Devastating DRIFTS

Kashmir is prone to avalanches in winters and this year the army bases have been at the receiving end. Recently, avalanches struck two defense installations of 109 Infantry Brigade in north Kashmir almost burying them.

Civilians participated actively and rescued 13 soldiers from the jaws of death , who were trapped in accessible part of garrison in Gurez. However, all the soldiers caught in the avalanche were not as lucky. Until now 16 bodies have been recovered, while many others are missing. All the injured are being treated in the local civilian hospital at Dawar.

Local civilian government deployed snow cutters for rescue operation and also the Hindustan Construction Corporation which is implementing the 330-MW Kishanganga Power Project for NHPC is part of the rescue operations.

Divisional Disaster Management Authority (DMA) said the Gurez avalanche damaged around 25 army vehicles and 17 barracks of the garrison. Defense sources say that this was first such instance for the garrison located in the foothills of Shamsbari range. “It is the first instance,” said an officer based in Srinagar.

Gurez was still a concern when another avalanche hit small camp of the army in Sonamarg. Three Territorial Army soldiers including a JCO from the Alpha camp are reported missing and presumed to be dead. The same avalanche had hit four residential houses, a local school building and destroying them totally.DMA said at least two employees working for the Sonamarg Development Authority (SDA) are missing.

Another avalanche was reported from Ramwari belt in Ganderbal but there were no losses barring destruction of some hutments belonging to herdsmen. Last avalanche hit a security camp when they were paving way out of a bunker on Furkiyan Top in Keran.

Of the seven who were buried under it, only three bodies have been recovered so far. Earlier a small avalanche killed two soldiers in Uri. Last worst instance was in 2010 winter when 17 soldiers were swept away by a massive avalanche that hit the High Altitude Warfare School (HAWS) in Gulmarg’s sector.

Bunking BANKING

Banks across J&K are flush with money. By the end of December 2011, they had Rs 51219 crore in their vaults. But the advances remained unimpressive – only Rs 18704.11 crore – a credit to deposit ratio of only 35.18%, slightly more than half of the national average.

Even the government is disturbed. Last week, chief secretary Madhav Lal accused banks of being half hearted in their efforts in the state. He said J&K is already behind the schedule in making basic financial services available to the people strictly as per the market requirements. Most of the sponsored schemes are not actually taking off on the expected lines, he mentioned.

Turmoil has impacted the banking sector. Most of the nationalized banks closed shutters and fled. Some of them started operating from Jammu and some from Punjab. It took years for a number of their account holders to get their deposits back.

The gulf was filled by the state owned J&K Bank. As the situation improved, most of them returned. Private banks are in race to get space in the best malls of the town. But they remain conservative, selective and urban-focused. Even improved situation is not encouraging them to look at the market beyond the CASA accounts.

This has impacted their overall performance. Their CD ratio improved to 48.56 percent at the peak of unrest in March 2008, fell to 47.72 percent in March 2009 and to 45.75 percent in March 2010 and eventually tumbled to 36.73 percent in March 2011.

Banks here are working at their own pace with their own priorities. “It is visible to even a layman,” said a middle run executive in the state run J&K Bank, the main financial institution directly linked to the economy of the state. “Of the total outstanding of Rs 18704 crore, it is priority sector lending of Rs 11821.47 crore that makes the bulk of it including the investments the banks are making in the state government.”

Even the priority sector offers interesting details about where the bank’s priorities are. The education loans are barely Rs 233.72 crore, micro credit is Rs 893.26 crore, Rs 2253.02 crore is cumulative agricultural credit, Rs 2916.67 crore has gone to housing and Rs 5524.78 crore has gone to the small enterprises.

Last three quarters of the current fiscal are an indicator. Against a mutually agreed priority sector credit plan for 2011-12, they have disbursed Rs 2870.60 crore against a target of Rs 3619.69 crore. Of this, Rs 640.17 crore were advanced to agriculture, Rs 958.04 crore went to small enterprises, Rs 193.26 crore to micro credit, Rs 48.69 crore were disbursed as education loans and Rs 1030.45 crore were advanced to housing sector. But what is interesting is that it is J&K Bank alone that advanced Rs 2097.45 crore (73.06%) in last three quarters.

“We have a commitment to the society,” says a senior executive of the bank, not authorized to talk. “We have a better network and we will continue contributing.” The executive said that J&K Bank’s overall exposure in J&K is Rs 12571.43 crore which is 67.21 percent of the overall outstanding of the entire banking sector in the state.
Nationalized banks say they are scared of the sponsored schemes because of the massive default. Overall NPA of the sector was Rs 853.69 crore in December 2011 of which Rs 314.79 crore belongs to the J&K Bank alone. “Unlike J&K Bank that uses state and local influences to manage bad assets, we in the nationalized banks are yet to get SARFAESI Act in J&K,” a senior executive in a nationalized bank said. “For all these years we have been suggesting that the ticket size of the loans covered under various sponsored schemes be increased so that these become viable but nobody is listening.”

