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As JK climbs to rank 7 in fiscal mgmt, Drabu tweets a cryptic message

Perform or perish!

Firdous Hassan

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Srinagar, July 22: Jammu and Kashmir has vastly improved in state-wise fiscal management from Rank 24 in 2015 to Rank 7 in 2018 across India, an announcement that was made by Dr Haseeb Drabu, J&K FM during the period, in a cryptic message he wrote on his Twitter account on Sunday.

As per the Public Affairs Index (PAI) by the Public Affairs Centre, India, a not-for-profit research think tank Jammu and Kashmir this year has reached Rank 7 in fiscal management, leaving behind states like Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh.

Earlier in 2015, in fiscal management, J&K ranked 24, a place it jumped up from to reach 11 in 2016 and eventually 7 in 2018.

 

This improvement led the last government’s sacked finance minister Dr Drabu to go to twitter and write: “At last the reason for my sacking has been made public!J&K improved its ranking from 11 (2016) to 7 (2018) among all the States in Fiscal Management. It was 24 in 2015 when I became FM.”

In March, Dr Drabu was sacked by the former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti from her Council of Ministers over his “controversial remarks” about the state.

Earlier this year, he presented the Rs 80,313 crore annual budget for the financial year 2018-19.

The former Finance Minister in the budget announced slew of measures to further improve the fiscal deficit, which by now had improved by around 400 basis points from an anticipated 9.5 percent to around 5.7 percent.

The 2018-19 budget as per Dr Drabu focused on facilitating greater inflow of cash in the system to “revival of the sagging local economy.”

Dr Drabu during the budget speech had highlighted that the local fiscal system had got shattered because of the 2014 floods, 2016 disturbances and demonetisation.

PAI is a data driven platform to rank the 30 States of India from the lens of governance. PAC has developed PAI as a unique statistical tool to evaluate the performance of governance in the States despite their social, cultural and economic heterogeneity.

PAI 2016 ranked the states on the basis of 10 broad themes, spread across 25 focus subjects and focusing on 68 individual indicators. PAI 2017 was similar to PAI 2016 and had 10 themes, 26 focus subjects and 82 indicators. PAI 2018, however, comprises of 10 broad themes, 30 focus subjects and a gamut of 100 indicators.

In Economic Freedom, Jammu and Kashmir is down in the bottom. From the rank 20 in 2016, it fell to 22 in 2017 and improved to 21 in 2018.

In Transparency and Accountability, the state was at rank 24 but remains at 22 in 2017 and 2018.

In Essential Infrastructure, the state is moving downwards. From rank 16 in 2016, it has gone down to rank 20 in 2017 to further losing points and is at rank 23 in 2018.

Under the category, Support to Human Development that takes care of education and health, the state of Jammu and Kashmir was at rank 17 in 2016. It went down to rank 22 in 2017 only to come back to its 2016 rank in 2018.

The Social Protection has witnessed interesting shifts. It was at rank 5 among all India states in 2016, then touched the No 1 rank in 2017 but lost its ground to reach No 11 in 2018. This category takes care of public distribution system, social justice, status of minorities and the employment status of the population.

For the category Women and Children that takes care of various parameters about the state and status of the vulnerable sections of the society, Jammu and Kashmir is not better. It was at rank 20 in 2016, only to deteriorate its position to 29 in 2017 and finally recover some of the ground and reach the rank of 23. This category analyses the crime rate against the two sections, the institutional deliveries and the women empowerment besides other host parameters to arrive at a conclusion.

However, under the category of Environment, Jammu and Kashmir is gradually doing the worst. A crucial category that takes care of pollution levels, rainfall, waste management and a dozen odd other parameters having the potential of the impact the overall ecology of the place puts Jammu and Kashmir at rank 28, that is third from the worst side. The state was at No 16 in 2016 and improved to rank 15 in 2017 but has gone downwards.

What is interesting is that the state is better placed in overall ranking among the states on Crime, Law and Order. It was at No 7 in 2016, then improved to No 2 in 2017 and finally is adjudged at No 4.

Interestingly, for the parameter Inequality, Jammu and Kashmir is at No 11. This ranking is for 2017 only because the PAC has not created this index for either 2016 or 2018.


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

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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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