New Delhi, Sep 16: Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has said she has no “grudge” against a group of Army officers who have approached the Supreme Court to present their views on cases relating to the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).
The defence minister said the officers have chosen to go to the court as there is a “certain sense of worry” in their minds which she can understand.
In an unusual move, around 700 Army officers and soldiers have approached the Supreme Court, requesting it to protect the bonafide action of soldiers under AFSPA, and voicing concerns over reported move to dilute some provisions of the law which protects the security forces from prosecution without the Centre’s approval.
“Grievance redressal is a right. I will never want to say if you have a grievance, you should not voice it. I will never say that,” she told PTI when asked about the issue.
“There are institutional mechanisms available for grievance redressal within the Army, Navy and Air Force. So it is possible for men or officers to have grievance redressal institutionalised within the forces.
“But if in the case of AFSPA, they have chosen to go to the court, there is a certain sense of worry in the minds of men and officers and I can understand that,” she said.
Sitharaman said AFSPA law was brought “to address situations which are absolutely unique and very challenging.”
“Now, if that is, from the point of view of human rights, taken to the court and the court is giving a full hearing and justice to hear everybody out, and if the officers and men felt they also would want to give their argument, I cannot grudge that.
“I really cannot grudge that. We are speaking up for the men and officers who are on the field and that is why the advocate general, attorney general appear on behalf of the government’s position. So we will hope that the court gives a good comprehensive hearing,” she said
Jammu and Kashmir, Manipur and a number of states in the North East were brought under the AFSPA which gives the security forces special rights and immunity in carrying out various operations. There has been a long-standing demand from various quarters in J-K and the Northeast to withdraw it.
The Supreme Court has been hearing cases relating to alleged extra-judicial killings in Manipur by the security forces.
Army Chief General Bipin Rawat disapproved of the move by the serving officers and soldiers to approach the top court in their personal capacity.
At the same time, he had said the armed forces and the defence ministry are steadfastly behind all officers who have conducted operations in Jammu and Kashmir and the north east.
Defunct street lights? Don’t expect SMC to fix them
Srinagar, Jun 17: Srinagar plunges into darkness soon after sunset as most of the street lights in the capital city are defunct.
This being so since Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) claims it is incapable to deal with the issue.
In absence of this basic facility, the city residents face a lot of inconvenience moving out of their homes to the markets or masjids during the evening and early morning hours.
Cases of burglary and dog-bites have been reported from many secluded areas where residents complain of either having defunct or no street lights.
People living in many of these poorly-lit areas feel scared to venture out of their homes in late hours.
“I prefer not to leave my home after Isha namaz. Dogs chase passersby since there is no street light in this colony,” said Bashir Ahmed, 60, a resident of Illahibagh.
SMC claims it has installed more than 40,000 street lights across the city. However, majority of them remain dysfunctional due to lack of an established electric division and less technical manpower in the corporation.
Executive Engineer SMC, Qazi Imtiyaz who looks after the Mechanical division, said: “We have nothing. Zero manpower to look after the technical faults of street lights. There is no electric division in our corporation.”
SMC Commissioner, Khursheed Ahmad Sanai said: “SMC lacks an established electric division as well as skilled staff to mend defunct street lights in Srinagar. But we are constantly making up to illuminate more areas through whatever little staff is available to us.”
RKFC signs top English striker
More signings to follow; Club on track to become India’s football powerhouse
Srinagar, Jun 17: J&K’s premier football club, Real Kashmir FC, has signed an experienced striker from England to play for the team in the upcoming season.
Announcing on RKFC’s official Twitter handle, the club management wrote: “RKFC is delighted to announce the signing of Kallum Higginbotham from Dunfermline Athletic, Scotland. Kallum is an experienced striker who has played at the highest level in the UK. Kallum has played for top teams such as Huddersfield Town, Kilmarnock, and Motherwell.”
Former Kilmarnock frontman, Kallum, who’s originally from Salford, England, will join the club in the third week of July, club sources told The Kashmir Monitor.
With Rangers legend David Robertson training the team, Kallum will be the second European player to play for RKFC after the coach’s son Mason.
The club finished third in the I-League last season in their first campaign in the top flight.
Terming it as an important signing, club’s co-owner, Sandeep Chattoo said: “Today’s signing of Kallum shows our intent that we mean business. We will leave no stone unturned to make RKFC a powerhouse of football not just in India but Asia. In coming days we will unveil more top signings. As a co-owner, I want to tell the fans that we will do whatever we can to play top class breathtaking football next season. RKFC is not just a football team. It’s the heartbeat of the state. For me personally it’s a project. We have just completed phase one. Lot more to follow.”
Head Coach David Robertson had a similar viewpoint on Kallum’s inclusion in the club: “Signing player of Kallum’s experience and quality is a huge statement and shows continued ambition of Real Kashmir. He will give us an extra edge upfront and can also play in various roles within the team. Our team is shaping up nicely and we are all eager and excited for the start of the new campaign.”
President J&K Football Association, Zameer Thakur congratulated the team on the signing.
“We welcome this signing and hope that RKFC will not just maintain but improve its last season’s performance in the upcoming one,” he told The Kashmir Monitor.
Overall nuclear arms decline but India, Pak, China expanding arsenal
Stockholm, Jun 17: The overall number of nuclear warheads in the world has declined in the past year but nations are modernising their arsenals, a report published Monday said.
At the start of 2019, the United States, Russia, Britain, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea had a total of some 13,865 nuclear weapons, according to estimates in a new report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
That represents a decrease of 600 nuclear weapons compared to the start of 2018.
But at the same time all nuclear weapon-possessing countries are modernising these arms ¬– and China, India and Pakistan are also increasing the size of their arsenals.
“The world is seeing fewer but newer weapons,” Shannon Kile, director of the SIPRI Nuclear Arms Control Programme and one of the report’s authors, told AFP.
The drop in recent years can mainly be attributed to the US and Russia, whose combined arsenals still make up more than 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons.
This is in part due to the countries fulfilling their obligations under the New START treaty — which puts a cap on the number of deployed warheads and was signed by the US and Russia in 2010 — as well as getting rid of obsolete warheads from the Cold War era.
The START treaty is however due to expire in 2021, which Kile said was worrying since there are currently “no serious discussions underway about extending it”.
Next year the treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) — considered the cornerstone of the world’s nuclear order — turns 50.
The number of nuclear arms has been drastically reduced since a peak in the mid-1980s when there were some 70,000 nuclear warheads in the world.
While Kile said progress should not be underestimated, he also noted a number of worrying trends, such as the build-up of nuclear arms on both sides of the border between India and Pakistan, and the danger of a conventional conflict escalating to a nuclear one.
There is also a more general trend towards an “increased salience” of nuclear weapons, where changing strategic doctrines, particularly in the US, are giving nuclear weapons an expanded role in both military operations and national security dialogue, Kile said.
“I think the trend is moving away from where we were five years ago, where the world’s nuclear weapons were being marginalised,” Kile said.
Former UN chief Ban Ki-moon recently urged nuclear powers to “get serious” about disarmament and warned there was a “very real risk” that decades of work on international arms control could collapse following the US pullout of the Iran nuclear deal, which he said sent the wrong signal to North Korea.
Global disarmament efforts also suffered a blow when the United States announced in February it would withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, prompting Russia to say it would also suspend its participation.