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Centre sets ball rolling for private investment in new UT

PMO, J&K officials to discuss modalities today

Mudassir Kuloo

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SRINAGAR:  Centre has formally kicked off the process to persuade top corporates and industrialists to invest in the new union territory of Jammu and Kashmir. 

Sources said officials of PMO and Jammu and Kashmir government are scheduled to hold a meeting on Friday to discuss the possibilities of private investment in the new union territory. 

The meeting will be chaired by Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister. Sources said Chief Secretary, authorities of Finance Department, Planning and Development Department, Revenue, and several other departments will be representing Jammu and Kashmir. The officials may participate in the meeting through video conference. 

 

“The agenda of the meeting is to explore possibilities of private investment, details about tax collection, upcoming budget preparations, and developmental works in Jammu and Kashmir,” a top source said.   

This is for the first time since Centre abrogated of Article 370 that the representatives of the Centre would hold a meeting with top officials of Jammu and Kashmir.

“The J&K government has invited private investors to invest in health sector, education, medical education, tourism, medicines, and production houses. The government will seek details from heads of departments about the potential in these sectors,” the source said.

In order to create an investor friendly climate, the government has decided to fast-track project clearance through a web-based single window system. This will allow the investors to avail the necessary approvals to establish and start their business operations through a single platform without any physical touch point with the approving and licensing authorities. 

J&K government has already invited private investors to buy land in the new UT to set up twin Medi-cities. The Revenue Department has also been directed to identify and transfer land for the purpose.

Similarly, the meeting is expected to review the budget preparations and tax collection in Jammu and Kashmir.“There will be minor procedural changes like state code amendments, nature of tax after October 31. Issues like how much tax could be collected from investors will also be discussed. Besides, there are other issues that will be discussed to implement the GST smoothly in the two UTs,” the source said.

Sources said the government wants a people-friendly budget since it will be the first finance bill post abrogation of Article 370, 35 A and bifurcation of the state into two union territories.


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FOGGED

Kashmir engulfed; all flights cancelled for second straight day; Visibility to improve slightly today: MeT

Mubashir Bukhari

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Srinagar, Dec 8: Kashmir was engulfed in a dense layer of fog throughout Sunday as visibility dropped considerably forcing cancellation of all flights for the second consecutive day.

The valley is going through a period of dry and cold weather even as Meteorological (MeT) department has predicted isolated rains and snow beginning 11th of this month.

Director MeT, Sonam Lotus said there will be a slight improvement in the foggy conditions on Monday.

 

“Significant improvement (in visibility) is expected from Tuesday onwards,” he told The Kashmir Monitor.

The valley, he said, will witness light rains on December 11.

“Moderate to heavy snowfall is predicted between the intervening night of 12 and 13 December,” said Lotus.

“Below freezing temperature, calm winds (1 to 2 km per hour), more than 75% humidity, and suspended dust particles in the atmosphere are the reasons for such dense fog,” he added.

Lotus said that similar foggy conditions occurred back in November months of 2015 and 2016.

The thick layer of fog suspended all flight operations as Srinagar airport for the second consecutive day. 

“All flights at Srinagar airport were cancelled on Sunday and no flight operations took place,” an Airport Authority of India (AAI) official said.

The official said 28 flights, including those for the armed forces, were scheduled at the airport for Sunday.

“The airlines took the decision to cancel all flights because of very poor visibility caused by heavy fog in the valley,” the official said.

Flight operations have been severely affected at the airport for the past three days.

On Friday, several flights were cancelled, while no flight operations took place on Saturday.

A thick layer of fog engulfed most parts of the valley on Sunday affecting visibility and causing problems to people especially to motorists.

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BJP denied freedom to 75 lakh Kashmiris: Chidambaram

Press Trust of India

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New Delhi, Dec 8: Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram on Saturday hit out at the Centre over the Kashmir issue and spiraling onion prices and accused the BJP of targeting political rivals and said he will neither buckle or fall under pressure nor join the ruling BJP.

He said: “As we speak now, freedom is denied to 75 lakh people in the Kashmir valley,” adding, if freedom of one person was denied, it meant denying it for all the people.

“Freedom cannot be separated, yours is mine and mine is yours and if I do not protect your freedom, you cannot protect mine,” he said on his arrival here from Delhi.

 

After being in Tihar jail and in the custody of CBI and the Enforcement Directorate for 106 days, he was released on December 4 following grant of bail by the Supreme Court in a money laundering case filed by the ED.

After he was given a rousing welcome by Congress workers, Chidambaram told reporters: “In this country, a right wing, retrograde (government) is moving towards a fascist type of government that usurped freedom…we have to be very vigilant.” The country will become truly independent only when the people in the rest of the nation showed south India’s vigil and in particular Tamil Nadu’s caution in opposing the BJP, he claimed.

On his case, he said he will not talk about it, adding, “Why I was imprisoned? They (the Centre) thought of wrecking my mental strength and it will not happen any day. If anybody had thought that I will fall, I will never fall as the Congress party and the Indian people’s thirst for freedom are behind me…it is going to be a fight continuously,” he said.

Chidambaram also accused the government of trying to wreck his physical health, adding they succeeded for about 10 days.

After the court’s intervention and examination by doctors, “today (my) health has more or less improved fully,” he said.

Asked about Union Minister Prakash Javadekar’s charge that he has violated his bail conditions, he said: “Prakash Javadekar does not know about the (Supreme Court) court’s verdict and he also does not about what I had spoken.” Later, addressing a public meeting at the Congress party’s State headquarters here he said: “This morning, the price of onion in Delhi was Rs 200 a kilo, while a farmer in Maharashtra producing it gets Rs seven a kg for it. We should talk only about that.” He alleged that BJP’s objective was to “strangulate the voice of freedom” and the ruling party had been working towards it by targeting rivals by filing cases against them.

