anti-India hatred, assailing New Delhi’s decisions of 5 August 2019, trolling and threatening politicians, officers and businesspersons on social media.” It was a month after the administration invoked Article 311(2)(c), a special provision of the Constitution of India for the purpose of terminating the services of the employees or reducing their ranks without holding an inquiry.

Another interesting twist is that the Government of India in August 2020 announced that under various provisions, it can prematurely retire its employees if they have served for 30 years or have attained the age of 50-55 years. In Jammu and Kashmir, it has been discounted further indicated the employees being sacked with three months notice are already identified. Jammu and Kashmir has almost half a million employees whose salary equals more than one-third of the yearly budget of Jammu and Kashmir.

The number of MBBS / BDS seats in state-run Medical Colleges in Jammu and Kashmir has increased from 500 in 2018 to 1100 in 2020.

LEH

Leaders from Leh seeking the implementation of Sixth Schedule of the Constitution of India in Ladakh for protecting their identity and demography met the Home Minister Amit Shah on September 26, 2020. On his assurance, they withdrew the decision of boycotting the October 16, LAHDC polls.

After obliging the Home Minister Amit Shah and participating in LAHDC polls – the sixth since the Hill Council came into being, 65 per cent of the Leh population cast their votes. The election took place in the most disturbing situation given the Chinese army on part of the border. Interestingly the army had captured a PLA member in Demchok. He was repatriated to his unit. The LAHDC has an electoral college of 89776 voters including 45025 women. For 26 berths, 94 candidates – 26 each from BJP and Congress, 19 from Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and 23 independent candidates are in the fray. PDP and NC stayed away.

BANDIPORE

At a time when Sarpanchs are in huge demand, the “suicide” by Javaid Ahmad Dar, the Sarpanch of Aloosa was very bad news. The newsbreak was reported to the police and the locality on October 12. Barely 35, he was energetic and a future leader. A few days later, police trashed the suicide theory. Its investigations revealed that the Zurimanz resident was actually killed by his wife and her paramour, Shahzad Ahmad Dar. They had drugged the Sarpanch and strangulated him. Both the lady villain and her friend have admitted to the crime, police said. The police had set up a Special Investigation Team after it felt the case did not look like a Sarpanch. As the investigations started, the dup admitted to the love crime.

SRINAGAR

Dr Farooq Abdullah coming out from Enforcement Directorate office Srinagar after day-long questioning on Monday, October 19, 2020. KL Image by Bilal Bahadur

Kashmir’s unpredictability is well known. A few years back, it was profane to think that Dr Farooq Abdullah, the 5-time Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir and Delhi’s oldest surviving crisis manager in Kashmir will ever be touched. Last week, he spent his 84th birthday in questioning before the federal investigator, the Enforcement Directorate. He actually had two sessions of prolonged questioning in three days, one day even skipping his lunch.  Dr Abdullah, who is also the de facto head of the Peoples’ Alliance on Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) is facing investigations in the Jammu and Kashmir Cricket Association (JKCA) funds of which Rs 42 crore have been embezzled. The case was investigated and charge-sheeted by the CBI on basis of which ED opened its investigations under the money laundering act. Given the investigations run parallel to PAGD activities, the alliance partners see it “political vendetta”.

In the last year ending October 31, 2020, 13 Jammu and Kashmir cops and 27 personnel from other forces were killed in militancy and other violence-related incidents in Jammu and Kashmir.

BIHAR

PM Modi during an election rally at Bihar

Everybody knew that every time there is an election in India or in Pakistan, Kashmir makes it presence. But that was restricted to national elections. Now, it has started being talked about in the assembly elections too. Last week, a BJP leader said that if Congress supported parties win, Kashmiri militants will come to Bihar. This week, it was UP Chief Minister and later Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself talking about Kashmir. Yogi Adityanath sought votes for BJP because scrapping of Article 370 has given people of other states a “licence” to own property in Jammu and Kashmir. Yogi repeated this at multiple rallies during campaigning suggesting the BJP has empowered them to acquire the property. Prime Minister took a slightly different angle. He said that the country, after a long wait, finally got the good news that Article 370 is no more there. But the opposition is saying they are getting the Article back. “Bihar sends its sons and daughters to the border. After saying that they would bring back Article 370, they dare to seek votes from Bihar,” the Prime Minister said. “Is it not an insult?”

Income Tax sleuths raided 14 business premises in Srinagar and seized Rs 1.82 crore in cash and jewellery worth Rs 74 lakh. In one case, it said an undisclosed Rs 125 crore investment was detected.

SOPORE

Mother hugs her son after he surrendered in front of forces in Tujjar area of Sopore on Thursday, October 22, 2020. KL Image by Junaid Bhat

This picture was not emerging for a long time but then nature has its own interventions. After counter-insurgent contingents besieged Tujjar, the militants inside were asked to surrender. That is normal, by and large, for most of the operations. But in most of the cases, there were no surrenders. In this one, however, when an al-Badr militant’s mother made a passionate appeal, he came out and hugged his mother. This surrender came amid reports that the army has initiated a new surrender policy that is awaiting approval by the MHA.

KARNAH

In this picture taken on 4 December 2003, Indian soldiers patrol along a barbed-wire fence near Baras Post on the Line of Control (LoC) between Pakistan and India some 174 kms north-west of Srinagar.

The fence that makes 740-km Line of Control (LoC) physically visible is going for an upgrade. Media reports suggest a pilot project that converts the fence into a “hybrid” barrier is underway. The upgrade envisages the integration of the existing fence with “LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) sensors, infrared sensors and cameras among others”. Reports said that the new hybrid model of the smart fence being tested will cost around Rs 10 lakh per km and 60 km is being attempted this year. An earlier plan was to go for a hi-tech fence and a pilot project envisaging 2.4 km cost a whopping Rs 10 crore. It was after that the policymakers decided to go for a smart one. The existing fence is prone to massive losses during winters and repairing takes four months.

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