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Article 370 needs to be reviewed: Rajnath

Press Trust of India

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New Delhi, May 17: Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh says there is a need to review Article 370 and 35-A that grants special status to Jammu and Kashmir to establish whether these Constitutional provisions have benefited or done damage to the militancy-hit state.

Singh’s remark comes against the backdrop of the BJP’s stand in its manifesto pledging to abrogate Article 370 and 35-A of the Constitution.

BJP President Amit Shah has also repeatedly spoken about scrapping these provisions during the Lok Sabha poll campaign.

 

The home minister also said a decision on holding assembly elections in the state was the prerogative of the Election Commission but indicated a decision could be announced after the completion of the Lok Sabha polls.

Singh was replying to a question during an interview to PTI recently as to whether BJP thinks that abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution will help resolve the Kashmir issue which he termed as challenging.

“Kashmir ek chunauti hai lekin uska hal jaldi niklega (Kashmir is a challenge but it will be resolved soon),” said Singh, who was the chairman of the BJP manifesto committee.
When pointedly asked whether abrogation of Article 370 and 35A was a solution, Singh said, “muje yeh lagta hai ki sameksha kee jani chahiye ki dhara 370 ya 35-A ke karan Kashmir ko laab hua hai ya haani (I feel that a review should be done whether Article 370 or 35-A has benefited Kashmir or damaged it).”

The statement of Singh also comes close on the heels of the statement made by another senior BJP leader and Union Minister Nitin Gadkari that the BJP is committed to abrogating Article 370.
Gadkari also went on to say during a TV interview that “because of the sensitive situation, it’s not appropriate to implement that (abrogation of Article 370)”.
“We were in power with full majority this time, still we did no go ahead. However, as far as the party’s philosophy, policy and approach to the issue is concerned, we are firm on it,” Gadkari had said.
While Article 370 gives special status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir, Article 35-A empowers state’s legislature to define “permanent resident” of the state and reserve their right to employment besides other privileges.
Asked about the timing of assembly elections in the state, Singh said that no doubt the polls should be held.
“The need for security forces for assembly elections is huge and there was a need for deployment in other states as well for Lok Sabha polls. Now that the parliamentary polls are nearing end, the Election Commission can decide on the dates.”
The state was placed under Governor’s rule on June 19 last year after the BJP unceremoniously withdrew support from the PDP led by Mehbooba Mufti. The assembly was dissolved on November 21 by Governor Satya Pal Malik who claimed that he took the step to prevent horse trading.
After six months of Governor’s rule, the state was brought under President’s rule on December 19, 2018 for a period of six months as elections could not be held within six months of imposition of Governor’s rule.
The current spell of the President’s rule will have to be extended again on May 19.
The extension of President’s rule must also be ratified by Parliament once the new Lok Sabha is constituted.

NC, PDP reacts: BJP sensing defeat
Monitor News Bureau
Srinagar, May 17: Opposition parties in J&K Friday reacted sharply to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh reiterating the demand to review the state’s special status enshrined in the Indian constitution under Article 370 and 35A.
In an interview to a news agency, Singh said Kashmir is a challenge but it will be resolved soon. “I feel that a review should be done whether Article 370 or 35-A has benefited Kashmir or damaged it”, said Singh, who was the chairman of the BJP manifesto committee.
Singh’s statement evoked a sharp reaction from the National Conference (NC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which described it nothing but a desperate bid by the BJP to garner some votes in the last phase of the polls.
“It seems that they (BJP led NDA) are on way out and people are going to say good bye to them. In a desperate bid they have racked up the issue of special status to get some political benefits. But the reality seems dawned on them that they may not come to power again”, said Ali Mohammad Sagar, General Secretary of National Conference.
Sagar however cautioned New Delhi against revoking Article 370 or 35-A saying it will affect the relationship between Kashmir and union of India. “Nobody can touch Article 370 and 35 A. The articles are the cornerstone of constitutional guarantees given to the state. Plus all parties are on the same page that the special status of Jammu and Kashmir needs to be protected,” he said.
PDP too joined the chorus saying Article 370 and 35A was non-negotiable.
“Sensing trouble, they have been raising different issues right from Hindu-Muslim, Rajiv Gandhi and Article 370. But for us special status of Jammu and Kashmir is non-negotiable. Period,” said Suhail Bukhari, Media Advisor to PDP President Mehbooba Mufti.
Meanwhile, the home minister noted that a decision on holding assembly elections in the state was the prerogative of the Election Commission but indicated a decision could be announced after the completion of the Lok Sabha polls.


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LS Polls 2019:Exit polls predict comfortable win for Modi-led NDA

Agencies

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New Delhi, May 19: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s alliance government is likely to return to power after a mammoth general election that ended on Sunday, exit polls showed.

NDTV’s poll of polls said the NDA would get 302 seats, the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) 127 seats and other parties (Others) 114 seats.

The Republic TV exit poll gave the NDA 305 seats, the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) 124 and others 120. Times Now exit poll gave the BJP alliance 306 seats, the UPA 132 seats and Others 104.

 

News Nation gave the NDA between 282 to 290 seats, the UPA between 118 and 126 seats and Others 130 to 138 seats. Sudarshan News gave the NDA 313 seats, UPA 121 seats and Others 109+.

Analysts see the election as a referendum on Modi’s five-year rule. He has adopted a nationalist pitch in trying to win votes by projecting a tough stance against Pakistan, especially after a suicide bombing that killed more than 40 paramilitary soldiers in Pulwama in Jammu & Kashmir.

