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Amid beefed-up security, all eyes on polls today

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Srinagar, Oct 7: Amid a barrage of forces manning almost every second street in the Valley, three Municipal Corporation Wards in Srinagar and over 20 municipal committees in several districts across Jammu and Kashmir will go to polls in phase I of Urban Local Bodies Elections today (Monday).

The polls, unique in many ways, are seeing 2990 candidates, of which only 207 are from Kashmir, in the fray for the four phased ULB polls.

The day arrives amidst a massive security bandobast across the valley in addition to scores of detentions of youth and separatist leaders and activists especially in the south of Kashmir.

 

Sources say that around 400 people, many of whom include alleged stone pelters, have been detained to ensure “peaceful” polling.

Government forces, for the last one week, also intensified checking and area domination as part of an elaborate plan for the smooth conduct of local body polls.

“An elaborate security plan has been put in place for the smooth conduct of the polls,” a senior police official said.

He said forces have intensified vehicle checking, frisking and area domination in the city as well as in the other areas of the valley in the run up to the polls.

Many check-points have been placed in the city where vehicles are being checked. Sniffer dogs are also being used to check vehicles.

“We are making sure that no untoward incident happens,” he said.

Director General Police, Dilbagh Singh Sunday said that all arrangements are in place to ensure free, fair, transparent and peaceful conduct of the first phase of municipal elections. He also made it clear that restrictions will not be imposed anywhere in Kashmir valley.

DGP Dilbagh Singh, as per Kashmir News Service, said: “Government forces comprising police and paramilitaries have been deployed in strength across Jammu and Kashmir particularly the parts of valley scheduled to go for polls tomorrow (Monday). Restrictions will not be imposed in any part of Kashmir valley.”

Calling upon people to come out to vote without any fear, DGP said “people fight for rights but in Kashmir people are granted opportunities to exercise their right to franchise without fighting for it.”

He urged people to come out without any fear to cast their votes.

Meanwhile, reports emanating from different parts of Srinagar and towns of Kashmir valley said that frisking of commuters and checking of vehicles has been intensified across Kashmir particularly the areas scheduled to go to polls on Monday.

Monday’s elections will be followed by the second phase on October 10, third phase on October 13 and last phase on October 16. The counting of votes will be done on October 20.

As many as 244 candidates have been elected unopposed, majority of them from Kashmir valley where candidates braved militant threats to take part in the democratic exercise.

Two mainstream state parties – National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party – have boycotted the polls over the challenge to the validity of Article 35-A of the Constitution.

CPI (M) and BSP are the other two parties which have also stayed away from the municipal polls, leaving the BJP and the Congress in a direct contest.

“A total of 2,990 candidates are in the fray for the four-phased elections. Majority are trying their luck from Jammu province with 2,137 candidates, 787 from Kashmir and 66 from Ladakh region,” an official of the state election commission told PTI.

As many as 3,372 candidates have filed their nominations for the four-phased elections. The last election to the municipal bodies in the state was held in 2005 through secret ballot and the term of five years expired in February 2010.

There are 16,97,291 eligible voters in the 1,145 wards across the state. Kashmir valley has the highest number of wards with 598 and an electorate of 10,32,498, while Jammu province has 521 wards with 6,44,568 voters. Ladakh region has 26 wards with electorate of 20,225.

The official said 231 candidates were elected unopposed in Kashmir and 13 in Jammu region. Two wards, one each in Kulgam and Pulwama districts of south Kashmir, did not attract any nomination apparently due to the militant threat, even as the police have arrested about 500 OGWs over the past one week across Kashmir as part of the security plan to ensure free and fair elections, officials said.

“About 450 to 500 OGWs of militants who were issuing threats and hatching conspiracies to sabotage the election process were arrested over the past one week, Director General of state Police Dilbag Singh said.

He said the Police and other security agencies were fully prepared to face any kind of situation for smooth conduct of the polls.

In first phase, 1,283 candidates are in the fray with 1,010 from Jammu, 207 from Kashmir and 66 from Ladakh for 422 wards (247 in Jammu, 149 in Kashmir, 26 in Ladakh), the official said.

The second phase will seal the fate of 1,094 contestants in 218 wards in Jammu region and 166 wards in Kashmir valley, the official said, adding that 61 candidates got elected unopposed in this phase.

