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  After insurance ‘scam’, Sapphire mining contract under scanner

Nisar Dharma

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Srinagar, Oct 27: After the Reliance General Insurance fiasco, more skeletons are expected to tumble out of the closet.

The J&K Governor’s administration is now scrutinising how a Delhi-based firm was chosen to “explore and exploit” the prized Sapphire mines of J&K.

Mineworks Private Limited, a merely five-year-old company based in Vasant Kunj, New Delhi, was recently “selected” to work in a joint venture with Jammu and Kashmir Minerals Limited to extract priceless Kashmir Sapphire from the mines under possession of the latter in Padder Valley of Kishtwar.

 

Sources told The Kashmir Monitor that Governor, Satya Pal Malik, was keen to know the entire process undertaken for “selection” of the company for the joint venture.

It was back in 2011, when the J&K government first floated global tenders for mining the Sapphire.

The process was left undone and then repeated in 2013, but it never saw daylight, until the name of Mineworks Private Limited came up recently.

“Governor wants to know how the company succeeded in getting the contract, who all were its competitors and what made it better than them. Besides, what all works of this nature and magnitude has the company undertaken in the past,” the source said.

An order issued on October 16 seems to corroborate the source.

“Sanction is hereby accorded to the constitution of a ‘Group of Officers’ comprising to examine the process followed since the inception of M/S Mineworks Pvt Ltd, New Delhi for exploration and exploitation of Sapphire mines in joint venture with JK Minerals Ltd, in all aspects including the relevant mining laws and rules,” the order read.

“The Group of Officers, based on critical assessment shall make recommendations to move forward on the project.”

The group, as per the order, includes Administrative secretary, Home Department, as its chairman.

The remaining of the members include: administrative secretary, finance; administrative secretary, planning, development and monitoring department; administrative secretary, industries and commerce; and administrative secretary department of law and justice and parliamentary affairs.

The group has until October 30 to submit its recommendations.

Contacted, none of its members was willing to talk over the matter.

Managing Director J&K Minerals, Vikram Gupta, too did not respond to multiple calls over two days.

As for Mineworks Private Limited, the company does not appear to have any website or contact number listed anywhere.

It’s practically non-existent on social media, too.

One of the two Facebook pages with the same name belong to an animation studio and a Singaporean company dealing in cryptocurrency.

The only information once can find about Mineworks Private Limited is listed on zaubacorp.com, a website that carries basic information of companies.

As per it, Mineworks Private Limited was incorporated on April 10, 2013, with one Raj Kumar Tongya as one of its seven directors.

One piece of information that checked was that Tongyas are from Jaipur and have been trading in gemstone polishing and manufacturing.

Although, no monetary figure can be yet attached to the Sapphire contract, it is considered the most money-spinning one given what is to be explored: Kashmir Sapphire, a gemstone that fetches whopping figures in international markets.

For instance, back in 2015, a 35-carat Kashmir Sapphire fetched $7.3 million (Over Rs 50 crore) at an auction in Geneva by Christie’s, the world-famous auction house.

Similarly, a Kashmir Sapphire mounted on a diamond ring, is estimated between $ 1.4 to 2.4 million by Christie’s, which is going to auction it in Geneva on November 13.

J&K Minerals Limited holds the mining lease for a 6.65 sq km area at Paddar, situated at a height of 4,327 metres. Mining is possible in only two summer months a year due to extreme climate conditions and inaccessibility.

Sapphire from Padder is famous all over the world for its unique blue colour and unparalleled clarity and transparency.

The first ever mention of these mines was made in 1890 by Tom D LaTouche, the Deputy Superintendent Geological Survey of India, who travelled to Kishtwar to survey the mines.

The Kashmir Monitor accessed the travelogue, which is now part of the now a part of the Geological Survey of India records.

Here is what, in his own words, brought Tom to Kishtwar: “In the year 1887 the Kashmir Durbar, finding that the revenue from the mines, which had been worked by them with considerable profit since the first discovery, was steadily diminishing, applied to the Government of India for a geologist to examine the mines, and I was deputed to visit and report upon their present condition.”


