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Guv cancels mediclaim policy contract

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Srinagar, Oct 25: A month after rolling out the Group Mediclaim Health Insurance Scheme for employees, pensioners and accredited journalists, Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik has “cancelled” the contract to a private company.

In an interview to a New Delhi-based TV channel aired Wednesday night, Malik said he has “almost terminated” the contract after an investigation. “It will take couple of days (for the official cancellation order),” Malik said in the interview.

“I studied it myself. The issue is that the government had not issued any tenders. A private company had asked for tenders on behalf of another company. Those bids were not displayed anywhere on our (government’s) website. The tenders were changed to suit a particular company,” Malik said in the interview.

 

“It was full of frauds. I discussed the issue with the chief secratery and made it clear that such things can’t happen in my presence. So we decided to cancel it”.

The Governor’s administration had rolled out the scheme with much fanfare on September 20 this year.

An order issued by the Government of Jammu and Kashmir in September this year, read, “The policy has been tied with M/s Reliance General Health Insurance Company Ltd on annual premium of Rs 8,777 and Rs 22, 229 (for employees and pensioners respectively).”

Earlier this month, Reliance General Insurance had said that it has won the contract to provide health insurance cover to Jammu and Kashmir government staff after a “rigorous and transparent competitive tender process.”

The company’s statement came after Congress president Rahul Gandhi alleged that the general insurance company, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Anil Ambani’s Reliance Capital, got the health insurance mandate from the J&K government due to his proximity to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Expressing his displeasure over the recent order of introducing Urdu Bhagwat Geeta and Ramayana in JK schools, Governor Malik said the circular might be issued by some “naïve person.”

“Koi nasamajhaddmithajisnebhejatha (some naïve person sent the order). But I immediately scrapped the circular,” he said.

On Tuesday, the Jammu and Kashmir government ordered schools, colleges and public libraries to ensure that Urdu versions of religious scriptures like Gita and Ramayana be stocked in their libraries.

However, after facing public outrage, the government following day withdrew its order of introducing Ramayana and Bhagwad Gita in schools, colleges and public libraries in the state.

The order had triggered a controversy in the state with many questioning why scriptures from only one religion were chosen and others ignored.

Reacting to the order former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah in a tweet had said: “Why just the Gita and Ramayana? If religious texts are to be placed in schools, colleges and government libraries (and I’m not convinced that they need/should be) then why is it being done selectively? Why are other religions being ignored?”


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Top militant ‘commander’ Zakir Musa killed in Tral

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Srinagar, May 23:  Kashmir Valley’s most wanted militant ‘commander’, Zakir Musa, who headed the Al Qaeda affiliate Ansar Gazwatul Hind (AGH), was killed on Thursday by government forces in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district.

Informed sources said the forces started a cordon and search operation in Dadsara village of Tral area following information about the presence of two militants there.

“The trapped militants were persuaded to surrender. Instead they hurled grenades and started a gunfight, triggering an encounter,” a source said.

 

One of the dead was identified as Zakir Musa.

As the news about the killing of top militant, widespread protests were being witnessed in different parts of the valley in reaction to the killing.

Zakir Musa, a close associate of Burhan Wani who was killed in 2017, was a militant of Hizbul Mujahideen who succeeded Burhan and later headed the Al Qaeda affiliate. He had taken to militancy in 2013.

Zakir Rashid Bhat, his real name, was an engineering student in Chandigarh who abandoned education and joined militancy.

He was born in Noorpora village of Tral area. His father, Abdul Rashid Bhat, is a senior engineer working for the Jammu and Kashmir government.

After Burhan Wani’s death, Zakir Musa threatened to behead Kashmiri separatist leaders of the Hurriyat Conference for calling Kashmir a political dispute instead of a religious struggle to establish an Islamic state.

Authorities have suspended mobile Internet services across Kashmir valley as a precautionary measure.

Authorities have ordered closure of all schools and colleges in the Kashmir Valley on Friday.

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Hope Modi thinks positive for Kashmir: Omar

Firdous Hassan

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Srinagar, May 23: National Conference vice-president Omar Abdullah Thursday congratulated Narendra Modi for being reelected as Prime Minister of the country and hoped that Modi will soften his stand on Kashmir and start dialogue with Pakistan.

Omar appealed Modi to change his style of work in the new government and take all the people of the country along.

“Country has reelected Narendra Modi again as Prime Minister despite opposition parties having tried hard during elections to defeat BJP and NDA. We also tried hard in Kashmir and won three seats. We would have won the Ladakh seat also but Congress conspired and helped BJP win the seat,” Omar said in a presser after NC’s grand show in Kashmir.

