Now He SPEAKS

At the peak of last summer when tensions within the ruling coalition created a situation in which the Congressmen were attacking the National Conference (NC), it was Dr Mustafa Kamal who would retaliate.

His responses to the Congress were in the historic contest and he would usually refer to the love-hate relationship that NC enjoyed with Congress for most of the post-partition period, in fact prior to that as well. As the tensions started contributing to the instability of the coalition, Dr Farooq Abdullah got angry. He (Dr Kamal), Abdullah sr said, ‘is my father’s mistake’.

Last week, at the peak of a crisis involving father and son in an alleged case of political corruption and a mysterious death, Dr Abdullah flew from Delhi and presided over a meeting of the party at the Nawa-ie-Subh complex.

It was in this meeting that Dr Kamal was appointed as the spokesman of the party. He was actually appointed additional secretary general of the party because Sheikh Nazir Ahmad is not keeping good health for a long time now.
The logic for getting a fiercely anti-Congress family member as the main party organizer and the spokesman is not known.

But one thing is clear that the position moved from one family member to another. Many people within the party are asking what will happen to the three spokespersons who had been appointed earlier – Mohammad Shafi Urvi, Sheikh Ghulam Rasool and Ajay Kumar Sadhotra.

Dr Kamal is Dr Abdullah’s younger brother. He represents Hazratbal constituency in the state assembly and was unhappy for being kept away in the government that his nephew is running. This is for the first time that he must feeling empowered, somehow.

An Astronaut in KASHMIR
A cultural event was organized by the government of the United States in Kashmir after a gap of 22 years. Former National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) astronaut and two-time space traveller, Mary Ellen Weber, interacted with the students at the Kothibagh Girls’ higher Secondary School. She shared her experiences about the space travel with the students.

This is being seen as change in the US thinking because Washington had issued travel advisories for Jammu and Kashmir and limited its activities in the state in early 1990s after eruption of militancy.

Dr Weber says she was impressed by the students and their interest in space science. “The students asked incredible questions, they have a great deal of insight, they obviously are very bright and have worked very hard and they are very confident. So, I was very impressed with the questions,” she said after the interaction. Dr. Weber was all praise for the talent of Kashmiris and said Valley is full of intelligent people. “I know about Kashmir but not about its people. In last two days, I found Kashmiris very intelligent and brilliant people, she said.

Videos of Weber’s life in the space shuttle were shown to the students present at the event. Students said that they would like to see more such people to visit them and enlighten them with their skills and knowledge. The lecture was attended by hundreds of students from several schools of Srinagar.

Weber ventured into space in 1992 and later in 2000. Her 10-year long career with one of the foremost space agencies in the world came to an end after she retired in 2002.

Prior to her interaction with the college students in Lal Chowk, Dr Weber had a prolonged discussion in the University of Kashmir with “curious and aspiring students”. In the university she was asked “incredible questions” indicating they had come well prepared. Usman Ahmad, who heads Mercy Corps in Kashmir, a US charity, said students can learn a lot in books and much more in classrooms but there is no comparison to getting to talk to scientists and people who have been in space. It was this charity that partnered with a college for managing another programme of Dr Weber. Weber went to the space in 1992 and later in 2000. Her 10-year long career with one of the foremost space agency in the world came to an end after she retired in 2002.

Defence’s Kashmir Land RACKET
Men in uniform are in a dock yet again over an alleged Rs 1500 crore land scandal in the sensitive border state of Jammu and Kashmir. The scandal could prove counterproductive in terms of security implications. An internal probe undertaken by the ministry of defence found that a number of influential private realtors were allowed to buy more than 200 acres of land near sensitive military installations in Srinagar including the high-security Srinagar Airport. The land was acquired on the basis of ‘adhoc’ no-objection certificates [NoC’s] issued by Defence Estates Organisation [DEO].   

The probe points out to the conspiracy among officials of the defence estates department, the state government and local land mafia who got together to sell the land on the peripheries of the high security 15 Corps headquarters and air force station.        