In the third phase, a total of 411 candidates are trying their luck – 242 in 56 wards of Jammu province and 169 in 151 wards of Kashmir valley, the official said. Forty nine candidates got elected unopposed in this phase, the official said.

Similarly, 202 candidates are in the fray for the fourth and final phase under which are 132 wards. Fifty two candidates were elected unopposed in this phase.

Out of the total 1,145 wards of municipality and Local bodies, 90 wards have been reserved for Scheduled Castes (SC) and 38 for Scheduled Tribes (ST), which include 31 and 13 wards reserved for SC and ST women respectively, he said.

In addition to this, 322 wards have been reserved for Women belonging to the open category, the officer said.

The Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) has the highest number of electors with 6,63,775 persons in 74 wards, followed by Jammu Municipal Corporation (JMC) with 75 wards and 4,00,301 electors, he said.

The official said Jammu Municipal Corporation has the highest number of contestants with 447, whose fate would be sealed in the first phase on October 8, while 274 candidates are in the fray for Srinagar Municipal Corporation which is going to polls in all the four phases.

Inspector General of CRPF, Kashmir, Ravideep Singh Sahi said the “environment” in the entire Kashmir Valley is under control and the endeavour is to create a sense of security so that the people come out to vote.

“We have made elaborate arrangements for the security. Whatever force was required for the elections, has come and they are being deployed. They have been here for some time and they are adequately familiarised with the area. We have started area domination, check-points have been installed in various areas and we are working in close coordination with the police and army,” Singh said.

Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik Saturday took a detailed review of the security situation in the state ahead of the first phase of the municipal elections.

The meeting was attended by Northern Army Commander, Lt Gen Ranbir Singh, Director General of Police Dilbagh Singh, GOC 15 Corps, Lt Gen A K Bhat, and top officials from police, CRPF and civil administration.

The meeting discussed security arrangements made for the smooth conduct of the forthcoming elections to urban local bodies and panchayats and the need of a safe environment for the elections


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Kashmir receives fresh snowfall, aerial traffic affected

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Srinagar, Jan 17: Kashmir on Wednesday received fresh snowfall affecting the aerial traffic and bringing life to halt.

The fresh snowfall in this morning across the Valley disrupted the normal life in Kashmir with surface traffic remaining suspended for a day while as the Srinagar-Jammu highway remained open despite the snowfall.

Authorities in Srinagar Airport said that the flights to and from Srinagar were suspended in view of the prevailing weather conditions as well as the poor visibility.

 

Officials said that flights will be operational once the weather conditions and visibility will improve.”Due to bad weather/ heavy snowfall, all flights have been cancelled”.

Meanwhile, the 300-km long Srinagar-Jammu highway was open for one-way traffic as there was little or no snowfall in south Kashmir parts on Wednesday.

“Road Status: #Srinagar-Jammu highway open, Traffic plying from Srinagar to #Jammu; Srinagar-Kargil road Closed; Anantnag-Kishtwar road Closed; Mughal Road closed; Bandipora-Gurez road closed; Kupwara-Karnah, Kupwara-Keran, Kupwara-Machail roads closed. @JmuKmrPolice,” Police tweeted.

Director of Meteorological department (MeT), Sonum Lotus said that the light rains as well as snowfall were predicted by the department earlier. “The reports of moderate snowfall were received from some places in Kashmir today,” he said.

He added that the weather would remain mostly cloudy in Kashmir from Jan 18-19, saying that from Jan 19 evening onwards; there is possibility of light rains and snowfall at isolate places.

Lotus further added that the MeT has predicted highly dynamic weather till Jan 23 in Kashmir. “From Jan 20-23, there is possibility of moderate rains and snowfall across the Valley,” he said, adding that the surface as well as the road traffic would also get affected due to the snow spell.

Meanwhile, the state administration claimed to have adequate measures to ensure basic facilities and road clearance during and in the aftermath of fresh snowfall.

The top officials held a series of meetings so far to finalize arrangements in this regard.

The respective district administrations have also asked the officials to gear up for the fresh snow spell as predicted by the Meteorological department

Meanwhile, the day temperatures across the Kashmir Valley nosedived amid fresh snowfall.

A meteorological department official told that Srinagar recorded a maximum of 1.0 degree Celsius, more than six degrees below normal for this time of the year. The capital city saw 5.4 mm of snow (when converted into rain) from 0830 to 1730 hours.