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J&K all set to get its new official bird: Exit Black Necked Crane, enter Kashmir Flycatcher

Hirra Azmat

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Srinagar, Feb 21: Jammu and Kashmir government is all set to declare Kashmir Flycatcher (Ficedula subrubra) as an official bird of new Union Territory (UT).
Kashmir Flycatcher will replace Black Necked Crane (Grus nigricollis) which was the state bird of united Jammu and Kashmir before it was reorganized into two union territories on August 5.
A highly endangered species, Kashmir Flycatcher (Ficedula subrubra), is mostly found in the upper reaches of the valley.
According to the official data of Wildlife department Jammu and Kashmir and SKAUST, around 550 species of local birds have been listed so far.
Professor SKAUST and co-founder of Jammu and Kashmir Birdwatchers Club, Dr Khursheed Ahmad said the stubby little Flycatcher is endemic to Kashmir.
“The declaration of Kashmir flycatcher as the state bird is to ensure the much needed conservation of the local species which is declining by the day. The proposal has been sent to centre and official announcement will be made soon,” he said
Dr Khursheed said the bird breeds at an altitude of 1800-2700 meters, favoring deciduous forest with dense undergrowth. “It migrates to parts of Southern India in winters and comes back to its breeding ground in the spring,” he said.
The identified sites for Kashmir flycatcher in the valley are Dachigam National Park, Overa Aru Wildlife Sanctuary, and Shikargah area in Tral.
De Khursheed noted that the local bird has become vulnerable with decreasing population and breeding range. The range has been severely fragmented because of the destruction of temperate mixed deciduous forests by commercial timber extraction, agriculture and livestock grazing.
“Unfortunately, no study has been done in the valley to know about its population. It’s a data deficient bird,” he said.

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Global Investors’ Summit:Govt signs Rs 2100 cr MoUs in financial capital

Monitor News Bureau

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Mumbai, Feb 21: The newly formed union territory of Jammu and Kashmir on Friday inked Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) worth over Rs 2,100 crore during its investment summit roadshow in the city here.
“We want to maximise industrial growth and employment opportunities in Jammu and Kashmir. For this we are engaging in six city roadshows. Of this, we have already successfully concluded in Bengaluru, Kolkata and Mumbai,” Jammu and Kashmir Principal Secretary Planning, Development and Monitoring Rohit Kansal told reporters here at an investor roadshow organised by CII. “The roadshows will further cover cities like Hyderabad, Chennai, Ahmedabad in February and March,” he said.
Led by Lieutenant Governor Girish Chandra Murmu, the officials pitched about the business possibilities in Kashmir valley to India Inc. Kansal said the union territory has signed around Rs 2,000 crore worth of non-binding MoUs in Kolkata, Rs 850 crore in Bengaluru and over Rs 2,100 crore in Mumbai. J&K has identified 14 sectors, including horticulture, food processing, manufacturing, infrastructure, media and entertainment, film and tourism, to attract investments, he added.
Kewal Kumar Sharma, Advisor to Lieutenant Governor of Jammu and Kashmir said, “We are in the final stages of designing an ambitious Industrial Promotion Policy 2020 in J&K, which will have elements like SGST reimbursement in full, attractive land policy, exemption from stamp duty, support for green industrialisation along with other benefits.”
When asked about the ground situation in the union territory, he said it is much better than what it was a few months back. “We’re talking about investments in the long term. You’re not talking about today, given today’s situation (is) much better than what it was, let’s say, a few months back. So things are improving, I don’t see this becoming a problem for any investment,” he added.
The Centre had in August revoked Article 370 to take away J&K’s special status. Sharma said J&K provides opportunities for Bollywood with religious and heritage sites, dense forests and waterfalls, among others.
“Jammu and Kashmir provides huge opportunities to set up film studios, film cities, film institutions, multiplexes with film exposed workforce as per new film tourism policy,” he added.
J&K Commissioner Secretary Manoj Kumar Dwivedi said the union territory has a lot of inherent potential with appropriate climate for agriculture, vibrant tourism ecosystem and a huge land bank.
Lieutenant Governor Girish Chandra Murmu, chaired the B2G meeting sessions along with Kewal Kumar Sharma, Advisor to Lieutenant Governor, BVR Subrahmanyam, Chief Secretary Jammu and Kashmir and held extensive deliberations with corporate heads, industrialists, film industry leaders and briefed them about the potentials, investment opportunities and investible projects ready for investment in J&K.
A series of round-table discussions led by Administrative Secretaries and HODs were also organised on strategic sectors to seek investment for maximizing industrial growth and enhancing employment opportunities.
A video filming the investment potential of J&K was played followed by a detailed presentation by Manoj Kumar Dwivedi, Commissioner Secretary, Industries & Commerce who highlighted 14 Focus sectors and initiatives taken by Government to improve industrial ecosystem in Jammu and Kashmir. It was followed by a video on pristine locations and tourism potential of Jammu and Kashmir which received wide appreciation from participants.
Kashmira Mewawala, Chairman, CII Maharashtra State Council, while addressing the participants focussed on the strengths of J&K and briefed the audience that J&K has shown immense interest in providing an enabling environment and tap available opportunities, in the road show.
Vinod Haritwal, CEO Director Grauer and Weil (l) Ltd, shared his experiences of working in J&K on the occasion. He strongly allayed apprehensions of security related disturbances on the growth and profits in industrial sector in Jammu and Kashmir.
S K Bansal prominent industrialist in J&K also shared the dias.
Prominent industries groups & Leaders including representatives from Taj, Carnival Films, Volkswagen India, Hinduja, Ambuja Cements, Mahindra Holidays, Kotak Mahindra Bank, Bayer, Lark and others were present on the occasion.
The event was attended by more than 150 delegates. More than 30 B2G meetings were held across various sectors in which 24 MoUs valuing about Rs. 2450 crores were signed during the road show.
The upcoming road shows will further cover other industrial and economic hubs like Hyderabad, Chennai, Ahmedabad in March 2020 which have been planned with an intent to draw together business hubs, investors, decision-makers, senior government officials and the local business community in a stimulating dialogue that spurs the investment and economic development of Jammu and Kashmir
The road shows are being organised by Jammu and Kashmir Trade Promotion Organization (JKTPO), a nodal agency working under department of Industries and Commerce, Government of J&K, along with Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) as the National Partner, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) as media partner and Ernst & Young as the Knowledge Partner.