He has also spoken about a Rs 75,000-crore income support scheme for farmers, toilets built as part of the national cleanliness campaign Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan, rural electrification scheme Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana and cooking gas scheme for the poor Ujjwala Yojana.

The Congress and other Opposition parties are challenging the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government over unemployment and farmers’ distress aggravated by low crop prices. Congress President Rahul Gandhi has also accused Modi of corruption in the purchase of Rafale fighter jets from France.

Voter turnout in the first six rounds was approximately 66 per cent, according to the Election Commission, compared with 66.40 per cent in the nine-phase Lok Sabha elections in 2014.

Voting has largely been peaceful but for sporadic violence in West Bengal, where the BJP is trying to wrest seats from Chief Minister Mamata Banarjee’s All India Trinamool Congress.

In a drastic and unprecedented action, the Election Commission curtailed campaigning by a day in West Bengal on Thursday, after days of clashes in the final stretch of the election.

Pre-election poll surveys by the media indicate that no party is likely to win anything close to a majority in the 543-seat Parliament. The BJP, which won a majority of 282 seats in 2014, may need some regional parties as allies to stay in power.

The BJP will need to do well in Uttar Pradesh, which has 80 Lok Sabha seats, the most in a state. The party had won 71 of them in 2014, but this time it has been challenged by a coalition between the Bahujan Samajwadi Party, the Samajwadi Party, and the Rashtriya Lok Dal.

The voting on Sunday covers 59 seats in eight states and Union Territories. It also includes Modi’s constituency of Varanasi, where he had won in 2014.

Votes cast in the seven phases of elections will be counted on May 23.

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New dispensation in Delhi has to address Kashmir issue: Mirwaiz

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Srinagar, May 19: Hurriyat (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq on Sunday said that Hurriyat leadership was ready to support talks between India and Pakistan provided India accepted Kashmir as a dispute.

Speaking at a seminar organised by the Hurriyat Conference here, he said, “We are not against either the people of India or development. If India and Pakistan initiate a dialogue, we are ready to support it, but India must first accept the basic reality that there can be no military solution to the Kashmir dispute”.

He said the Hurriyat Conference was against India’s policies which were presently being implemented in Kashmir.

 

“It is unfortunate that New Delhi has choked all means of peaceful protest in the Valley. Even pro-freedom leaders are not allowed to meet the people. How can ideas come up if all spaces are choked,” he asked.

Mirwaiz further said that former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had realised that the only possible solution to the Kashmir dispute could be found through a dialogue process.

He also demanded that the Indian government should withdraw the bans imposed on different organisations in Kashmir.

Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, termed the present prevailing situation in Kashmir as sensitive and painful stating that there is no letup in the policies of repression and intimidations as killings, harassment and CASOs continue unabated even in this holy month of Ramadhan.

He said there were apprehensions whether the authorities would allow the seminar as last year, the then government had barred it and caged entire Hurriyat leadership. Mirwaiz said that the repressive measures are being taken to suppress the genuine voices of people of Kashmir.

Mirwaiz said that he was feeling the pain whenever any youth is martyred in government forces action or in encounters stating that that it was beyond doubt that the gun-wielding local boys were the products of the ongoing oppression and they are getting consumed in the ongoing unresolved conflict. He said emotions and repressions is driving the educated youth of Kashmir towards armed means of resistance as every scope for raising voices peacefully stand chocked.

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Touted as game-changer, ambitious e-governance SWAN project yet to take off even after 13 years

Mudassir Kuloo

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Srinagar, May 19: Thirteen years on, the ambitious State Wide Area Network (SWAN) project is yet to see the light of the day in Jammu and Kashmir.

The 2005 Government of India project was aimed to synchronize all official departments of a given state through a dedicated internet connection in a closed used group. Thirteen years after the approval, the project is yet to be completed.

The government has now appointed a four member committee to conduct a thorough probe into the irregularities and lack of progress in implementation of SWAN project. Headed by Principal Secretary Transport Department, the four member committee includes Principal Secretary Industries and Commerce Department, and Secretary Higher Education. The fact finding panel have been asked to submit the report by June 6.  

 

Project Manager, Jammu and Kashmir e-Governance Agency, Irfan Ahmad and Public Information Officer, Imran-ul-Sofi pleaded ignorance about the status of the project. Instead of divulging details, both officers asked to contact Financial Commissioner, Information Technology, Suresh Kumar.

Kumar however could not be contacted for the comments. Additional Secretary Information Technology Vaibhav Kohli passed the buck to project managers. “You ask project managers about the same,” he said.

Jammu and Kashmir e-Governance Agency (JaKeGA) functions under the Information Technology. As per the details available on its website, the SWAN project is a major core infrastructure project under National e-Governance Plan (NeGP).

The project, if implemented, was expected to provide connectivity to the two state headquarters (SHQ), 20 District Headquarters (DHQ), and 152 block headquarters (BHQ) with a minimum internet speed of 2 megabytes per second.

Further, the network would have connected all state and designated government offices located within a 15 kms radius of the SHQ, all state and other designated offices located within 10 kms of each DHQ), and all state and other designated offices located within five kms of each BHQ.

In 2009, the then government had prepared a Draft Proposal Report (DPR) for Rs 106.57 crores for implementing SWAN in the state and forwarded the same to Ministry of Information Technology Government of India.  The tenders were floated four different times until March 2014 but all of them were cancelled since bids received for creating SWAN were apparently high.

SWAN would have substantially reduced the overall time taken in completing administrative tasks by providing converged communications services (voice, data and video) accessible to all government departments. “It would have reduced unnecessary movement of vehicles, employees and documents”, said an official.

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