As many as seven security men, including two BSF personnel and five soldiers, were swept away by an avalanche when they were clearing snow to make way near their bunker on Furkiyan Top.
This pass is the main divider between Kupwara and Keran. So far bodies of two BSF personnel have been recovered as efforts to trace other corpses are still on.
According to defence and police records the avalanche hit part of the camp at around 0720 hours. The army mounted a rescue operation immediately by flying its specialists from High Altitude Warfare School (HAWS) which operates from Gulmarg’s during winters. By afternoon, two bodies – BSF sub-inspector Narender Singh and his subordinate Rajesh Saini from 126 Bn, were recovered. All the five soldiers from 268 Brigade are “still missing” and are “presumed dead”.
Police and defence sources said the five soldiers are technically “missing” and they will be declared dead after the search operation fail or lead to the recovery of their bodies. The weather in the belt is extremely hostile and it snowed intermittently at the peaks for the whole day. The area is getting fast, ice cold winds that freeze life, police said.
The avalanche came within days after Army’s Snow and Avalanche Study Establishment (SASE) had issued a warning for areas falling close to the LoC and the mountains of Pir Panchal that separates Jammu from Kashmir regions. A few avalanches hit the Srinagar-Jammu highway. Timely intervention helped rescue a number of truckers who were about to be caught in an avalanche on the highway. Brigadier T P S Rawat, who heads the BRO in Kashmir said a 500 meters long and 16 meter thick snow avalanche hit the road last week and clearing it from the road was the toughest task of the restoration of the highway. A few villages in Ramban belt were evacuated over fears of an avalanche, last week. SASE has not ruled out many more avalanches in the hilly regions.
Snow avalanches are normal during peak winters in forward areas, especially after snowfall. Last week a soldier died in a similar avalanche in Uri sector. In 2010 winter 17 soldiers were swept away by a massive avalanche that hit the HAWS trainees in Gulmarg’s sector.
A Major BLUNDER
Impunity failed, perhaps for the first time. AFSPA had no clause to save an Army major from committing atrocities on his family. The major was arrested from Delhi by cops of Akhnoor Police for allegedly ‘harassing’ his wife and ‘kidnapping’ his son with the help of a group of commandoes in Akhnoor area of Jammu on January 14.
Major Rajnikant Tiwari deployed with 310 Field Regiment was produced before the court. A case was registered against the officer under sections 363 and 324 of RPC on the directions of the court that remanded him to five-day police custody.
Accused of taking his five year old son Ruchik Tiwari alias Gunu forcefully from his wife Kalpna Tiwari, who had come to the police station to register a complaint of ‘harassment’ and ‘dowry demand’ against the officer. His son has not yet been traced yet. The family alleged that negligence of police and their connivance led to kidnapping of the minor by his father.
Source said that the couple did not have cordial relation for the last four years. This time Army officer has to fight alone as here he cannot use his ‘bible’- AFSPA.
Republic Day, this year, was a relaxed and less security-intensive affair. There were lesser dividers, barricades and drop-gates on the roads and not many cops whistling halts to the people driving late night and early hours.
Security apparatus had done whatever was necessary but it choose against creating the routine spectacle for cameras by mounting sharp-shooters on high rise building around the main venue of the function in Srinagar. Every district saw a minister presiding over the function. It was Governor in Jammu and Abdul Rahim Rather, state finance minister in Srinagar. January 26 is the day when the government’s in Delhi and Srinagar announce various awards list. Service of scores of people from J&K were recognized. Here is a list:
Padma Shri was conferred on playwright Moti Lal Kemmu, academician and Shri Mata Vaishno Devi University (SMVDU) Vice-Chancellor Prof R N K Bamezai and Gandhian social worker S P Varma.
Lieutenant Navdeep Singh, who died fighting militants, was awarded the highest peace-time gallantry award Ashok Chakra posthumously. Lieutenant Sushil Khajuria, a resident of Samba, who was killed in a similar battle in September 2011 was conferred Kirti Chakra. Barket Ali became the only SPO who was awarded Shaurya Chakra. Ali died in Doda fighting militants in May 2010. This award is rarely given to civilians or police officers.
J&K Police bagged 40 gallantry medals. These include 22 Police Medal for Gallantry (PMG), two President’s Police Medal for distinguished services and 16 Police Medal for meritorious services. Five BSF and 11 CRPF personnel deployed in J&K have also been awarded Police Medal for Meritorious Services.
