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Communication blockade spurs demand for landlines in Kashmir

Hirra Azmat

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Srinagar: Outside a BSNL office, a queue of desperate subscribers is getting longer by the minute. People turn up in hordes to get either their land line numbers restored or a new connection issued.

For the last one month, Kashmir is witnessing a communication blackout after authorities’ suspended landline, mobile and internet services to avoid any backlash following the scrapping of Article 370.

Facing flak, the government restored landlines in parts of the valley spurring fresh demands for new connections. Huge rush of people could be seen at BSNL office with people waiting for hours to submit their application either for fresh connection or restoration of old numbers.

 

Completely unequipped to handle such maddening rush, the staff behind the counters face the wrath of the impatient public as they struggle to clear the mountain of applications from every place imaginable.

Bashir Ahmad, a retired government servant, has not being able to communicate with his daughter, who studies outside the valley, for the last one month. Waiting patiently in the queue, Ahmad has been coming to BSNL office repeatedly to get his land line number restored.

“Our exchange was restored recently. My hopes were raised but the outgoing facility is still out of bounds. This is my fourth time here and I am really desperate,” he said.

 “It’s my daughter’s first semester and she is yet to get familiar with the new place. I get apprehensions about her well-being every single minute but what to do. I am not able to reach out to her.”

The blockade has adversely affected the business community that relies heavily on the internet. Saqib, a 28-year-old entrepreneur, sits glumly outside the chamber of lease line section, hoping for some information and clarity on when internet will be restored.

“I never ran after the coveted government jobs and always thought of setting up something on my own.  After university, I started my own venture dealing with pharmaceutical goods. It was going well, and I had hired four people and rented an office too,” he lamented.

The blockade, however, came as a bolt from the blue. “Never in my wildest dream did I imagine such a hurdle. I can hardly sustain myself, so I had no option but to lay off the employees and vacate the office,” he said

Saqib fears that the companies, he was dealing with, might switch to distributors in Jammu. “I will have to start from the scratch again, and I don’t think I can again manage to go through the rigmarole again. I think I am done for,” he said.

Meanwhile, many of the Kashmiris studying and working outside have taken to electronic media including TV channels and radio stations to convey their message to the families.


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Post abrogation of Art 370: Multinationals, manufacturing giants make beeline to set up units in UT

J&K receives `Expression of Interest’ worth Rs 3000 Cr

Firdous Hassan

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Srinagar, Nov 20: Dalmia Bharat Group, Singapore Electric vehicles and Dubai-based Lulu Internationals are among over 40 companies, which have shown interest in investing in Jammu and Kashmir post abrogation of Article 370.  

Jammu and Kashmir, which was a no-go- zone for outside investors, has been opened for all national and international business players after the scrapping of special status on August 5.

A source told The Kashmir Monitor that more than 40 companies have submitted their ‘Expression of Interest’ to invest in 10 different sectors in Jammu and Kashmir.

 

Hospitality, Tourism, Education, Information Technology, Horticulture, Agriculture, Micro Small Medium Enterprises (MSME) and manufacturing are some of the sectors which companies have zeroed in on.

“Prominent among these companies include Escott Infrastructure, Dalmia Bharat Group, Shree Cements, Jackson Group, Indian School of Business, Singapore Electric Vehicles and Lulu Group. They have submitted the proposals for setting up their units in Jammu and Kashmir,” the source said.

With an annual turnover of Rs 70, 000 crore, Dalmia Bharat Group is a renowned business house in India, which deals with cement, sugar, thermal power and other businesses.

Similarly, Kolkata-based Shree Cement, which has annual turnover of Rs 58.50 billion, has shown interest in setting up its unit in Jammu and Kashmir.

Singapore based Singapore Electric Vehicles Pvt Ltd, a commercial electric fleet company, has desired to invest in the manufacturing sector.

Founded in 2001, Indian School of Business, a private business college, has expressed readiness to invest in the education sector by setting up its campuses in the union territory.

