News Notes

 Omar’s DARBAR

Chief-Minister-Omar-Abdullah-Omar is back in valley this week with his cabinet as a part of century-old practice of shifting government offices between two capitals of Jammu and Kashmir. Amidst a general strike to protest against the spurious drug scam, Omar received guard of honour in Srinagar’s Civil Secretariat under heavy security arrangements.

After Raj Bhavan, Secretariat and other offices were closed in Jammu on April 26, authorities had made all necessary arrangements including security to ensure smooth functioning of the offices in the Kashmir.

On the reopening of offices, work will begin from 9.30 AM to 5 PM at the Civil Secretariat, and for other departments located outside the Secretariat, work will begin from 10 AM to 4 PM.

On the first day, when Omar with his Darbar reached Srinagar, the general strike was being observed in valley given by Medical Employees’ Joint Action Forum over the government’s failure to act against those involved in spurious drug scam in the state. Various other organisations, including those of traders and transporters, had also extended support to the strike call.

The practice of Darbar move was started by Maharaja Gulab Singh in 1872 to escape from extreme weather conditions in Jammu and Srinagar. The bi-annual exercise, however, is proving costly for the state exchequer as it has to spend crores of rupees twice a year to shift the massive workforce and voluminous records between the twin capitals of the state.

Though there have been demands for putting an end to this practice, allegations of regional discrimination, both from the Valley and Jammu, have prevented successive governments from giving it a thought. The state administration has two residential units, one each at Jammu and Srinagar, for those employees who shift to the respective capital on rotational basis.

Darbar Move continues to be debatable one as economic and political commentators dub it as ‘burden on state’s exchequer’. While some believe that trend was unavoidable, others believe that this practice has been one of the reasons that made state’s exchequer to grapple with resources.

Dragon RETREATED

The 21day standoff between Indian and China in Ladakh ended after intense diplomacy and some give-and-take when both the armies simultaneously withdrew troops from Daulat Beg Oldie. The ‘threatening’ situation was laid to rest ahead of the visit of Salman Khurshid, India’s External Affairs Minister to Beijing.

Early this week, the Indian Army dismantled its bunkers in Chumar area in Ladakh as part of the understanding reached with China. The dismantling of bunkers was, however, being seen as a “strategic disadvantage” for the Indian side as the location at Zhipugi Arla in Chumar gave it the capability for looking deep into the Chinese territory including the important road-links on the other side.

After a contingent of Chinese troops estimated at about 50 and accompanied by vehicles and dogs had intruded 19 km inside the Indian territory across the LAC in Daulat Beg Oldi sector on April 15 and set up five tents, Indian troops moved forward to the bunkers in Chumar area two days later.

Following the Indian move, the Chinese side demanded at the flag meetings that India withdraw its troops from the Chumar area but the Indian side stated that the pull-out of troops should be simultaneous.

The Chinese side took a stand that Indian troops should move out from Chumar and then, it would consider withdrawing troops from Depsang valley, sources said.

The Indian side also did not budge from its stand on the issue but after negotiations on Sunday, it was decided that the two sides would withdraw from their respective positions simultaneously, they said.

Prior to this at the ground level, three flag meetings between commanders on both sides had failed to resolve the stand-off. India wanted the Chinese troops to withdraw completely; China on the other hand denied any incursion and put up banners calling it ‘China’ territory.

The face-off has underlined two principle issues that that the mechanism established between the two sides, such as flag meetings and the border management talks, failed to work and that the unresolved boundary issue will continue to pose the risk of a conflict situation between the two Asian giants.

Central BERTHS

It was another year of ‘good’ show by J&K aspirants at central services. In the just announced UPSC results, J&K had 11 berths including three who attempted it again for improving their ranking.

Of the four Muslims in the first 100, three are from Kashmir. Interesting part of the story is that this year’s list included a young boy from Srinagar’s old city, the downtown that many think is Srinagar’s rebel capital. Adnan Nayeem Asmi is a resident of Nawa Kadal and holds 189th rank.

Syed Sehrish Asgar, daughter of a former director rank officer who joined politics, has been a topper throughout. After toping MBBS, she topped the Kashmir Administrative Service (KAS) in 2010. A year later she attempted IAS and got rank 118. She joined the service and is currently being trained in Karnataka, as the first Kashmiri Muslim women IPS officer. But she was keen to improve the rank and appeared again. She succeeded and bagged rank 23.

Khursheed Qadri secured 95th rank without any coaching at all. A junior school lecturer from a north Kashmir village, Qadri cracked KAS in 2009 and attempted IAS as a serving officer and made it to the top 100.

Kashmir’s renewed interest in central services started with four berths each in 2009 and 2010 that improved to nine in 2011 and to two digits – 10 and 11 in 2012 and 2013, respectively. It does include many individuals who re-appeared

It was Imtiaz A Parry, who broke the 14 years jinx in 2009 in the union civil services for J&K. After one year in 2010, Shah Faesal’s feat in IAS created “euphoria” among youth for the central services. Now youngsters from J&K seem to be attempting the central services examinations with a vengeance.

In the first 60 post-partition years, there were only 26 residents from J&K who could make it to the coveted service. But once they started taking it seriously, they bagged 35 positions in last five years.

“It is not that Kashmiris have rediscovered their talent, the fact of the matter is that they are seeking newer career options. There is nothing more than that,” Shah Faisal, the 2010 topper said.