J&K government announced six Sher-i-Kashmir Police Medals for Meritorious Services and 18 Sher-i- Kashmir Police Medal for Gallantry. Interestingly, perhaps for the first time, the army also conferred gallantry awards on meritorious and gallant officers of state police.
Lt Gen KT Parnaik, GOC-in-C Northern Command has been awarded the Param Vishist Sewa Medal and Lt Gen AS Hasnain, GOC, 15 Corps got Uttam Yudh Seva Medal. Northern Command cumulatively bagged one Ashok Chakra, three Kirti Chakras and six Shaurya Chakras.
Scared of the conflict they crossed Pir Panchal range. Displaced from their motherland, their records are misplaced at a place they made their second home. In a startling revelation by Delhi government’s Revenue Department said the records of 3,353 Kashmiri Pandits, who migrated to Delhi, have been misplaced. The fact has been revealed in a reply to a question sought by Pawan Kumar Kaul, a Karkardooma Court employee, under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
Records are not confined only to data but the involvement is of money- the humanitarian aid. Saving their lives when large number of Kashmiri Pundits migrated to Delhi, the Delhi Government had extended help for their rehabilitation, started a scheme of providing Rs 1,250 and Rs 5,000 per capita and per family respectively to the Kashmiri Pandits as humanitarian aid, which is still being distributed to them by the Relief Branch of Revenue Department. When Koul sought the address, phone number and other details of the beneficiaries, revenue department had nothing to offer.
In another case the crime branch (CB) detected fraudulent withdrawal of cash relief by a migrant Shadi Lal Pandita of Jagti and booked him for having withdrawn about Rs 30 lakh of relief money by fraud from the government treasury. Under the migrant category, one family is entitled to only one relief card. Pandita was found to have prepared eight fictitious cards of different zones in the names of his family members. Apart from rice, flour and sugar, each migrant family is given a cash relief of Rs 5,000 per month but Pandita was withdrawing Rs 40,000.
Earlier also, migrants have been booked for such offences. This is tip of ice berg. According to sources, if CB takes a little pain to dig the case further by scrutinizing the record of the past two decades of relief organization (RO), it is sure to open the Pandora’s box. The scam thus unearthed may turn out to be the biggest ever in the state.
The other side of story is that in a bid to safeguard interests of pandits and other minorities in Jammu and Kashmir from the majority, the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) has written to the government to amend the NCM Act to make it applicable to the trouble-torn state as well.
There were feeble demands of abrogating it altogether but J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah last week doubled the constituency development fund (CDF) of the lawmakers to one crore a year. It will go up to Rs 1.50 crore from 2012-13. The announcement came after a joint delegation of lawmakers from all the political parties called on Omar in Jammu.
Omar said the enhancement of the CDF should help lawmakers serve their areas better for specific development requirements. The state government has been demanding the central government to skip linking fund devolutions to the central sponsored schemes because the requirements on ground and priorities of the government do not match with the CSS.
An opposition lawmaker who wishes not to be identified appreciated Omar’s response to their demands. “We are under tremendous pressure on delivery front,” the lawmaker said. “I have 97 villages in my constituency and Rs 50 lakhs was too small an amount to manage even certain basic things that the people demand.” The lawmaker said most of the developmental activities are linked to various CSS and it is time consuming.
“There is absolutely no possibility of doing anything beyond CSS,” the lawmaker said. “Take the mid day meal scheme, it is flop in Kashmir because kids move out of homes after having their food or take it along but the money cannot be diverted to something productive.” He said an enhanced CDF will help the lawmakers manage certain things which are visible and productive. This could be a huge relief to them in wake of most of the basic CSS going to panchayat raj institutions for implementation.
The decision came within a year after the perks of the lawmakers were almost doubled. Only last fortnight did the 120 sitting and a number of former legislators including chief minister, ministers and presiding officers withdrew nearly Rs 10 crore of arrears on account of implementation of revised perks with effect from Sep 9, 2009. Almost every lawmaker got eight to ten lakh rupees on an average, officials said.
J&K has twin houses. The assembly has 89 members including two Presiding Officers. The state legislative council has 29 members including a presiding officer. The new pay scale ranging between Rs 80 to 90 thousands a month makes a monthly outgo of Rs 1.50 crore a month now.