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Amarnath Yatra: First batch to leave Jammu today

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Jammu, Jun 26: Amid multi-tier security cover, the first batch of pilgrims for the annual Amarnath Yatra will leave from Jammu’s Bhagwati Nagar base camp on Tuesday.
Till now nearly 2 lakh pilgrims from across the country have registered themselves for the yatra to the cave shrine in the south Kashmir Himalayas.
The pilgrims, including sadhus, have started arriving in Jammu from various parts of the country. The first batch of yatris will leave for the twin base camps of Baltal and Pahalgam in Kashmir, in a fleet of vehicles under tight security in the early hours tomorrow, officials said.
They will reach the base camps of Baltal in Ganderbal and Nunwan-Pahalgam in Anantnag districts in Kashmir later in the day. The pilgrims would start their onward journey to the 3,880 metre high cave shrine by foot, the next day, marking the commencement of the pilgrimage.
The yatra is scheduled to conclude on August 26 coinciding with the ‘Raksha Bandhan’ festival.
Inspector General of Police, Jammu, S D Singh Jamwal said, “All arrangements are in place to ensure smooth and peaceful pilgrimage, which is a symbol of brotherhood and communal harmony.”
He said security forces are fully alert and they have taken adequate measures to thwart nefarious designs of anti-national elements and their mentors from across the border.
Security officials said 1.96 lakh pilgrims have so far registered themselves for the yatra, which will for the first time see the use of radio frequency (RF) tags on Amarnath- bound vehicles and CRPF motorcycle squads in action.
Security arrangements around the base camps, temples, railway stations, bus stands and other crowded places here have been strengthened, the officials said.
This year, the government has decided to monitor each vehicle carrying Amarnath pilgrims with radio frequency (RF) tag and to extend the validity of temporary prepaid mobile connections taken by pilgrims from seven days to 10 days.
Around 40,000 security personnel from Jammu and Kashmir Police, paramilitary, National Disaster Response Force and the Army, have been being deployed for this year’s pilgrimage, the officials said.
A total of 2.60 lakh pilgrims offered prayers at the shrine last year.
Considering the carrying capacity of the existing tracks and other available infrastructure in the pilgrimage area, Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB) has decided to allow 7, 500 pilgrims on each route daily. These are the traditional 36-km route from Pahalgam and the shortest 12-km route from Baltal. This will exclude pilgrims travelling by helicopter.


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Not holding simultaneous elections will impact voter turnout in LS polls: Experts

Firdous Hassan

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Srinagar, Mar 19: Not holding Assembly and Parliamentary polls together is likely to impact the overall voter turnout in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections in the valley, claim valley based experts in politics.
This year many new parties have come to the fore and the Centre is likely to enhance its deployment of forces in Kashmir to ensure “violence free elections.”
However with spontaneous disturbance across the valley coupled with delaying of the Assembly elections by the Centre, the experts claim a major proportion of the people are likely to keep away from casting their votes.
“Parliamentary election in Kashmir usually invite low voter turnout. Had it been both Lok Sabha and General Assembly elections held together in the state the voter turnout could be expected higher. As of now, we don’t see chances of any major turn out in voting ahead especially in Kashmir,” said Prof Gul Muhammad Wani who teaches Political Science at Kashmir University.
Wani expressed doubt over the participation of newly formed parties in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.
“I am not sure if these smaller parties will field their candidates. Even if their leaders file nomination, people won’t vote for them in huge proportion compared to the two main political parties of Kashmir (NC and PDP),” Wani said.
“Many parties will use this election to mobilise people for the upcoming assembly elections,” he said.
In 2014 LS polls, 49.7 per cent voter turnout was recorded in Jammu and Kashmir. Barring Jammu, people mostly in Kashmir prefer to choose boycott over ballot as only 11.46% voter turnout was recorded in summer capital.
In 2017 by-polls, the turnout in Srinagar dipped further to only seven percent as violence and killing gripped the valley on poll day.
Prof Noor Ahmad Baba, another expert in politics, claims the parliamentary elections in Kashmir won’t be a “bigger affair” as he believes that there are less “reaction” votes from the valley.
“In other states people vote to express their dissent, which is not in case of Kashmir. Some people will vote here positively. The turnout is expected to be higher in Assembly polls ahead,” he said.
Prof Baba said the emergence of new parties too won’t woo many people to cast their vote for them.
“These new parties won’t have much impact immediately. Sajad Lone has no appeal outside Baramulla and Shah Faesal too can’t make a bigger difference. However, if NC and Congress form an alliance then some may come out to vote,” he said.

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Slow repair work halts cross-LoC trade in Uri

Traders fear losses in crores

Bisma Bhat

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Srinagar, Mar 19: The Cross-LoC trade in Uri has hugely suffered due to snail-paced repair work on the Kamaan Post Bridge, traders rued on Tuesday.
As per them, around 116 trucks are stuck at Uri road in north Kashmir while 24 others are stranded at Traders Federation Center Salamabad. The stranded trucks are carrying delicate items including fruits and vegetables which cannot be preserved for long course of time.
Aggrieved over the losses, the Cross-LoC Traders Association claimed that the delicate goods in stranded trucks have been damaged due to the delay.
Speaking to The Kashmir Monitor, Hilal Turki, chairman, Cross-LoC Traders’ Association, said the items in the trucks have almost “perished” as around two weeks have passed since the repairing work started.
“The losses might be in crores as there are 140 trucks stranded. We have written to the Director General of Police to seek the intervention for speedy repairing of the bridge,” he said.
In a letter to government authorities, the association stated: “Our traders mostly deal with fresh items and the value of those items is in millions of rupees, here we would like to bring in your kind notice that most of the products come from all over the country and as such our loaded fresh trucks remain in transit for a week or more due to this uncomfortable situation our traders are desperately waiting for speedy repairing of Kamaan Pull so that heavy losses can be saved.”
Earlier on March 9, police communicated to the concern authorities that due to the sustained use of Kaman Aman Setu for cross-LoC trade for a long period, the bridge has suffered some damages which requires immediate repair to prevent further deportation.
“Inspection of the bridge was carried out on March 8, 2019, which indicated that the bridge needs urgent repairs and maintenance to ensure its longevity. The repair would require minimum 10-15 days,” he said.
However, around two weeks after, the repair work is still on at a very slow pace.
Riyaz Malik, SDM, Uri told The Kashmir Monitor that the resurfacing work in Kamaan Post bridge is going on. “Trade is suspended since then as work is going on and it will take 10-15 more days to allow traffic on the bridge. We have advised the traders to get the items down some where in Srinagar,” Riyaz said.
Cross-LoC trade and the bus service between India and Pakistan were suspended last month too, in backdrop of the Pulwama suicide attack in which 49 CRPF personnel were killed.

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Centre misusing NIA to target Kashmiris: Soz

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Srinagar, Mar 19: Alleging that Narendra Modi-led government at the Centre was misusing National Investigation Agency (NIA) to target Kashmiris, senior Congress leader Prof Saifuddin Soz on Tuesday said this will be useless and counter-productive.
The former union minister supported chairman of Hurriyat (M) Mirwaiz Umar Farooq who has asked NIA to question him in Srinagar as he cannot travel Delhi for security reasons.
In a statement here this afternoon, Prof Soz said, “I give credence to Mirwaiz Umar Farooq’s stand that he should be questioned anywhere in Srinagar and not asked to travel to NIA headquarters in Delhi”.

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