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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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Pak must review death sentence of Kulbhushan Jadhav: ICJ

Agencies

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The Hague, Jul 17: The International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Wednesday announced its verdict on India’s petition challenging the death sentence given to Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav, ruling that Jadhav be allowed consular access and asking Pakistan to ensure “effective review and reconsideration of his conviction and sentences”.

The court found by 15 votes to 1 that Pakistan had breached Jadhav’s rights under the Vienna convention on consular relations by not allowing Indian diplomats to visit him in jail.

It said that nothing in Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (VCCR) precludes its applicability to persons accused of espionage.

 

The provision basically states that when a national of a foreign country is arrested, they must be informed of the right to have their country’s consulate notified and should also have the right to regular consultation with their consulate’s officials during their detention and trial.

Pakistan had argued, unsuccessfully, that Article 36 of the VCCR does not apply to people involved in espionage.

Pakistan has been directed to suspend the execution of the death penalty awarded to Jadhav till it fulfills the new conditions (ensuring consular access and ‘effectively’ reviewing the case).

The ICJ, however, also rejected most of the other remedies sought by India, which included the annulment of the military court decision convicting Jadhav, his release and his return to India. It cited limitations of its jurisdiction in turning down those appeals.

Jadhav, 49, a retired Indian Navy officer, was sentenced to death by the Pakistani military court on charges of “espionage and terrorism” after a closed trial in April 2017. His sentencing evoked a sharp reaction in India

Reading out the verdict, President of the Court Judge Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf ordered an “effective review and reconsideration of the conviction and sentence of Mr Kulbhushan Sudhir Jadhav”.

The verdict in the high-profile case comes nearly five months after a 15-member bench of ICJ led by Judge Yusuf had reserved its decision on February 21 after hearing oral submissions by India and Pakistan. The proceedings of the case took two years and two months to complete.

India moved the ICJ in May 8, 2017 for the “egregious violation” of the provisions of the Vienna Convention by Pakistan by repeatedly denying New Delhi consular access to Jadhav.

TIMELINE

2016

3 Mar: Pakistan claims arresting Jadhav in Balochistan on charges of espionage. India claims he was kidnapped from Iran.

25 Mar: India is formally informed by Pakistan of Jadhav’s arrest. A confessional statement is released by Pakistan in which Jadhav claims to be a serving Indian Navy officer. India responds by moving the first of several requests for custodial access.

6 Sep: Pak files “supplementary” FIR naming 15 individuals as “accomplices and facilitators” of Jadhav, including NSA Ajit Doval, former RAW chief Alok Joshi, his wife Chetankul Jadhav, and mother Avanti Jadhav.

21 Sep: Military court begins hearing Jadhav case.

2017

6 Jan: Pak ambassador to the UN Maleeha Lodhi presents a dossier to the UN chief alleging India’s involvement in cross-border terrorism in Pakistan and Jadhav’s arrest.

23 Jan: Islamabad writes to New Delhi, seeking assistance in investigating the Jadhav case, and saying its request for consular assistance shall be considered “in the light of the Indian side’s response”.

10 Apr: Jadhav is sentenced to death by a military court in Pakistan. India deems the death penalty as “pre-meditated murder”.

27 Apr: India writes to Pakistan, asking it for certified copies of the chargesheet, proceedings of the court of enquiry, the summary of evidence in the case, and the judgment itself. No reply is received.

22 Jun: Pakistan states that a military court has rejected Jadhav’s appeal.

8 May: India moves the International Court of Justice, and receives an interim stay on Jadhav’s execution, pending final orders in the case.

26 Oct: Islamabad writes to New Delhi, offering to discuss extraditing him to India should the government accept he is “considered a criminal under the laws of India.”

25 Dec: Jadhav’s mother and wife are allowed to visit him in prison.

2018

Jan 17: Apr 17 and July 17 fixed as deadlines for India’s Reply and Pak’s Rejoinder respectively.

2019

Feb 18-21: India and Pak make two rounds of oral arguments at The Hague.

Jul 4: ICJ announces that the President of the Court, Judge Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf, will read the Court’s decision on July 17.

How binding are ICJ judgments?

Srinagar, Jul 17: According to ICJ, judgments delivered by the court (or by one of its chambers) in disputes between states are binding upon the parties concerned. Article 94 of the United Nations Charter provides that “each Member of the United Nations undertakes to comply with the decision of [the court] in any case to which it is a party”. Judgments are final and without appeal.