Taking a serious note of the issue, Defence minister AK Antony has asked the Central Bureau of Investigation [CBI] to probe the case. According to rough estimates the land is priced anywhere between Rs 1200 crore and Rs 1500 crore. The probe was ordered after complaints were received regarding illegal sale of defence land to private realtors near sensitive security installations in Srinagar. The probe has revealed that more than 70 NoC’s are being looked into for possible frauds issued in last four years.

The initial probe also reveals that last four NoC’s were given for the Indian Air Force [IAF] land over which the Srinagar airfield is built.

According to the NoC’s the defence ministry had never acquired the land, while records show that the government bought the land in the 1960’s.Earlier, the role of DEO officials had come under scanner when they issued NoC’s to private realtors for construction of a 30-storey building [Adarsh land scam] overlooking key military installations in Maharashtra.

So far, Ministry of Defence has suspended two officers including defence estates officer, Srinagar circle and Ambala Cantonment Board [CB] CEO Ajay Chaudhary for their alleged role in the multi-crore defence land scam. It is said that Chaudhary was DEO in Srinagar when NoC’s were issued frequently to two major land mafias in Srinagar.

In a letter presented to Defence Minister AK Antony, the opposition party BJP has demanded cancellation of all land transfers NoC’s and a CBI inquiry into the issue, including the role of revenue officials, defence personnel as well as politicians. It also demanded the Defence Ministry and CAG to look into the matter.

The claims made by the defence ministry seem to be just a monologue given the response it lacked from the state government. There has not been any response to the BJPs public statements on the issue. Interestingly, however, the BJP lawmakers kept silent in the just concluded session of the assembly apparently because they landed themselves in a controversy over their cross-voting in April.

Not For The PEOPLE
Many have criticized the recent nine day session of the state legislature as just fulfilment of a constitutional formality. The assembly that meets twice a year, did not come up with anything significant during this session.

This session the opposition was busy in criticizing the ruling coalition on either mass grave issue, or the custodial death of the NC worker and the coalition was busy in retaliating back.  Most of the queries went unanswered and only a couple of bills were passed.

Not a single private member’s bills or resolution could be taken up in the lower house due to the pandemonium triggered by opposition and the ruling coalition. This, despite the fact that a day each was fixed for each of them to be discussed in the house.

A total of seven sittings took place in a session of nine days from September 26 to October 4. Out of these, the first day was fixed for the obituary references to pay tributes to legislators, formers MLA’s/MLC’s and other prominent personalities who died since the last assembly session to present.

Amid this chaos and confusion in the House, it could only pass three bills in addition to the ones related to Fiscal Responsibility and Budgetary Management (Amendment) Act and Jammu and Kashmir Valued Added tax (Amendment) Act. Besides, an amendment in State Vigilance Act for creation of the posts of Chief Vigilance commissioner and two vigilance commissioners was also passed.

Most of the business which was not taken up in the House except Government bills was lapsed. Out of 514 questions submitted by the MLAs in the Assembly for discussion and written replies during question hour, only 274 fell in starred and 240 in un-starred categories. 33 questions were disallowed by the speaker.

Most of the queries went unanswered amid the chaos due to repeated adjournment. Harshdev Singh, former minister and NPP Legislative Party leader was quoted saying that his party wanted to raise some issues but couldn’t do so. All their efforts went in vain, according to Singh. The party also regrets that a very important resolution moved by them for setting up of Lokayatu to check the menace of corruption also got lapsed in the fight.

Full Information COMMISSION
Governor NN Vohra has appointed Dr Sudesh Kumar Sharma (former Dean, Law Faculty, University of Jammu) and Nazir Ahmed (Chief Engineer, R&B) as State Information Commissioners in the State Information Commission (SIC). This has finally completed the full quorum of the Commission. The appointment followed their nomination by the Selection Committee empowered to make a recommendation.

After the CIC started operating under the RTI act, people have started using this laws to get the information they require. According to the information table in the house recently, there is no huge number of applications pending for seeking information under the RTI Act. Against 7328 application received under the J&K RTI Act, 2009 by various departments there are only 584 applications pending disposal. By the end of August, PIOs had disposed off 6184 applications as 584 applications are pending disposal with PIOS and 306 pending with State Information Commission itself. In 11 cases fine/penalty/caution has been issued by the CIC.

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