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.”
3 militants killed in Budgam encounter
Srinagar, Jan 21: Three militant of Hizbul Mujahideen outfit were killed in an encounter at Hapatnar woods in Charar-e-Shareef area of central Kashmir’s Budgam district on Monday.
News agency Global News Service quoted a senior police officer saying that a joint team of Army’s 53 RR, SOG and CRPF launched a cordon-and-search operation in forest area of Hapatnar early Monday morning following “credible inputs” about the presence of some militants.
As the joint team of forces intensified the combing operation, the militants hiding in the area opened fire triggering off a gunfight which continued intermittently till late in the evening.
During the course of gunfight, three militants belonged to Hizbul Mujahideen outfit were killed, the officer said.
The operation was prolonged due to the tough terrain amid inclement weather conditions, he added.”So far one body has been recovered along with arms and ammunition. The other two bodies which are lying inside the hideout are yet to be retrieved,” the officer said.
“The identity of the slain is being ascertained,” the officer said.
The officer said that the government forces have also blasted the hideout of the militants in the mountainous area, covered under plenty of snow.
Meanwhile, sources identified one among the slain Shahid Baba of Drabgam, Pulwama. (With inputs from GNS)
Snow, rains persist: Land, air traffic disrupted
Srinagar, Jan 21: Although not as severe as predicted, fresh snowfall and rains were Monday lashed Kashmir bringing some respite to the people from the cold wave.
The plains of Kashmir witnessed moderate rainfall from early hours of Monday, while there were reports of snowfall in higher reaches of the valley, officials said here.
The MeT Office has forecast widespread rain and snow over the state with heavy falls at isolated places till Tuesday.
Meanwhile, traffic on the 300-km long Srinagar-Jammu highway was halted because of heavy snowfall on the stretch.
“Today no movement of vehicular traffic on Jammu Srinagar NHW from Jammu towards Srinagar and vice versa as road blocked due to snow accumulation at Nowgam-Jawahar Tunnel-Qazigund Sector and still snowing,” J&K Traffic Police tweeted Monday morning.
Bad weather conditions also disrupted operations at the Srinagar International Airport here, leading to the cancellation of four flights, officials said.
“Due to the inclement weather, four of the 27 flights to and fro Srinagar were cancelled on Monday,” an official of the Airport Authority of India.
Another 11 flights got delayed due to poor visibility and intermittent rainfall since Monday morning, he said.
The minimum temperature in Srinagar on Sunday settled at minus 0.3 degree Celsius, same as previous night, a MET official said.
He said Qazigund, the gateway town to the valley, in south Kashmir recorded a low of 0.6 degree Celsius, while the nearby Kokernag town registered a low of minus 0.3 degrees Celsius Sunday night.
The mercury in Kupwara town in north Kashmir settled at a low of minus 0.6 degree Celsius. Gulmarg ski-resort in north Kashmir recorded a low of minus 4 degrees Celsius Sunday night, while Pahalgam tourist resort, in south Kashmir, recorded a low of 0.2 degrees Celsius, the official said.
He said Leh, in the frontier Ladakh region, recorded a low of minus 5.6 degrees Celsius, while the mercury in Kargil registered a low of minus 14.0 degrees Celsius. Kargil was the coldest recorded place in Jammu and Kashmir, colder than even Drass town which recorded a low of minus 6.8 degrees Celsius.
Kashmir is currently under the grip of ‘Chillai Kalan’, the 40-day harshest period of winter when the chances of snowfall are maximum and the temperature drops considerably.
‘Chillai Kalan’ ends on January 31, but the cold wave continues even after that in Kashmir. The 40-day period is followed by a 20-day long ‘Chillai Khurd’ (small cold) and a 10-day long ‘Chillai Bachha’ (baby cold).
Lack of funds halts vital JK tourism projects
Srinagar, Jan 21: The Governor-led administration is mulling to start new projects to boost tourism in Kashmir even as several old ones have been left midway due to want of funds.
In December last year, the administration ordered the constitution of an official panel for identification of new projects in tourism sector to be implemented under Prime Minister’s Development Package (PMDP).
Back in 2014, the Government of India, under Project/Infrastructure Development for Destination and Circuits (PIDDC), had sanctioned Rs 7593.88 lakh for development of basic tourism infrastructure in Jammu and Kashmir through private investment, opening of new potential destinations and development of heritage, adventure, and pilgrim and eco-tourism.
However, the projects have been left incomplete as the Centre has, as per the latest official data, released only Rs 3504.80 lakh of the sanctioned amount against which the department shows 100 percent expenditure.
Now, due to the unavailability of funds, the PIDDC project is on standstill.
The project included development of Eidgah, face-lifting of Khankahi Moula, Development of Jamia Masjid Heritage Corridor, Renovation of Aali Masjid, Upgrading of Ziyarat Abdul Razaq Sahib at Hawal, Ziyarat Hazrat Balaad Rumi at Rajouri Kadal, Ziyarat Akhoon Sahib and TajBibi at Fateh Kadal, Ziyarat Hazrat Noor Shaha Sahib at Narwara, and Conservation of areas from Naagar Nagar to Watlab.
The tourist circuit from Naagar Nagar to Watlab, which was a key component of the project, still requires Rs 2312.90 lakh to be completed, official data shows.
Another main component of PIDDC project, construction of Trans Himalayan Culture Centre in Leh, too requires further Rs 1094.48 lakh for completion.
Similarly, development of Khiram Shrine in South Kashmir’s Bijbehara town also remains incomplete for want of funds.
Section Officer of Planning, Tourism Department, Sajad Ahmad, told The Kashmir Monitor that “65 per cent” of the work has been completed on Naagar Nagar to Watlab component of the project.
“We had to stop the work because the Centre did not release the funds,” he added.
Executive Engineer, JK Tourism, Abdul Qayoom Kirmani said they have asked the Government of India for the pending funds and also sent to them the proposal of the new projects.
“We have identified new Rs 100 crore new projects under PMDP-II, which comprises of nine circuits,” he said.