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Admin asks for inquiry into ‘illegal sand mining’ in Jhelum

Hirra Azmat

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Srinagar, Oct 26: The administration has asked for enquiry into alleged illegal sand mining in the Jhelum in the guise of dredging.

In a letter addressed to Deputy Commissioner Srinagar, the residents of Vethpora, Soiteng, Batwara, Indira Nagar, and Sonwar here have enquired about the “multi-crore sand and clay scam” in the name of dredging in the river Jhelum from Kandizal up to Kursoo Raj Bagh.

“In this connection, I am directed to request you to kindly look into the matter personally and immediate enquiry about the whole complaint and stop the said illegal activities and furnish a detailed report enabling this office to proceed further in the matter,” reads a letter from the DC to Chief Engineer Irrigation and Flood Control Kashmir.

A copy of the letter is with The Kashmir Monitor.

The residents have claimed that in the aftermath of 2014 floods, the land mafia has been converted into “sand mafia”.

The residents have also written a letter to the Inspector General of Police Crime, which reads: “As no any enquiry has been conducted by the concerned authorities till date, the involved brokers are still busy in the above said scam and no any action has been taken against them till date.”

The residents have said the “brokers took undue advantage” of the letter pads of the local mosques and the local mohalla committees for extracting the clay.

“They have sold all this sand and clay on highest rates and have collected huge amounts from its sale,” the letter reads.

“The flood control department is going to construct the bunds on the previous positions and the tenders have been sanctioned which will affect the state Exchequer and will finally make much loss to the state economy.”

Recently, the government has carried out a survey to identify the places in Srinagar for sand extraction to reduce the impact of illegal sand mining on rivers.

The survey report, a copy of which is in the possession of The Kashmir Monitor, says that the river Jhelum is main drainage endowed with sand resources to meet the local requirements of the developmental works of the district.

“The central portion of the river Jhelum from Raj Bagh to Cement Bridge Qamarwari being in the heart of the Srinagar city is discouraged for extraction of sand,” the report had suggested.

For the last four years, 76,162 metric tons of sand have been extracted from Jhelum in Srinagar, it says.

The report also mentions Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC), Government of India notification, making it mandatory to obtain environmental clearance for different kinds of development projects including mining projects.

An official of Irrigation and Flood Control Department said that government has been receiving complaints that illegal sand extraction has been taking place at Raj Bagh locality and it’s adjoining areas.

The areas have become vulnerable to floods due to the weakening of the embankments of the river in several areas of Srinagar.


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As gymnasiums grow, females and middle-aged invest in fitness

Hirra Azmat

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Srinagar, Nov 17: Kashmir is witnessing a growth in the number of gymnasiums, with people of all ages and genders accepting fitness like a ‘culture’.

The fitness industry in the valley has come a long way since its inception.

Earlier, teenagers and adults used to hit gyms, but the trend is slowly reversing. Now, the gym-goers include women, young girls, and middle-aged adults.

“Fitness is a very broad term, and yes people are becoming more aware about how they look and how they feel. Speaking about past few years, there is vast increase in the awareness of fitness and people’s attitude have drastically changed from good to better,” said Isaam Wani, co-founder of Gold Gym at Rajbagh here.

Isaam informed that the age group frequenting their gyms ranges from 17- 60 years and half of them are females.

“I am extremely happy that Kashmiris are becoming more aware about their health,” said Isaam.

Isaam said that the gym’s motto from the very beginning was to imbibe the fitness culture among the females here.

“We have pretty good number of females working out for us under certified female trainers,” he informed.

Sameer Shah, one of the founding members of Anytime Fitness at Jawahar Nagar, echoed the same views.

“Well I’d say from last one year there has been a lot of change in people’s lifestyle since so many good gyms opened. People who never worked out are now saying, when I sometimes interact with them, they are like ‘we don’t come gym for the physical fitness. We more of come to the gym for our mental fitness and happiness. So yes it has changed people’s life here in Kashmir in a good way,” said Sameer.

The gym has a total of 150 female clients registered with it.

“Yes, we do have a specialized female trainers and we have a separate yoga instructor and zumba trainer for females as well,” said Sameer.

Sameer, however, explained the various problems faced by female trainers as the job is deemed unfit for the women in a Kashmiri society.

“The challenges are mostly projected from the family, as female trainee as a profession is still somewhat taboo and even if the family is supportive, majority of the people in and around the society don’t give heed to such a profession for a girl, which is very unfortunate,” said the young fitness enthusiast.

Sameer said, “Apart from this another challenge faced by female trainers is the lack of female athletes in the gyms when compared to their male counterparts, which clearly gives these female trainers a lesser chance to earn in the manner as the male trainers do.”

While the industry is growing in the Valley so do the number of women who are, combining their knowledge and experience in the fitness industry to make their mark in it.

