Earthquake tremors on Wednesday jolted Kashmir and its adjoining areas after a 5.6-magnitude quake hit Hindukush in Afghanistan.
According to the Meteorological Department officials in Srinagar, the moderate earthquake with its epicenter at Hindukush in Afghanistan struck at 2:55 p.m.
“The magnitude of the earthquake was 5.6 on Richter scale and was located at 34.51 degrees north latitude and 70.20 degrees east longitude in the Hindukush region of Afghanistan,” said an official at Meteorological Department’s control room in Srinagar.
The earthquake was felt throughout Kashmir, Panic stricken residents rushed out of their houses and buildings in Srinagar city because of the tremors. Though, no reports of damage were received from any part of Kashmir.
Geologists say Kashmir is located in a zone of high seismic activity. Srinagar falls in Seismic Zone-V and other parts of Kashmir in Seismic Zone IV.
Last year in December, keeping in view the seismic vulnerability of Kashmir, the High Court had asked the government to establish an “effective disaster management committee.”
The direction came in after a division bench of the court comprising Justices Mansoor Ahmad Mir and Muzaffar Hussain Attar disposed off a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed more than seven years ago in the aftermath of October 8, 2005 devastating earthquake which left 953 persons dead, 418 injured while 23,782 houses fully damaged.
The government figures say that more than 40 percent of the deaths that occurred due to earthquake in 2005, comprised children below 10 years of age, thus depicting their vulnerability and signifying the importance of school safety in Kashmir.
According to the draft of J&K State Disaster Management Policy (2011), 11 percent of the area of the state, covering Srinagar, Ganderbal, Baramulla, Kupwara, Bandipora, Budgam, Anantnag, Pulwama, Doda, Ramban and Kishtwar districts come under seismic zone V. Fifty percent of the state’s total population of 1,21,01,93,422 (as per 2011 census) lives in the zone V.
Rest of the state, including Ladakh region and Jammu division (90 percent of the total area of the state) falls under the seismic zone IV.
Zone V, according to the present zoning map, expects the highest level of seismicity followed by zone IV.
Two reports released by the police department this week reveal statistics that indicate the return of ‘normalcy’ in valley. The first report talks about the disappearances in Kashmir, while the second one focused on active militants in Kashmir.
In its first report, J&K police reveals that in the last seven years not a single individual has disappeared in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
According to the report only three (3) persons disappeared in 2006 but between 2007 up to March 31, 2013 not a single individual was shown to have disappeared in the state.
The report revealed that between 1990 till date a total number of 110 people have disappeared across the state. In 1999, maximum number of 11 people disappeared while 10 individuals each were reported as disappeared in 1997 and 2000 in the state.
According to the report, between 1990 and 2013, a total number of 341 custodial killings were reported.
As per the official sources in the state police department no custodial killing was reported in 2012 and 2013 till date while three cases of custodial killings were reported each in 2011 and 2010.
“The highest number of 53 custodial killings took place during Governor’s rule in the state,” the report noted. After 2002, the total number of custodial killings not touched double digit mark as less than 10 cases of custodial killings came to light.
Another report released by police claimed that only 78 militants are active in Kashmir, with the majority of 49 among them are active in Northern Kashmir. In South Kashmir, the report says, 25 militants are active, while in Central Kashmir, including Srinagar, only three are active.
“The militant groups are taking advantage of radicalization and making selective recruitments in their camps,” warns the police report.
The report points out that militant in Kashmir have switched over to smart militancy by recruiting youth who instead of hiding in jungles work as normal people in urban pockets and are activated only when required.
While providing more insights, the report says among 78 militants, 38 are foreign fighters.
In a new revelation it has been claimed that state government was aware of spurious drug scam two years back and they didn’t bother to take any step to save the precious lives of hundreds of people, who allegedly died by taking such medicines.
It was only after the drug scam become public that government realized that they should order a probe. Even the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) had censured the state government for observing its directions in breach on supply of these spurious medicines in government hospitals.
The Commission on April 10 had termed the supply of spurious drugs as a human rights violation and sent notices to Commissioner Secretary Health, Directors Health Services Kashmir and Jammu, Drug Controller and Medical Superintendent GB Pant Hospital asking them to submit detailed factual reports by April 25.
It was after the intervention of Union health ministry that a central government team was recruited to probe into the matter. On Thursday, a team of experts from central drug control organization visited Mirza Afzal Beig Hospital in Islamabad and collected samples of many drugs as part of the investigation ordered by the union health ministry.
Pertinently, the team had collected 40 samples from different hospitals, both in Jammu and Kashmir provinces a day before.
Earlier this week, the minister of state for health Shabir Ahmad Khan referred the case to Crime Branch for detailed investigation and referred a parallel case to vigilance department to ascertain the role of various officials involved.
Initially two brothers accused, Ashok Kumar Raina and Amandeep were arrested from Jammu and New Delhi, who are the owners of Life Line Pharmaco Surgicals, for their alleged involvement in the scam. After the arrest of two brothers the TADA Court issued non-bailable Warrant against 17 accused in the scam.