Helmet manufacturing giant ‘Steelbird’ has also offered to set up a plant in Jammu and Kashmir. Hospitality player ‘Lemon Tree’ has also proposed two new properties with 35-40 beds each in Gulmarg and Sonmarg areas.

An official privy to the development said government has received 60 ‘Expression of Interests’ so far, which is worth approximately Rs 3000 crore.

“Some companies have submitted their Expression of Interests twice. Some wants to build tourism infrastructure and others want to set up industries,” he said.

Managing Director SIDCO, Ravinder Kumar told The Kashmir Monitor that a committee has been constituted to review the ‘Expression of Interest’ by these companies. “We are going to review the Expression of Interests in 10 to 12 days,” he said.

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MLA hostel or ghost house, ask relatives of caged leaders

Mudassir Kuloo

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Srinagar, Nov 20:  Cries of ‘ghost house’ resonated as relatives met caged politicians at the new detention center of MLA hostel on Wednesday.

On Sunday at least 34 political prisoners were shifted from Centaur hotel to MLA hostel, which has been designated as sub-jail.

Government sources said the move was necessitated due to cold weather in Kashmir and an exorbitant bill of Rs 3 crore generated in three months for the detained leaders at the Centaur hotel.

 

Those shifted include Sajad Lone of People’s Conference, Ali Mohammad Sagar of National Conference, Naeem Akhtar of PDP and former IAS officer turned politician Shah Faesal.

“MLA hostel has been turned into ghost-house. There is complete darkness with no facilities,” said AaliyaBano, sister of Muzaffar Shah of Awami National Conference.

ShehriyarKhanum, daughter of former minister and PDP leader Naeem Akhtar, said this is a defunct building which lacks basic facilities. “There should be a hygienic place for these leaders. Toilets are in bad shape. There are no heating arrangements and no proper lighting system,” she said

Khanum accused female staff at MLA hostel of “humiliating” relatives of political prisoners in the name of frisking. “We don’t know what protocol they are following,” she said.

Tanveer Veeri, brother of NC leader and former MLC Bashir Veeri, said there are no proper heating or lighting arrangements at MLA hostel.

“There is neither heating blower nor gas heater available. It is better if they are shifted to MLA hostel, Jammu or Central jail,” he said.

Relatives also complained about unhealthy food being served to detainees.

“The food being served is not healthy. The rooms are not good. There is no proper matting,” said Sheikh Mushtaq Ahmad, father of detained Sheikh Imran, deputy Mayor of Srinagar Municipal Corporation.

Son of detained PDP leader Sartaj Madni said families of political leaders were being “unnecessarily harassed”. “Our vehicles are not being allowed to go inside. We are carrying certain items which these leaders need. How will we carry items like matting and heating appliances?” he asked. 

On last Thursday, former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti was shifted from Cheshma Shahi hut to a government facility on Maulana Azad Road. While Farooq Abdullah, who was slapped with Public Safety Act, has been detained at his home, his son Omar Abdullah is lodged at Hari Niwas Palace, which has been designated as sub jail.

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Militants still trying to interfere with normal life in Kashmir: DGP

Agencies

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Jammu and Kashmir Director General of Police (DGP) Dilbag Singh has said that despite much pressure from militant outfits.

He said the number of youths joining militant outfits is much lesser this year as compared to previous years. The DGP further said, militants were still trying to interfere with normal life in the Kashmir valley but asserted that police was making all efforts to thwart their attempts.  Dilbagh Singh was speaking during his visit to Kulgam district in South Kashmir yesterday. 

Dilbag Singh said police and security forces are working to give people a secure environment. He said the situation is much better now and normalcy fast returning in the Valley. 

 

He said that although graph of militant activities has come down in the recent past yet for providing peaceful environment to the people of J&K, there is still need to continue the fight against militancy with enhanced vigour to end it for all time to come in Jammu and Kashmir adding that final assault should be strategically planned and effective.

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