News Notes

HDFC Playing At FIFTY

HFDC completed its half century in Jammu and Kashmir. The private sector second generation bank has now 50 branches and 135 ATMs in J&K. The Bank which entered J&K market in 2003, plans another 10 branches besides adding 30 ATMs to its ATM network by March 2013.

HDFC Bank has reported deposits worth Rs 909 crore and advances of Rs 365 crore that makes a 37 per cent Credit Deposit Ratio (CDR) up to November 2012 against an assigned target of 40 per cent CDR, which they are expected to achieve by March 2013.

Expanding its horizon bank has tied up with The Business School, University of Kashmir, University of Jammu and Mata Vaishno Devi University to initiate a Joint Certification Program to train and equip its students with skills essential for the banking sector.

While the bank officials are talking in terms of creating job opportunities for the skilled and educated, the real contribution of the bank is that it has triggered a positive competition within the banking sector. If the bank continues with its pace as it has, it will be very soon that the major public sector banks like State Bank of India and Punjab National bank will play second fiddle to it. Nationalized banks operating in the state have been constantly suffering from low growth phenomenon to a level that some of them are unable to meet even priority sector targets.

“For all these years we were being accused of not supportive of the priority sector lending structure,” Zubair Iqbal, who heads HDFC operations in the state said. “Then, we were more or less urban specific but now we have moved top the periphery and you see how better we manage our priority sector credit.” Perhaps this is the reason why Iqbal has been seeking the presence of state’s finance minister Abdul Rahim Rather almost everywhere he opened a branch.

Demilitarized SRINAGAR?

On one side the state government is claiming that it is demilitarizing Srinagar but on another end new force SAB is ready to enter the valley as the new year gift for the people (in February).

Past week, three of the oldest bunkers were demolished – one by the CRPF and two by angry residents once the paramilitary deserted these installations.

The paramilitary CRPF personnel demolished the bunker they lived in for more than two decades on one of major bridges in heart of the city. It was a drop gate once laid for the counter-insurgency grid required halting life in Lal Chowk.

On the next day another unit of CRPF left during wee hours and the people within hours demolished it. People who were demolishing it had bad memories associated with this (bunker) in the span of over 22 years.

In 2010 unrest, one of the many CBMs that were initiated by the central government included gradual removal of bunkers, initially from the Srinagar city. Police has confirmed that 44 bunkers stand removed in Srinagar since November 2011. Police also said Srinagar alone has more than 400 bunkers and the number across Kashmir would well be over 1600. These exclude border bunkers which are more or less permanent fixtures that only alter during wartime.

However, the more interesting part is that an army official was quoted saying that they are removing bunkers not only for security reason but for availability of accommodation. And 22 more bunkers identified by IGP Kashmir are in the list which will be removed in near future.

It is pertinent to mention here that the government has set up 357 barracks and 156 rooms along with the basic facilities at 53 locations across the state. This was the major shift that led to the de-occupation of security forces from 133 government buildings in public and private sector, eight industrial units, four commercial establishments and 58 private houses.

Over the years, security forces have moved out from 884 private buildings – mostly houses, 458 government buildings, 33 hotels and one cinema hall which were under their occupation.

But as there is no alternate accommodation present right now, official sources suggest, 1561 private houses (488 with army and 1073 with CRPF), 306 government buildings, 46 hotels and seven cinema halls are still with various counter-insurgent agencies.

Sopore ENCOUNTER

Guns again roar in Valley’s Apple town this week, as the area saw one of its vicious encounters in recent times between militants and government forces that lasted for 72 hours and resulted in killing of 6 militants.

Aftermath of this latest encounter, residents of Saidpora, Sopore in this north Kashmir district Thursday accused the police and army of destroying their belongings and orchards. The claim was turned down by law enforcing agencies and termed it baseless.

“Earnings of our whole life were burnt down to ashes by troops,” said Ghulam Mohammad Dar and his nephew Khursheed Ahmad Dar. Another resident said “This has reminded us of bitter memories of 1995 when during crackdown various persons in our village were tortured by the forces and my brother Mohammad Nawab Dar succumbed during torture.”

Meanwhile, amid a complete shutdown, violent clashes erupted in many areas of the Sopore town on Thursday leaving at least six people, including some cops injured.

According to reports, groups of youth appeared at Main Chowk, Khushal Matoo, Bus Stand, Arampora, Batpora, Model Town and other areas and staged demonstrations against the killing of militants.

Chanting pro-freedom and anti-India slogans, the protesters pelted rocks and stones on the CRPF troopers and police. The forces lobbed teargas canisters after they failed to chase away the youth with baton charge.

