Waking up to the loss

The Indus water treaty is a big limitation and a loss for the state. This has often been debated by politicians, academicians, economists and intellectuals. Many have asked for a complete review of the treaty or compensation to the state. Some have even demanded a complete withdrawal of the treaty. Even though no formal studies related to the loss have been undertaken up till now, conservative estimates put the loss to the state at anything between 10,000 to 20,000 crore annually. Some argue the loss is much higher.

Now, the Jammu and Kashmir government has initiated the process for quantifying the cumulative losses suffered by the state on account of Indus Water Treaty (IWT).  

Power Development Corporation of the state has sought offers for engagement of some reputed multinational consultancy for assessing the losses on account of IWT, brokered between India and Pakistan by the World Bank (then the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development) in 1960.

The treaty gives India rights to Sutlej, Beas and Ravi and their tributaries before they enter Pakistan, while Pakistan is given rights over the waters of the Western Rivers Chenab, Jhelum and Indus.

A Monitoring Committee, headed by the state’s Economic Advisor is looking into the issue so that the state should be compensated for the losses suffered due to the treaty. The decision to seek assistance of reputed consultants to assess the loss was taken last year to get the authentic data of the losses suffered by the state on account IWT. The decision seems a result of the dismal economic condition of the state.

Earlier this year M/s Halcrow Consulting India Limited, a part of M/s Halcrow Group of UK had offered the services. But government wanted more companies to bid for the process and has re-tendered Expression of Interest proposal.

Aiming High
Last week, J&K Bank, state’s premier financial organization bid adieu to two of its long serving officers – Executive President Ajit Singh and Vice President Khursheed A Pandit. But what was important was that the honchos of the bank put their heads together to set targets. Insiders in the organisation say they have drafted the main blueprint but the plan may take a bit of time to be made public.

So far, what has been made public is that its business target for the current fiscal 2011-12 stands at Rs 85,000 crore and the emphasis will be on improving rural penetration especially the agricultural credit. Financial inclusion, network expansion, and improving key financial ratios are going to be the main thrust areas.

The bank is working overtime to streamline the credit dispensation towards state sponsored schemes especially the Seed Capital Fund Scheme recently launched under the Sher-e-Kashmir Employment and Welfare Programme for Youth (SKEWPY).

Chairman Mushtaq Ahmad initially sought the inputs from bank’s executives – both functioning at the central level and in the periphery. It was on that basis that the new plan was drafted. The plan envisages a deposit target of around Rs 53000 crore, up by around 22 per cent as compared to average of 11.5 per cent growth during the previous two years. The meeting projected the advances at around Rs 32000 crore, with growth rate of 27 per cent against the average of 16.5 per cent for the previous two years. The credit-deposit ratio has been placed at 64 per cent as against 60 per cent during the previous year.

If everything goes as per the script, the bank will have to create a business of Rs 100000 crore to pocket a net profit of Rs 1000 crore by the end of March, 2013. This will coincide with the Platinum Jubilee celebrations of the bank that Maharaja Hari Singh set up.

 Financial inclusion continues to be the buzzword. Under the new plan, the bank intends to adopt 903 villages in the current year. It intends to take ATM network to 600 besides adding to the credit card base and pose (point of sale) machines so that plastic money catches up on the pattern of metros. This will help the bank to cut costs and improve the productivity per employee.

Ladakh: Hot on tourist map
Ladakh is among the best and the most sought after tourist destinations in the country. But to many the prospect of going to the place seemed cumbersome and costly up till now. This is no longer the case.

Flights to Leh will now be available directly from Mumbai and Ahmadabad. Till now fights to the place where taking off from Delhi only.  A trip to Ladakh is also becoming cheaper with different affordable packages being offered by the tour operators. The most attractive package is Rs 14,999, a person, for five nights and six days, which includes food and sight-seeing.

Most of the tour operators have already sold off Ladakh packages till May and bookings are still pouring in. What is more interesting that this time around, 5000 tourists have made advance bookings as against just 2000 last year.The sight of the morning sun, spreading its glimmering rays across the verdant expanse is a treat for the senses. It’s just the right medicine for those who want to escape the dust and din of our cramped and overcrowded cities.

The simple and hospitable people of Ladakh are always ready with a smile. Ladakh is a land of festivities.Ladakh has a lot to offer to the tourists including cold desert Nubra valley, the placid Pangong lake and soft adventure trails for those seeking the thrill of adventure.Films like 3 Idiots-one of the biggest bollywood hits and other bollywood films shot in Ladakh have also served to increase the appeal of Ladakh. Interestingly now family tourists are also booking for Ladakh, which was not the case up till now.

Travel agencies also mention that an important factor is that the hospitality industry is robust in Ladakh with hotels taking care of tourists of all budgets.   

Charges refreshed
After visiting almost every family that lost a member to the summer unrest of 2010, JKLF leader M Yasin Malik finally approached the court with a Public Interest Litigation. He sought multiple reliefs that including registration of cases, prompt investigations and a system that will prevent recurrence of these kind of killings in future. The government took its time and finally responded last week.  An additional advocate general placed on record a 32-page document that details the state and status of the investigations into 117 cases that Malik had raised in his PIL. It has very interesting details about certain slain youth.