Back to COURT
To much relief for the family of Zahid Farooq, the Supreme Court has set aside the state High Court verdict that allowed BSF men to be tried in their own court and instead ordered for the trail in Civil Court.
In a new development having consequences on numerous similar incidents in conflict areas across India, the Supreme Court on April 25, ruled that the BSF men involved in the killing of Zahid, a teenager who was killed in 2010, shall face trial in a Srinagar criminal court.
The verdict has set aside the J&K High Court’s directions that the accused, a BSF Commander and a Constable, were on “active duty” and should face trial in their own Court, Court marshaled.
The Judgment passed by Justice Chandramauli KR Prasad and Justice Fakir Muhammad Ibrahim Kalifulla reads, “The Security Forces Court shall forthwith transmit the record sent to it, to the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Srinagar, who in turn shall proceed in the matter in accordance with law.” It further added, “Both the appeals (by the state Government and Zahid’s family) are allowed, the judgment and order of the Chief Judicial Magistrate and that of the High Court (which had ruled for trial of the accused in BSF Court) are set aside.”
However the Court has observed in its judgment that the BSF Director General could re-visit the entire issue within eight weeks and “if he comes to the conclusion that the trial deserves to be conducted by the Security Forces Court, nothing will prevent him to make an appropriate application afresh before the Chief Judicial Magistrate.”
Zahid Farooq, a class 11th student died after he was hit by bullets fired by BSF Constable Lakhvinder Kumar near Brein Nishat here on February 5 in 2010.
Under pressure after intervention by the then Union Home Minister P Chidambaram, the BSF admitted having “accidentally” killed 16-year old Zahid. Subsequently, the BSF Constable Lakhvinder and his Commanding Officer, Randhir Kumar Birdi, of 68 Battalion were arrested on charges of murdering Zahid.
Waiting for APPROVAL
State government is planning an early implementation of an irrigation canal project worth Rs 275 crore to lift its water share from Ranjit Sagar dam in Punjab. The project is initiated after India’s Attorney General opined that Jammu and Kashmir can create an infrastructure to drain its share that was early denied by Punjab.
“It was at the last moment that cabinet wanted to be doubly sure about the legality of the project that the case was sent to the Attorney General Goolam E Vahanvati for an opinion which has come and it is positive,” Varinder Badyal, Chief Engineer of Ravi Tawi Irrigation Complex.
Now the fears are flagged by state finance ministry saying Rs 250 crore cannot be allocated unless cabinet knows it does not go waste. The plan is now going to cabinet again.
The concerned officials say that they have identified a few companies to implement the project as soon as the project is approved.
The WAPCOS drafted project will lay a 9 Kms canal to lift water from the dam and drain it in a vast canal network to irrigate more than 1.33 lakh acres hectors of land in three Jammu districts. The network has 82 kms arterial canal with 500 kms of tributaries and was constructed 30 years back. It has the potential of actually feeding a small 21-MW power plant in between.
The decision is taken after Punjab assembly annulled all water sharing agreements with all states on July 12, 2004, a case that is now pending disposal before the Supreme Court. Last year after J&K government pulled out of Shahpur Kandi dam project, central government refused Rs 2290 crore funding to Punjab, making it a non-starter.
Officials in the law ministry hoped Punjab will react by initiating dialogue once the cabinet gives a go-ahead. “A successful dialogue will help Punjab salvage Shahpur Kandi dam,” an official in the ministry said. “I have a gut feeling that they will react positively this time.”
During 2008 summer uprising that saw Kashmir virtually getting shut down from the outside world – both online and offline – made local youth try new ways of protests like writing graffiti to vent their anger.
Recently, on the outer walls of Kohi-Maran fort, which houses a CRPF camp, anti-India graffiti and slogans like ‘Go India Go Back’ and ‘Welcome Taliban’ appeared.
But what concerned police was the appearance of big Lashkar-e-Toaiba and Pakistani flags on the walls of the historic fort which overlooks Srinagar city.
Police has registered an FIR in this connect against unknown persons under Unlawful Activities Act, and rounded up 10 youth for questioning, mostly from the downtown area.
It is believed that the local militant outfits are trying to play mind games with security establishments in Kashmir in view of the impending US exit from Afghanistan in 2014.
However, playing down the incident of flag hoisting at Koh-e-Maran fort, Inspector General of police Kashmir, Abdul Gani Mir said, “It could be some mischief-makers just trying to draw attention. We are investigating the matter.”
Similar graffiti appeared in Srinagar and Sopore after parliament attack convict Afzal Guru was secretly hanged and later buried inside New Delhi’s Tihar prison.
The graffiti, ‘JKP we r [are] coming’ appeared on shutters of shops in Srinagar in March.
In Srinagar an entire wall has been dedicated to anit-India and pro-freedom graffiti.