“Newspapers should not write, television channels should not debate,” he said adding the ruling party’s goal was also to not allow “political leaders” (rivals) to criticise it.

To ensure implementation of its agenda, the ruling party at the Centre was bent on “strangulating” their voices, he alleged.

Citing the recent income tax raids against former Karnataka deputy chief minister G Parameshwara and another leader, he said Congress MP K C Ramamurthy subsequently joined the BJP.

Similarly, TDP’s C M Ramesh and Y S Chowdary, who were the “left and right hands” of party chief Chandrababu Naidu had earlier this year joined the saffron party.

“Both of them have cases against them and both are today in the BJP,” he said.

Sarcastically, Chidambaram likened the BJP to river Ganga, a dip in which is believed to cleanse devotees of their sins.

“The BJP is River Ganga and all sins will vanish after taking a bath in it. I will never take a bath in that Ganga (the BJP).

I will bow before justice and judge, I will never bend before injustice,” he said, apparently indicating that he will not buckle under pressure and join the BJP.

Making light of his incarceration, he said “spending 106 days in jail” was nothing big when compared to the incarceration of leaders of the freedom movement, including Jawaharlal Nehru. “I happily accept my imprisonment,” he said.

Quoting a popular verse of nationalist poet Subramania Bharathi, he said the bard may have sung it “bearing Modi in mind.” The part of the verse, which Chidambaram emphasised can roughly be translated as, “I will not go down (fall) like some amusing people…”, which is seen as directed at Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his party.

“Till such time you (people) are there, the Congress party, which won us freedom, is there. Till the memory of freedom fighters like Gandhiji, Nehru, Tilak, Sardar Patel, Kamaraj, V O Chidambaram Pillai lingers…you thought that I will fall? No, never,” he said.

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Resolution in US Cong seeks end to Kashmir communication curbs

Press Trust of India

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Washington, Dec 8: Indian-American Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal has introduced a Congressional resolution urging India to end the restrictions on communications in Jammu and Kashmir as swiftly as possible and preserve religious freedom for all residents.

The resolution, introduced in the House of Representatives after several weeks of efforts by Jayapal on Friday, has only one co-sponsor – Republican Congressman Steve Watkins from Kansas. It’s a simple resolution, which cannot be voted in the other chamber, Senate, and does not have the force of law.

Ahead of the introduction of the resolution, Indian-Americans from across the US urged her in various settings against it. Her office is believed to have received more than 25,000 emails from Indian-Americans in addition to in-person meetings by several representations of Indian-Americans.

 

Indian-Americans held peaceful demonstrations outside her office against her move to table the resolution on Kashmir.

The resolution urges India to lift the remaining restrictions on communication and to restore internet access across all of Jammu and Kashmir as swiftly as possible.

India has defended imposition of restrictions in the Kashmir Valley on the grounds that they were put to prevent Pakistan from creating more mischief through proxies and terrorists following the abrogation of Article 370 on August 5.

While the resolution recognises the dire security challenges faced by India in Jammu and Kashmir and the continuing threat of state-supported cross-border terrorism, the resolution urges India to refrain from the use of threats and excessive force against detained people and peaceful protesters.

It requests India to “swiftly release arbitrarily detained people” and “refrain from conditioning” the release of detained people on their willingness to sign bonds prohibiting any political activities and speeches.

The resolution claims that there is photographic evidence indicating that detained people have been required to sign surety bonds forbidding them from making statements or participating in political activities as a condition of their release.

India has denied these allegations. India maintains that the revocation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status was its sovereign decision and it cannot accept any interference in its internal affairs.

The Indian government has said that the abrogation of Article 370 was in the interests of the residents of Jammu and Kashmir. It maintains the move will help them get rights that have been denied to them for many decades.

Among other things, the resolution urges India to allow international human rights observers and journalists to access Jammu and Kashmir and operate freely throughout India, without threats.

Noting that India’s Constitution mandates a secular state that upholds the rights of all citizens to the freedoms of religion, expression, and speech and to equal treatment before the law, the resolution also condemns all religiously motivated violence, including against religious minorities.

The resolution introduced by Jayapal, the first-ever Indian-American woman to be elected to the House of Representatives, is the second such resolution in the US Congress on Kashmir.

The first one introduced by Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib on November 21 failed to get even a single co-sponsor. Her resolution was announced on Twitter by a Pakistani American and a senior official of Council on American Islamic Relations, a Muslim civil rights, and advocacy group.

Congressional observers point that Tlaib, Jayapal along with Ilhan Omar, are the three lawmakers to be taking the lead on anti-India stand inside the House of Representatives.

Despite intense efforts post-August 5, this group has managed to get just three lawmakers, including one outside their circle, for two resolutions on Kashmir, is reflective that their stand on Kashmir has gained little traction inside the Congress.

Ravi Batra, an eminent Indian American attorney from New York, on Saturday accused Jayapal of being unprincipled, anti-Hindu, pro-terror and shamelessly pandering for political advantage.

“I reject with extreme prejudice – unprincipled self-promoting liberal lunatics who have never governed – folks like Pramila Jayapal and Ilhan Omar, who merely pander for political advantage shamelessly,” Batra said in a statement.

Batra had testified before House Foreign Affairs Sub-Committee on Asia, the Pacific and Non-Proliferation on October 22, which essentially ended up being in an anti-India tirade by a small group of lawmakers.

Testifying before the Congressional sub-committee at the invitation of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman, Eliott Engel, Batra had said terror needs to be eradicated to protect human rights.

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