One such example is that of Mehreen Amin of Bohri Kadal who single-handedly trains and runs “Fitness Hub Healthcare Center” gym near Islamia College, Hawal.

The private fitness club, which opened a year ago, is now rapidly gaining popularity among female sports enthusiasts and its members are on a constant rise, despite a backlash from traditional male quarters in the old city.

“The attitude with regard to fitness and health has underwent a sea change in the Valley. People have begun to realize that gym is beyond six packs abs,” Mehreen said.

The young female trainer said, “Since the club opened, 100 women and girls have registered and regularly practice yoga, body building and other exercises, and the number is consistently rising in the face of traditional restrictions.”

Mehreen, however, rued: “Fitness is still not seen as a serious enough industry in our society and my work often gets discounted. I have often been at the receiving end of bad comments and abuses but as long as my clients and family are happy with me, I don’t care.”

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Power-less winters have become production nightmare for industries

Firdous Hassan

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Srinagar, Nov 17: The ritual power shortage in Kashmir during winters leaves the industry and overall business sector in distress, with their production reducing to half during the cold season.

With the onset of winter, the electric situation in Kashmir worsens, forcing many a people to protest against the government.

Industrial sector becomes the first causality of this situation, as most units are driven by electricity, particularly the plastic and oxygen generating firms.

President Federation Chamber of Industries of Kashmir (FCIK), Mukhtar Yusuf, said their losses often multiply during winters.

“Our production has directly gone down by nearly 50 per cent in the last two months. Goods and Service Tax and demonetisation already broke backbone of the industrial sector, now the constant power outage is further denting the sector,” he said.

Yusuf said the industries like plastic and medical oxygen generating units remain closed for the most part of the day.

“The schedule shall be like two hour power cut in morning and two in the evening. We desperately need smooth electricity during the day to meet the demand,” he added.

Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries President, Sheikh Ashiq, said the output of the industries, particularly in rural areas, have fallen immensely due to no power supply.

He said some of the economy-generating industries of the state remain almost defunct during the winters.

“Tourism industry equally faces the problems due to the lack of electricity. Nobody will love to visits a place which is plunged into darkness after dawn,” he said.

Ashiq said the traders have repeatedly sought the solution to frequent power outages.

“It has now become a norm. The winter actually means no power for the people of the valley,” he said.

The frequent power cuts are equally hitting the indigenous industries of Kashmir.

“We have a major chunk of artisans in downtown and rural areas, which currently face massive power cuts and curtailments. These artisans are not able work at home in the absence of electricity during evening hours,” Muhammad Sultan, an artisan from Khanyar, said.

 

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‘GLOBAL INVESTORS SUMMIT’: JK to hire ‘knowledge partner’ in identifying focus sectors

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Srinagar, Nov 17: Chief Secretary BVR Subrahmanyam discussed modalities for the maiden ‘Global Investors Summit’ to be held in Jammu and Kashmir that will set the platform for businesses to make investments in a big way in the State.

On his arrival here on a three day visit on Friday, Chief Secretary chaired a meeting at the winter secretariat which was also attended by the Principal Secretary, Industries and Commerce, Shailendra Kumar and other officers of the state administration to review preparedness for ‘Global Investors Summit’.

Chief Secretary said the State Government will hire a knowledge partner who will help in identifying the potential of focus sectors that will set the tone for the investor summit. “If a box of apples is sold for Rs 1500 in New Delhi, why should it sell for just Rs 300 in the Valley? We are determined to change this,” he said.

“There are unique challenges in Jammu and Kashmir but Governor’s Administration is determined to overcome them. We are in the process of creating an ecosystem to attract investment from national and international businesses that will open up new vistas of employment in the state,” Chief Secretary said.

Chief Secretary said Jammu and Kashmir has the best work force and talented youth available but due to the situational challenges, businesses have stayed away from making investments here.

“J&K doesn’t require factories for labour. We have the best work force across the country. Large scale investment in sectors such as biotech and horticulture can produce great results. It is with this idea that the government is going to organise a business summit,” he said.

Subrahmanyam said the state will not imitate such summits being held in other states of the country as Jammu and Kashmir offers unique opportunities, “If the summit works, a pattern will emerge that will set a benchmark for future investments. The idea behind the investor summit is to generate employment in a big way in J&K,” he said.

“There is a big Kashmiri Diaspora across the world. Our knowledge partner will help us in creating networks with them. Besides, we will tell the prominent business of the country that if they are doing so much for rest of the country, why not for J&K,” Chief Secretary maintained.

Consultants of Ernest and Young made a presentation in which they chalked out a detailed roadmap for organising the investors’ summit in Jammu and Kashmir. Reflecting on their experiences of having worked in Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand, they said such summits have exponentially increased investments in these states.

The consultants listed out key strategies including policy making, investor outreach, event planning and knowledge collaterals for organising the summit in Jammu and Kashmir.

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