Sustaining GROWTH

of the quantum of profits it nets quarter after quarter, what is remarkable in the latest results of J&K Bank, the state’s lone listed company, is that its entire profits lack any contribution of the state government, its main promoter with over 53 percent shareholding. Though it is J&K Bank that is managing the business of the state government but its debt banker is the RBI, on whose behalf it operates.

Under an agreement that it signed with the Union Finance Ministry and the RBI, J&K government accepted a one-time grant and raised money from open market to clear J&K Bank’s overdraft. Various planners in the state had termed the OD was a structural deficit that needed to be managed. J&K Bank deployed the entire Rs 3000 crores in the market and continues making profits. Now the state government is going strictly by the agreement.
The bank netted a profit of Rs 382 crores in the first half of the current fiscal – the first six months after the OD was cleared and redeployed. It is almost a 24 percent increase over the earnings it had pocketed in the first half of last fiscal. By the end of September 2011, bank’s business turnover was at Rs 76000 crores. Its NPA coverage ratio was over 90 percent above the RBI’s stipulated norm of 70 percent. While the deposit base grew by Rs 7737 crores to reach Rs 47425 crores, the loan book surged from Rs 23183 crores to Rs 28236 crores marking an increase by 21.80 percent. Credit deposit ratio of the bank at the end of the said period was recorded at 59.54%.

Insiders in the bank suggest that there were enough of possibilities of showing more profits but the cushions were left untouched. Chairman and CEO Mushtaq Ahmad said the growth in profits suggest better liability management and operating efficiency. “It does adequately reflect our operational strength for robust and sustainable growth,” Ahmad said. “The priorities set for our balance sheet have been met and the current financial results reflect that we have successfully leveraged our balance sheet to a large extent.” He said the bank will mobilize business of Rs 85000 crores by the end of the current fiscal. “We are right on track,” he added.

The bank that recently recruited around 1500 youth – the best of the talent available in the market right now, is planning major expansion. Off late, it has dusted many of the plans in the wardrobe and started implementing to increase footprints and the business. The bank intends to exhibit a massive show of strength by way of its expansion and performance by 2013 years when it will celebrate its diamond jubilee.

Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah triggered the debate on gradual rollback of AFSPA within a few days before the durbar moves to Jammu for next six months. It generated a crisis forcing him finally to assert that it (announcement) was his intention and not the decision.

But the “crisis” in between was a colourful theatre as different people reacted to the “intention” differently. It also proved that in J&K almost everybody is a stakeholder excepting the people who live and make J&K!
As always Omar found Home Minister P Chidambaram almost echoing him. He said the statement was ‘not unjustified’ though more consultations would have been ‘perfectly understandable’. He linked the statement with the September 2010 decision of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS). “There was nothing unusual or strange about Abdullah’s decision to expedite the review of AFSPA – recommended by CCS as part of an 8-point formula to restore normalcy in J&K after the violent public protests in the summer of 2010”.

Almost the same day it was the new chief of the Border Security Force UK Bansal insisting the revocation of AFSPA from some parts of J&K was “a complex issue” and there was “no simplistic solution” for the demand. Bansal heads the force that is directly under Chidambaram’s control.

Army that once termed AFSPA as its ‘bible’ continued to have its own opinion. Northren Command chief Lt Gen K T Parnaik made it clear that AFSPA cannot be revoked from any part of the state till Pakistan’s interference continues. Withdrawal, he said would handicap the capability of the Army to conduct the counter insurgency operations.

“It is a question of the confidence and trust that you repose in your Army. If you are removing the Act from certain areas then it will become difficult for the Army to operate in the manner we operate now,” said the General. He suggested that the peace in the certain areas where from the revocation of the law is being suggested for revocation is a very fragile one. “And this peace is because of the AFSPA”, he said, adding “after all we have seen one of the most peaceful summers in 2011 and that has happened with AFSPA only”.

Interestingly as army threw the spanner in Omar’s AFSPA wheel, PDP and Congress took the side of the soldier, indirectly and directly. While one party said Omar needs to do homework and take everybody on board, other party said it needs lot more consultations.

It took four days to fish out the corpse of Kaleem Qadiri, 21 a resident of Pampore. He was kidnapped; his iPad and Blackberry cell phone was snatched and then strangulated in a moving car. Tragic part is that he knew all his killers and many think they were ‘friends’.

After the young Qadri, belonging to a rich family of the town, went missing and his father lodged a report with police that the family got a call in the evening from his phone claiming they were from LeT and they had kidnapped him. They sought a ransom of one crore rupees. Police acted and the first person they laid hands on was Nazar Muhammad Dar, a resident of nearby Rakh Shalina village, who operates a mobile servicing shop at Pampore. He was seen in Qadri’s Ford Figo car. After initial denials, he spilled the beans.