Meanwhile all the pro-freedom leaders have paid tributes to the deceased militants. Democratic Freedom Party Chairman, Shabir Ahmad Shah, was arrested along along with his associates on way to Sopore. The arrestees included Javed Ahmad Mir of JKLF(H). All the arrestees were lodged in police choki Mirgund. Shah was going to pay tributes to the slain militants.

Superintendent of Police (SP) Sopore Imtiaz Hussain Mir said that six bodies of militants have been recovered from the encounter site. He identified one of the slain militants as Athar Yousuf Dar alias Naveed, son of Mohammad Yousuf Dar of Bismilllah Colony, Sopore.

Meanwhile, hundreds of people participated in the funeral prayers of local militant. Amid pro-freedom and pro-militant slogans, the youth was laid to rest at the Martyrs Graveyard. A complete shutdown was observed in Sopore town to mourn the death of the six Lashkar militants.

Reviving HERITAGE

Suspense over the fate of Valley’s heritage bridge-Zaina Kadal assumed rest on Thursday when CM Omar Abdullah inaugurated it amid tight security cover.

A drama of sorts ended with this official opening of renovated bridge. Some official decree had called its dismantling which drew flak from civil society on the large. This compelled government to cease such ambitions. The bridge was soon decorated with lights which soon went unnoticed as the heritage bridge saw occupation of sheds on one of its side that again created mass public resentments and structures were razed out.

When finally state decided to renovate it before eight months ago, the entry points of the bridge were barred for motor movements. This caused huge setbacks to the business activities of the area. Further, PHE and R&B departments stalled the pace of the work due to miscommunication between them as per the locals. Mired work on bridge made traders to register protests on number of times and every time official assurances pacified the miffed chunk of traders. And when finally it was thrown open after series of events, many termed the concretization of bridge with iron wielding on its sideways as blow to heritage. Meanwhile, official sources said the bridge has been renovated in eight months at an estimated cost of Rs 2.5 crores. “We utilized service of a prominent Delhi based bridge consultant who specializes in renovation of old bridges. We have taken utmost care to preserve historical essence of the bridge by using wood and other natural material for its renovation,” said Muhammad Abass Lone Deputy General Manager (DGM) Jammu and Kashmir Project Construction Corporation (JKPCC), which was entrusted with renovation of the bridge. He said the bridge is double-laned and has 7.5 meter carriage way. “Only light motor vehicles will be allowed to ply on the bridge. CM is also scheduled to lay foundation stone for it,” Lone said.

A Clear DIRECTION

Now marrying into a backward class family and reaping special benefits is pass?. Judiciary on Tuesday swung in action and dismissed two petitions with cost of Rs 20,000, claiming reservation in marrying in backward class. After hearing both the sides, State High Court held that woman married with a resident of Reserved Backward Area cannot claim the same status because of having not been residing in notified backward area for requisite 15 years. While proceeding over the verdict, Justice J P Singh observed that there does not appear any merit in the petitioners’ claim to reservation. “Their marriage with persons having the status of residents of Backward Area would not clothe them with any additional right to reservation, which their husbands possessed. The right of reservation in such cases may be availed by only those, who had been actually residing in the backward areas”.

The court further observed that their challenge to the selection of private respondents cannot, therefore, be entertained. “Because of the interim order issued on the petitioners second writ petition, the selection of private respondents could not be finalized. Private respondents have, therefore, been put to unnecessary inconvenience and disadvantageous position.” With these observations, the High Court dismissed the petitions with costs of Rs 20,000, which the petitioners would deposit with Registrar Judicial within four weeks.Screening Stopped

Last week Ocean of Tears a documentary film by independent filmmaker Bilal A Jan made headlines when its screening was stopped at the eleventh hour allegedly by University of Kashmir authorities where it was supposed to screen. The home ministry funded film talks about violence on women in Kashmir during two decades of conflict. According to filmmaker the screening of Ocean of Tears was stopped at the last moment on the pretext that the films content can create law and order problems. Interestingly, the film was passed by the Censor Board of Film Certification terming it fit for screening anywhere across India. The filmmaker claims to have paid for the convocation hall and taken all necessary permission [written] from university authorities to screen his film. “If they had issues with my film they should have informed me earlier,” said the filmmaker. “They not only caused inconvenience to me but to thousands of people who have gathered from across the valley to watch Ocean of Tears.” Reacting strongly to the cancellation of screening a number of students and guests who had turned up to watch 27 minute long documentary raised slogans against university authorities and state. “It is direct attack on freedom of expression,” said of the protestors who had come from Shopian to watch the film. Interestingly, Ocean of Tears is first Kashmiri documentary which talks about the mass rape victims of Kunan Poshpora and Shopian rape and murder case.

Recently a 7 minute excerpts of the documentary which was uploaded on Youtube by PSBT and viewed by more than 1.5 lakh users already, was taken down from the video sharing website.

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