Now A Police HEADCOUNT
Off  late Police is seen helping civil administration and in many cases surpassing it. Nowadays the force is busy in ‘census’- but of Shehr-e Khaas only. Police term the exercise as normal and done with intention to ensure better police-public cooperation, people call it ‘mental torture’.

After apparently calm summer of 2011, police is getting ready for 2012. Much to the discomfort of the residents, police is conducting survey of several areas of Shehr-e Khaas. Apart from taking details of family members, including surrendered militants and alleged protesters, the old city residents said police is also talking photographs of  their houses.

The police is conducting census mainly in the areas which witness frequent anti-India protests, especially in 2008, 2009 and 2010. The areas are bordering Nalamar Road like Maharaj Gunj, Saraf Kadal, Bohri Kadal, Khanyar, Jamia Masjid and Rajouri Kadal.

A resident of Zaina Kadal said a contingent of police from Maharaj Gunj police station visited his house seeking different details of his family members like how many of them are unemployed and what job they do. He said the policemen were repeatedly asking if there was any stone-pelter or protester in the household booked in 2008, 2009 or 2010.

Another resident of Saraf Kadal said police even took the list of vehicles owned by the locals and also inquired about whether there was any surrendered militant in the area.

“While leaving the premises, police took pictures of houses and main entrance gates. They also scribbled a number on the gates,” the residents said. Police has told the residents that they had instructions for conducting the ‘census’ from the higher ups. The police exercise has created doubt among the residents of old city.

However, DIG, Central Kashmir, Abdul Gani Mir maintained that it was a “routine exercise”.

“We are not conducting a census. Police is not doing anything new in old city. Every year we collect detail of the local residents,” Mir said to a local newspaper. “We do it to upgrade police station records,” Mir maintained.

Another Cop In SOUP
A Ramban court framed murder charges against Deputy Superintendent of Police Sonaulah Naik in custodial killing case of 1995 of Ayaz Ahmed Wani, son of Abdul Rashid Wani.  

The Principal Sessions Judge Ramban Mohammad Akram Choudhary also rejected his bail application for absconding after the incident.  According to the Crime Branch case, FIR No.65/1998 at Police Station Ramban for commission of offences punishable under sections 302/34 RPC laid the charge sheet against the accused for commission of offences punishable under section 304/342/202/120-B and 109 RPC as they were alleged to have tortured Wani in their custody.  The deceased Wani was arrested by the cops of Police Station Banihal under FIR number 98 of 1995 under sections 302, 307, 121-A and 124 RPC and 4/5 “Explosive Substances Act” as a suspect in1995.

After alleged torture by the cops, he died on November 10, 1995 at Government Medical College hospital Jammu.  Dy SP Sonaullah Naik, who was then serving as SHO Police station Banihal, among others, was accused of torturing the victim. The court said that the deceased was arrested by Naik as a suspect in the case.

He had also sought his remand from the magistrate. The court also observed that the accused not only got the entries tampered in the Daily Diary Register of his Police Station, but also a concocted story was circulated that the deceased while being taken to some hideout by CRPF had fell down and was injured. Naik had been avoiding arrest and was absconding for more than four years since 2007. Naik surrendered in the court on December 15, 2011.

A Taing RISES
The past week proved very significant for the official biographer of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, now 77 years old. While the Cultural Academy run journal Sheerza dedicated a complete issue to the person and contribution of Mohammad Yusuf Taing, the state Legislatively Council is going to elect him as the Deputy Chairman of the house.
Born in Shopian in 1935, Taing had his education in the SP College at Srinagar.

In 1958, he was appointed editor of Tameer, a state information department publication covering the developmental activities of J&K state. Later in 1962, he was adjusted in the Academy of Art, Culture and Languages of which he became the Secretary in 1973. Taing finally superannuated in 1993 and immediately got adjusted as a member of the state Public Services Commission.

After completing his term in the PSC, Taing unsuccessfully contested an election against Mufti Mohammad Sayeed from south Kashmir parliamentary constituency on National Conference mandate in 1998. A year later, he was nominated to the state legislative council for the six year term from a seat reserved for prominent people on culture and languages. After he completed the term, the NC again nominated him and he was elected for another six year term in 2007. It is in continuation of this membership that he is being elected as the Deputy Chairman of the house.

Aatish-e-chinar apart, Taing has been continuously writing on the heritage and other cultural issues for whole of his life. This has fetched him an unparalleled access to information within the official circles and also got him a number of awards that includes Padam Shri and the Sahitya Academy Award besides the state award.

But it is the official biography of Sheikh that was Taing’s magnum opus. It is this book that has given him what he has and will continue to have in coming days. While authoring this book, he still has a lot of information that, people think, he should reveal in the larger interest of the society, in fact his personal account of his rise could be a political thriller if he wishes to make it so.

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