At the same time, the government listed a number of cases pending against Malik to claim his suit has “oblique motives” and should be dismissed. In the response to PIL, the government has listed all the cases that are pending against him since 1989. They are not a few – these include as many as 13 cases in which charge-sheets have been filed besides five preventive detentions under Public Safety Act. Police say they are still investigating 15 to 16 other cases pending against him. Malik is pained. Terming the response “cheap, callous and irresponsible”, Malik says he had put his credibility and reputation at stake by approaching the judicial system for justice. He says he is not cowed down and will fight it out.

Listing of charge sheets is no revelation but Malik says he is surprised over why the state government is invoking his past to seek dismissal of the petition that has larger public interest involved. Despite all these cases, he says, he was invited to meet the Prime Minister in 2006 and at the peak of summer unrest an all-party delegation of parliamentarians visited him as well. As the respondents skip a logical path, he says, it is only the hope that matters. He has a firm belief the High Court will decide the PIL on merits.

Aftermath
After the 79-US SEALs downed an unarmed Osama bin Laden in Abbotabad, just on the periphery of an erstwhile J&K, Kashmir went on a news-hunt. They watched every bit of the development and heard every single sentence that matters but were not washed away by the juggernaut.

Leaders skipped reacting to the development. Syed Ali Geelani, however, reacted. Initially he said Osama was martyred and later he joined a number of voices across the globe over the barbarian burial saying it posed question marks over the ethical and moral standards of a civilization that calls itself world power. Osama was buried at sea in continuation of the tradition of victorious regimes denying their defeated ideological enemies a rallying point, a place where sympathisers can gather to venerate their dead. His burial at high seas generated a facebook comment: “Now Osama is as big as Arabian sea”.

Geelani’s utterances were in line with those coming from the other side the LoC. Syed Salahuddin, who heads the Hizb ul Mujahideen in PaK capital, termed the operation mysterious and said the slain fugitive was a thought and an ideology that cannot be obliterated by killing of an individual. On Friday Geelani even asked people to offer the funeral prayers in absentia to the slain warlord. He was himself put under house arrest, but released soon after. He led the Friday prayers at Batmalo, but elicited only a lukewarm response.
 
Possibility of Osama’s al-Qaeda having any base in Kashmir was always remote. In fact at one point of time, came the reports that Osama had made a secret visit to Kashmir in 1996. Security apparatus scanned every record with them to deny the report. Later in 2002 the police top brass and the chief minister claimed that a group of al-Qaeda fighters had infiltrated into the state. This led to US offering co-operation to India in fighting against the group in Kashmir. Shocked at the offer, the government soon denied that Kashmir has any links with al-Qaeda.

The policy continues. When reports sought to connect Osama with Kashmir, Chief Minister was the first who promptly rejected it. Osama has only once referred to Kashmir. In a statement on Al Jazeera on April 23, 2006, Osama talked about the UN resolution and efforts by George Bush and Parvez Musharaf to shut down the training camps.

Generally, people in Kashmir remained glued to the TV sets but did not permit the routine to go astray. However, there is a concern over the post-Osama scene in which the army top brass is publicly talking about their capacities to have surgical strike on the other side of the LoC. Kashmir has its fare share of conspiracy theorists as well, with most finding it hard to believe what is reported in the media about the operation. Many believe the operation was fake or that Pakistan had a deal with Obama over Osama.

Cold blooded  murder
With the dipping sex ratio of the state making headlines and reflecting on the unfavourable societal attitudes towards women, an incident this week came as a shocker and only reinforced that something is terribly wrong in our society.

Bilal Ahmad Pandith allegedly stabbed his 28-year-old wife Sameera Jan to death at Tanghar Kralapora in central Kashmir’s Budgam district on May2, with a seven and half inch long knife. The knife was later removed from the victim’s body during autopsy. The victim had wounds on her chest, back and neck.

As irony would have it, Bilal has known Sameera from childhood. He is her cousin too.  Bilal has gone absconding. An FIR has been registered at the Chadoora police station, but three members of Sameera’s in-laws family have been arrested, as police suspect their involvement too.

Sameera was killed because of demands of dowry. According to her father, Bilal’s family had been harassing her since she had entered into wedlock with him. Sameera had been living at her maternal house at Nawa Kadal for the last five months. She had gone to Kralapora to attend a marriage ceremony. From there, her husband took her to his home. Little had she known what awaited her.

Social scientists have often contested the fact that dowry is not an issue in Kashmir. This murder proves that their belief is not valid. More and more cases of dowry related crime are being reported in Kashmir.

Another concern is the rising rate of domestic violence against women. Last year more than a hundred cases of domestic violence were reported in only one women police station in Srinagar. This needs immediate attention too. Some hard questions need to be asked. Why is our society becoming so intolerant of women?

And the response to the murder has been muted, with little debate. When we go all out in protest is someone from outside commits a similar crime, why this silence on the demons within.

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