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CIVIC POLLS: Phase III too ends on single digits

Mudassir Kuloo





Srinagar, Oct 13: Following the trend seen in the first two phases, boycott again overpowered ballot in Kashmir Valley on Saturday in the third phase of the ongoing municipal polls.
Frontier town of Uri alone, in north Kashmir’s Baramulla district, managed a two-digit figure of turnout.
Polling for phase III began at 6 am, with 365 candidates in fray from across Jammu and Kashmir for 96 wards.
In Kashmir division, the voter turnout in phase III has been 3.5 per cent as against 8.3 and 3.4 per cent in phases I and II, respectively.
The overall poll percentage of first three phases of the ongoing four phase municipal elections has been 6.7 percent in the valley.
Jammu, however, recorded a turnout of 81.4 per cent in the third round, while the overall percentage has been 68.4.
Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) J&K, Shaleen Kabra, said overall 16.4% polling was witnessed in phase-III across J&K.
In Srinagar district, people stayed away from ballot, which recorded just 1.8 per cent voting. Out of 1,53,091 voters, only 2,740 cast their vote.
Twenty of the total wards were in old Srinagar, where the turnout was low. These included Khanqah-e-Mualla, Rathpora, Eidgah, Palpora, Tarabal, Maharajgunj, Jamia Masjid, Makhdoom Sahib, Khwaja Bazaar, Aqilmir Khanyar, Rozabal, Daulatabad, Islamyarbal, Nawab Bazaar, Nawa Kadal, and Safa Kadal.
At most polling booths in these wards, not even the polling agents were present; till afternoon, the candidates themselves hadn’t turned up to vote.
“There is no polling agent of any candidate here. Even no candidate came here to cast the vote,” a polling official at Noorbagh, Eidgah, said.
Similar scenes were witnessed at several polling booths of Gassi Mohalla, Noorbagh, where no polling agent of any candidate was “We don’t know who is contesting elections from here. Nobody will vote here,” an elderly man standing outside the local school-turned-booth said.
The polling staff were gossiping while security forces kept guard outside the booths.
“We are sitting idle here,” a polling staff member said.
“Not a single voter has turned up since morning. I think no one will turn up to cast the vote,” the official told this reporter. “We hope that day passes off peacefully. We are waiting for 4-pm, the concluding time for the polls.”
At the polling booth at Dubji in uptown Maisuma, no polling agent was available neither any candidate had come to cast the vote, an official told this reporter at around 1 pm.
Mohammad Ashraf, a local at Maisuma, said they don’t know who was contesting from their area.
“There was no campaigning neither did we vote,” Ashraf said.
At a polling booth near Khanyar police station, a polling agent said he hailed from Baramulla.
“I am polling agent to an independent candidate. I have nothing to do with poll boycott. I am being paid to be here for the day,” the youth, in his late 20s said. He did not name his payer.
In uptown areas such as Natipora and Mehjoor Nagar, the average turnout was better.
“A neighbour told us to vote for an independent candidate,” a resident of Mehnoor Nagar said, while discussing with other voters how to remove the ink-marked voting sign on his finger.
A few hundred metres away from Syed Ali Geelani’s Hyderpora residence, the security forces were guarding a deserted polling booth.
“Only a few people came to cast their vote,” a security personal said.
In south Kashmir, 3.2 per cent voters cast their vote.
However, in Baramulla the polling percentage went up to 75.3 due to brisk polling in Uri, where the poll percentage recorded the highest in Kashmir—75.3.
Large queues were observed at the polling booths since the state of the polling in the morning.
In Jammu, 81.4% polling was witnessed in 4 ULBs of district Samba. The highest polling percentage of 85.73% was recorded in Bari Brahamana ULB. Chief Electoral Officer said that cumulative poll percentage in all the three phases is 41.9% with 68.4% voting recorded in Jammu division and 6.7% in Kashmir division.
The final phase of the municipal polls is scheduled to be held on 16 October 2018.
The CEO said that due to non-replacement of EVM in time, repoll shall be held at polling station No: 9 Bachidarwaza of Makhdoom Sahab (Ward No: 41) on October 16, 2018.
At the same time, Tral, Awantipora, Sopore, Hajin, and a few other wards where there were single candidates and won unopposed.


Lead Stories

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




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




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



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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