 

Omar said that Kashmiri people have suffered a lot during the five year rule of BJP, but hoped that Modi will soften his stand and start taking measures which will help give the people of Kashmir relief.

“Jammu and Kashmir people have hopes that Modi will think positive for Kashmir and start dialogue with Pakistan and take internal measures which will give relief to people here,” he said.

“Strict policy was used against Kashmiris in the last five years. We hope the new government will ease out the strict policy. We hope the border trade is resumed,” he said.

Omar blamed the Congress for hatching a conspiracy and fielding two candidates (one of them proxy) in the Ladakh constituency which led to the vote division.

 “Had Congress not conspired, the BJP would have lost Ladakh seat. Congress by fielding two candidates betrayed the people of Kargil. And people should seek answers from the party,” he said.

Claiming that nothing is going to change under BJP’s rule in next five years, Omar said the people of J&K want that the Centre should initiate a dialogue with Pakistan.

“We saw the beginning yesterday as foreign ministers of both the countries stood with each other and talked. If steps like resuming border trade are taken, people will have a sigh of relief. I appeal BJP to lessen the hardships of people of Kashmir in its their five year long tenure,” he said.

Dismayed by the performance of the opposition in the elections, Omar said questioning Balakot air strikes and the Congress’ “chowkhidar chor hi” slogan might have cost them the polls.

“Post-Balakot opposition lost most of its steam. There are many issues we can discuss on. Whether ‘Chowkidar chor hai’ was the right slogan, whether it was right to focus on Rafale. Whether or not we presented rural distress, unemployment, economic slowdown properly. Should we have questioned Pulwama instead of Balakot. They say ‘Once the horse has bolted what’s the point of closing the stable door?’ If the horse comes in hand after 5 years, fine, else it will go ahead,” he said.

When asked whether BJP’s stand on special status of J&K helped them to get majority, Omar said, “We saw that their statements on Article 370 equally helped them. This danger should not be taken easy by us and we will have to fight with our full power to save the state’s special status,” he said.  The NC vice president said the party chose its candidates who can speak over issues confronting Kashmiris. “Akbar sahab sometimes utters something wrong but he is known for strongly taking up the issues of the people. We need such people in parliament. Masoodi sahab also has a good knowledge of Law and the judgment he passed on Article 35-A and Article 370 is still being quoted by people,” he said

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Glee and glum surround pol parties in Srinagar

Firdous Hassan

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Srinagar, May 23: The cheers of‘Farooq sahib Zindabad, Nara-e-takbeer Allahu Akbar’ Thursday reverberated the National Conference’s party headquarters here as Farooq Abdullah made way into the office.

He was showered with candies as workers struggled to shake hands with him, all trying their best to congratulate the 83-year-old patron for winning the Srinagar Parliamentary Elections.

The festivity was expected as Farooq recorded his fourth win in the Lok Sabha elections in his 42-year-long political career that began in 1980.

 

Thursday’s was a massive win for Farooq, who defeated PDP’s Aga Syed Mohsin by a huge margin of almost 70,000 votes.

While the male workers encircled Farooq and other party-leaders accompanying him, the female began singing Kashmiri songs praising the leader and announcing his success.

Farooq was accompanied by party vice-president Omar Abdullah, and senior leaders including Ali Sagar, Nasir Aslam Wani and Abdul Rahim Rather as they all made their way to begin the press conference announcing their win and the way forward.

Seeing their party winning all the three Lok Sabha seats from Kashmir, the workers had decorated the office and the alley leading to it with garlands and buntings carrying the party symbol.

A similar scene was witnessed at the BJP office here, whose leaders and workers went a bit too far in celebrating the party’s success across India.

While BJP had not made any mark in the Lok Sabha seats in Kashmir, its workers were ecstatic outside the party office in Jawahar Nagar here, jumping in joy, burning firecrackers (which as a matter of fact are banned in Srinagar) and offering sweets to each other.

Their ruckus bothered the passersby, who were annoyed of them blocking the road.

At PDP’s office, on the other hand, gloom permeated the air.

A handful of workers surrounded PDP leaders Khurshid Alam, Noor Mohammad and Muntazir Mohuiddin as they all were glued to the television set seeing their party’s downfall.

“It is a done deal. Farooq has won it in Srinagar and Anantnag too is out of our hands now,” one of the workers was seen telling others.

As the clock ticked and the PDP losses, especially in the Anantnag parliamentary seat became clear, the workers stood up in silence and left the place one by one.

The J&K Congress had kept their office in Srinagar closed. Its president GA Mir, who was all confident of a win in Anantnag, lost to NC’s Hasnain Masoodi with a margin of around 9800 votes.

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