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‘People friendly’ ops have yielded results: Dhillon

Press Trust of India

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Srinagar, Feb 21: The “remarkable” decrease in the number of local youths joining various militant groups in Jammu and Kashmir has been a result of Operation ‘Maa’ launched by the army, which also targeted the leaderships of outfits “in a people friendly manner”, a top army officer said here.
Lieutenant General Kanwal Jeet Singh Dhillon, who heads the strategic Kashmir-based XV corps, started Operation ‘Maa’ whereby a local militant trapped in an encounter is made to talk to his mother in a bid to convince him to return to his normal life.
“Nothing is lost until your mother can’t find it,” Lt Gen Dhillon said while explaining that the results of the operation were “worth noting”.
“In all operations, we extend every opportunity to local militants to ‘return’. Half way through, the encounters are halted and the parents or society elders are involved to urge the trapped local militants to ‘return’. This is Operation ‘Maa’ and we have been successful many times,” Lt Gen Dhillon told PTI in a written reply.
However, details were not made available by the army as “this could jeopardise the safety of former militants who are inching towards living normal lives in the national mainstream.”
He said effective operations, especially against the leaderships of militant outfits, are the result of the determined pursuit of joint counter militancy operations “in a people friendly manner”.
According to a report compiled recently by security agencies, on an average only five youths joined militant groups every month since the special status of the erstwhile state was revoked over six months ago and it was bifurcated into two union territories — Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh — whereas the figure before August 5, 2019 was 14 per month.
Lt Gen Dhillon also believes that successful operations by security forces, which led to “elimination” of 64 per cent new recruits during their first year of joining militant groups, has also acted as a deterrent.
“As a result, the recruitment of local boys in 2019 has been nearly half in comparison to 2018 and joining militant tanzeems (organisations) has become a non-lucrative option for the youth,” he said.
The report also said large gatherings at funerals of militants killed by the forces has become a thing of the past. Now, only a handful of close relatives are seen during the burials of militants killed in encounters with security forces, it said.
Before August 5, 2019, funeral gatherings of killed militants used to be high and sometimes had more than 10,000 people, the report pointed out, adding that such gatherings had become fertile grounds for recruitment of youths into militancy.
However, there has been a sharp decline in such tendencies and has impacted recruitment of local boys in various militant groups which has come down drastically, the report, which has been collated by various security agencies, said.
“There were instances (after August 5, 2019) when militants were buried and funeral was attended by just by a dozen of close relatives,” it said.

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