Chenab Valley AFTERSHOCKS

Nightmare of aftershocks is still haunting over dozens of families of Bhaderwah and compelling them to leave this mountainous town of Jammu and Kashmir to take shelter in other parts of the state.

There has been a transaction of Rs 8 crore during past one week as people want to keep money with them to meet the situation in wake of a major eventuality, as per sources.

While most of the people in the township are spending their nights in open or inside tents, it is becoming very difficult for them to cope up with the situation.

“People are leaving the town in panic as they are not feeling safe in their cracked houses, particularly when the tremors continue to damage these further,” a resident of Bhaderwah said. He said that so far about fifty percent families who have houses in Jammu or Srinagar have left the town, while many more are following their footsteps.

On May 03, around 228 government school buildings had suffered damage in the earthquake, which rattled Jammu and Kashmir. Official sources said that as per the initial report submitted by the concerned authorities around 228 school buildings have suffered damage across the state. “Out of these, around 100 buildings have suffered major damage, while other buildings have developed cracks,” they said.

“We will constitute a team jointly with R&B Department to access the loss and ascertain if the structures were old or newly constructed,” Tara Chand, deputy chief minister Tara Chand, said.

Government had also ordered a probe in the damage caused to the newly constructed building by earthquake of Sub District Hospital Bhaderwah. The hospital has suffered massive damage with its ceiling coming down and cracks developed on the ground floor. The hospital administration has already moved all the patients and quake victims outside the building premises owning to the risk.

“As per the initial report the maximum damage was caused to the government infrastructure, including SDH Bhaderwah and school buildings”, MoS Home Sajad Ahmed Kichloo told media persons at Bhaderwah. “We have already initiated a probe into the whole matter and culprits will be dealt under law if it is established that sub-standard materiel has been used in construction of these government buildings”, the minister claimed.

Threatening LINK

newsnotes-kashmir-trainThe Katra-Qazigund rail link project, that connects Jammu with Srinagar, is lately posing a threat for general public. Recently, the Centre was asked by the Delhi High Court to respond to a PIL alleging that the current alignment of the Katra-Qazigund rail link would cause “serious safety problem” for general public as the ministry has rejected the experts’ opinion for an alternative alignment.

“Eminent experts, senior railway officials and a high- level expert committee have raised concerns over the current alignment which most say overlooks the basic human needs of safety, security and comfort while travelling and makes the entire project unworkable,” the PIL said.

A bench of Chief Justice D Murugesan and Justice Jayant Nath issued a notice to Railway Ministry and sought its response by July 24 on the PIL filed by the Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) through counsel Prashant Bhushan.

The PIL alleged the current alignment of the Katra- Qazigund rail link would cause “serious safety problem” for general public and the Railway Ministry has rejected the experts’ suggestions for including an alternative alignment.

According to the NGO, “the alternative alignment is totally in consonance with international experience and practice of undertaking railway projects in mountainous and hilly region.”

“Overlooking all the concerns, Railway Board, under the influence of vested interests, has gone ahead with the unsafe and unworkable current alignment even though an alternative alignment is eminently safer,” the plea said.

The petitioner’s lawyer argued that when speeding trains would navigate the turns in tunnels in mountain regions, there would be a serious problem of safety.

The PIL sought “a direction to Railways to set up an expert committee to review the entire alignment for Katra-Qazigund link without being bound by the current approved alignment or any ruling gradient and put forward a new workable alignment.”

The project was launched in 2002 and slated to be completed in five years i.e by 2007 and yet in 2012, the project is not even 5 per cent complete and costs have escalated by 400 per cent and the project is likely to take another 20 years, the PIL stated.

Erasing HERITAGE

newsnotes-old-masjidIn South Kashmir’s Pampore town, some members of a mohalla committee recently tried to demolish a 14th century mosque with immense historical and religious significance in Namblabal area. The members of the committee argued that they wanted to renovate the site. However, the demolition was stopped by the authorities after the intervention of civil society.

“The civil society members pleaded to the district administration to save this heritage mosque after which they intervened and stopped the demolition,” residents said.

Situated within the premises of the shrine of Mir Sayed Ali Hamadani (RA), this 600-year old mosque is believed to have been constructed by one of the disciples of the revered saint.

The saint is popularly known by the name of Ameer-i-Kabeer or Shah-i-Hamdan and has the distinction of introducing Islam to Kashmir.

“The saint and his disciples travelled extensively through Kashmir and constructed hundreds of mosques, including the one some people here want to demolish,” Maulana Reyaz Hamdani, President Islamia Auqaf Trust Pampore, said.

He said that few people for their own vested interests want to wipe out this heritage mosque and instead want to raise an ugly concrete structure.

“We have intimated the authorities and conveyed to them the resentment of the public against demolition of this heritage mosque,” he said.

He said that they hope that the authorities won’t succumb to any pressure and not deprive us of this sign of heritage.

“I immediately deputed a team to the site in Namblabal and the demolition of the mosque was stopped,” Mushtaq Ahmad, Tehsildar Pampore, said.

Meanwhile, the members of the Islamia Auqaf Trust and the Shah-i-Hamdan Trust of Pampore held a meeting with Deputy Commissioner Pulwama and briefed him about the issue. “DC has assured us that no one will be allowed to demolition this heritage mosque and also directed the concerned Superintendent of Police to intervene,” Auqaf members said.

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