Nazir along with his brother, Younis and a friend Javed Bhat of Wahabpora, Budgam, hatched a conspiracy to kidnap Kaleem and extort a hefty ransom form his affluent father. He lured Qadri to Srinagar and Yunis and Javed joined them on bye-pass. It was near Nowgam when they used a waist belt to strangulate him to death. They drove to Wahabpora, wrapped Kaleem’s body in a bed sheet and put it in the trunk of the car. Later they loaded the corpse on a boat and dumped it in the middle of the Jhelum near Sheerbagh Lasjan tying it with a stone to prevent the body from floating. After abandoning the car at Jawahar Nagar, they made the ransom call. Two brothers are in jail and Javed is on the run.

A Case of DEATH
The mystery death of NC’s fixer is getting murkier. The government had forced opposition to shut up by initially denying a debate in the state legislature and later announcing that a sitting judge would investigate it. Though everyone in Srinagar knew that it would not happen, given the processes involved, government insisted it is happening. Finally, the High Court conveyed the decision forcing Omar to write in post haste to the Law Minister in Delhi requesting a retired judge now. There is no response yet.

But developments are taking place in this case. Yousuf Bhat, who was instrumental in making Omar win the coveted seat in 2008 from Ganderbal, is out of the ‘security net’. Last week, the state police crime branch took him to the local court to get his statement recorded. He was the person who had accused the dead man of taking a whopping amount from him in lieu of making him state’s R&B minister!

On this issue, there are two cases in the courts. The first one was filed by dead man’s son Syed Talib before the anti-corruption judge in Srinagar. The applicant waned a murder case be registered against chief minister, his father, a minister and many cops. He also wanted investigations of the case by any organizations including SVO or the CBI.

After the arguments were heard for two days, the court dismissed the plea. Judge Mohammad Yousuf Akhoon observed that there is no occasion, at this point, to make any direction to CBI or state investigating agencies to probe the allegations. He referred to various apex court judgements suggesting the limitations of subordinate courts from making such directions. The other case was filed before the apex court by Prof Bhim Singh on behalf of his party’s lawmaker Balwant Singh Mankotia. Last week, the apex court issued notice to the central and state governments seeking their response to the pleas made in the application seeking CBI investigations into the “mysterious death” of September 30.

Issued by the division bench comprising Justices Mr Altamas Kabir and S S Nijjar, the notices are returnable within two weeks. Reports suggest that state government has hired an attorney to contest the case.

Omar has all along denied allegations being levelled against him, his family and the party but the opposition has maintained the case is historic instance of prevalence of political corruption in the state. The opposition in fact has been seeking his resignation to pave way for an impartial investigation. Off late, even sections within Congress are reacting almost on similar lines, albeit for a different reason.

The Congress UNION
It was great news when the University of Kashmir permitted a union of students in the campus. When this privilege was withdrawn, it just made a single-column item on page one though the university administration razed to the ground the spot where the office of the Kashmir University Students Union (KUSU) existed briefly. Last week when the alleged entry of Congress backed National Students Union of India (NSUI) into the university was leaked by a website, it was a huge surprise.

 Soon after Rahul Gandhi’s visit to the campus last month, some of the boys were actually in constant touch with Congress’s tech-savvy secretary general. It was on that basis that a tour of the 15 candidates was arranged. But once, their itinerary got leaked suggesting they were actually being taken care of by the NSUI, it triggered a day long standoff in the campus.  

All the 150 class representatives (CR) of the University resigned en masse. There were protests and allegations. Police prevented the media to cover the incident. It did create a credibility crisis for the university administration that had publicly stated that political activities in the campus would not be permitted. At the end of it, it did permit and was found collaborating with the Congress.

But it did not matter beyond the day protests were held. The group flew to Delhi and kept its date with almost everybody. In Kashmir it does not matter. It is democracy operational in reverse order – create a leader and people fall in line and follow!

India Is Pakistan’s MFN
Mufti Sayeed termed it a watershed development. Subcontinent’s Siamese twins (read India and Pakistan) seems to be trying an embrace. Islamabad has granted India Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status in trade which is a major breakthrough that can pave way for much improved relations. It could give a new breather to a fragile peace process moving at a snail’s pace.

Though the two countries have not, officially, changed their positions on Kashmir but there are indications that the two sides may help trans-LoC trade to grow. Reports suggest the agreements are about to be signed for increasing frequency of trans-LoC trade beyond two days a week, make the trans-LoC bus more frequent, open bank branches in each other’s territory that will pave way for doing away with the barter trade at the LoC besides increasing fixed telephone lines on both sides. There is possibility of the categories of trading items increased from 21 to 35 for the zero duty barter.


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