The famous hill resort of Pahalgam recorded a maximum of minus 1.6 degree Celsius and saw snowfall of 8.5mm.
Qazginund, the gateway town of Kashmir, saw a maximum of 2.2 degrees Celsius while Kokernag, also in south Kashmir, recorded a maximum of 1.1 degrees Celsius. Both these places saw zero or traces of snowfall.

The MeT official said the famous ski-resort of Gulmarg in north Kashmir saw a maximum of minus 2.4 degrees Celsius and it had a snowfall of 15.2 mm during the day.

Kupwara town in north Kashmir registered a maximum of 0.8 degrees Celsius, the official said.

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JK showcases tourism potential at Asia’s largest travel show

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NEW DELHI, JANUARY 16: Launching its aggressive marketing campaign, the Department of Tourism, participated in the 3-day South Asian Travel and Tourism Exhibition (SATTE) travel show which began here on Wednesday.

SATTE is one of the biggest travel shows in Asia providing platform for travel agents, tour operators, hoteliers, destination management companies, tourism boards to sell their products and network to their potential clients from across the globe.

Besides, J&K Tourism Department, over hundred travel agents, hoteliers, other service providers and heads of the various travel and hotel associations from the Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh regions are participating in the travel show to showcase the State’s tourism potential.

 

Secretary Tourism, Rigzin Samphel, Director Tourism Kashmir Nisar Ahmad Wani and Director Tourism Jammu Om Prakash Bhagat along with other senior officers from the Department participated in the travel show.

They had an interaction with the leading travel agents from within and outside the country and apprised them about the State’s tourism products.

“SATTE is one of the largest tourism shows in Asia where we can promote our tourism destinations. The department will provide all the information about the JK’s destinations, products, services to the visitors to attract them to the state,” the Secretary Tourism said.

Over 20000 visitors, including domestic and international sellers and buyers, State tourism officials, heads of international tourism boards, hoteliers, and aviation experts showcased their products and services to the global trade community.

The travel show also provides an opportunity for the state tourism department to conduct business sessions with the visitors during the travel show.

On the first day, the Tourism Department of at its pavilion screened short films on different destinations for the visitors who were mesmerized to see the stunning beauty. It also showcased State’s splendid art, craft and sumptuous traditional food.

A large number of visitors turned up at J&K pavilion to inquire about the State’s tourism products, new destinations and infrastructure development.

The Department informed them about the pilgrim, MICE, heritage, art and craft, food, known and lesser-known destinations of all the three regions of the state.

The Department also distributed comprehensive publicity material in the form of brochures and pamphlets, pen drives containing travel videos of different destinations to the visitors at its pavilion.

During the convention, Secretary Tourism, Director Tourism Kashmir, Director Tourism Jammu along with heads of local travel and hospitality sector will also hold separate meet with media to apprise them about the Kashmir being the safe tourist destination.

The Director Tourism Kashmir said the department has planned series of road shows and shall also participate in travel marts in the next two months.

“We will be visiting major cities in the country for road shows. We have also planned road shows in countries like Malaysia, Thailand and Bangladesh where from we have got a good response from the travellers,” he said.

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All election formalities to be completed by Feb end: Sources

Kashmir News Service

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Srinagar, Jan 16 : All election formalities in Jammu and Kashmir are likely to be completed by February end after which the Election Commission of India will take a final call on the dates for the conduct of Lok Sabha and Assembly elections simultaneously.

Top sources while disclosing this to Kashmir News Service (KNS) revealed that the Jammu and Kashmir government has fast paced the process of completing election formalities for both Lok Sabha and Assembly elections by February end and the final electoral roles are likely to be published anytime after January 20.

As already reported the Jammu and Kashmir Chief Electoral Officer Shailendra Kumar held video conference on finalization of electoral roles and other election related arrangements with all the district election officers (DEOs) of all the three regions of the state Tuesday this week.

 

Sources said the authorities in the election commission will work on the suitability of the location of polling booths across Jammu and Kashmir after January 20 and the process is likely to be completed by February 15.

The Election Commission of India, sources said, is likely to take a final call on the dates for the conduct of Lok Sabha and Assembly elections simultaneously earliest by February end and latest by March 15 and the polling in Jammu and Kashmir is likely to be held in the month of April only.

The polling, sources said, is likely to be held in eight phases adding that the polls in south Kashmir however may be held exclusively on the day when polls in no other part of the state will be held keeping in view the volatile situation in four districts of south Kashmir.

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