If there is a dispute about the meaning or scope of a judgment, the only possibility is for one of the parties to make a request to the court for an interpretation. In the event of the discovery of a fact hitherto unknown to the court which might be a decisive factor, either party may apply for revision of the judgment.

However, there have been instances when the ICJ’s rulings have not been followed. The most famous one was in 1986, when the ICJ ruled in a petition by Nicaragua, which alleged that the US had waged a covert war against it by supporting a rebellion.

The ICJ ordered reparations from the US in favour of Nicaragua. The US, in response, cancelled its declaration of the ICJ’s jurisdiction. It then went to the UN Security Council against the ICJ order and succeeded.

So, whatever the ICJ decides, both governments will have to be prepared for a long haul.

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Hafiz Saeed arrested by Pak’s counter-terrorism dept

Monitor News Bureau

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Srinagar, Jul 17: Jamat ud Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Saeed was arrested Wednesday by Pakistan’s Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) in connection with charges related to terror financing, Dawn and Geo news reported.

The arrest, as per the reports, was made when Saeed was travelling to Gujranwala from Lahore to appear before an anti-terrorism court. The Mumbai 26/11 mastermind has been moved to an undisclosed location, it added.

Quoting CTD spokesperson for Punjab, Dawn reported that Saeed, following his arrest, was sent to prison on judicial remand after the counter-terrorism department presented him before a Gujranwala anti-terrorism court (ATC).

 

The CTD has been directed to complete its investigation and submit a charge sheet to the court in the stipulated time, the report said.

A JuD spokesperson also confirmed the arrest to Reuters.

The arrest comes in the wake of an ATC in Lahore granting Saeed pre-arrest bail. Along with Saeed, three others were also granted the bail in a case pertaining to JuD’s alleged illegal use of land for its seminary, Dawn reported on July 14.

The CTD had registered 23 cases in July against the leadership of JuD, LeT and FIF (Falah-i-Insaniyat Foundation) for gaining assets from “terrorism” financing through non-profit organisations. The move was termed by India as “cosmetic steps against terror groups by Pakistan”.

“Pakistan is trying to hoodwink the international community on taking action against terror groups. Let us not get fooled by cosmetic steps against terror groups by Pakistan,” MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar had said.

Pakistan’s push against Saeed came after Financial Action Task Force (FATF), at a plenary session in USA. FATF chair, the US, had told Pakistan it could face blacklisting at its next session in October if it did not adhere to its commitments to stop access to funds for “terror” groups.

Saeed’s arrest comes just ahead of Prime Minister Khan’s maiden visit to the US on July 21 during which he will hold talks with US President Donald Trump. Trump has repeatedly asked Pakistan to abide by its UN Security Council commitments to deny “terrorists” safe haven and block their access to funds.

The Saeed-led JuD is believed to be the front organisation for militant outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba which is deemed to be responsible for carrying out the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people. The US Department of the Treasury has designated Saeed as a Specially Designated “Global Terrorist”, and the US, since 2012, has offered a USD 10 million reward for information that brings Saeed to justice.

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LeT militant killed in Sopore gunfight

Monitor News Bureau

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Srinagar, Jun 17: After a brief lull in the encounters in Kashmir, a Lashkar-e-Toiba militant identified as a local, was Wednesday killed in a gunfight at Gund-Brath village of Sopore in north Kashmir’s Baramulla district.

Giving details of the encounter, a police official said that Army’s 22 RR, 179 BN CRPF and SOG of J&K police jointly launched a cordon-and-search operation in Gund Brath village of Sopore following specific information about the presence of militants inside a residential house.

During the search operation, the official said, the hiding militant fired on the search party. The fire was retaliated leading to an encounter.

 

In the ensuing encounter, one militant was killed and the body was retrieved from the site of encounter.

The slain militant was identified as Adnan Ali Channa son of Ali Muhammad Channa, a resident of Arampora Azad-Gunj, Baramulla.

As per the police records, the slain was affiliated with militant outfit LeT.

Meanwhile, authorities suspended internet services in Sopore and Baramulla as a precautionary measure in wake of this encounter. Later in the day, thousands of people participated in the funeral prayers of slain militant at his native village Azadgunj.

The encounter was the first one after the commencement of annual pilgrimage of Amarnath on July 1.

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