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Commuters livid with new diktat: Even ambulances, school buses halted for convoys

Hirra Azmat

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Srinagar, Mar 12: In the wake of the Pulwama attack last month, the government forces halt all civilian traffic movement, including ambulances and school buses, on the highway to let the convoys of armed forced pass unhindered.
The move is frustrating the daily commuters on the highway and other roads, who say, the forces stop every vehicle including school buses and ambulances without any concern for the patients’ lives or the young kids.
In the wake of February 14 attack on a CRPF convoy in Pulwama killing 49 personnel, the government of India decided to tweak the standard operating procedures (SOPs) framed to secure its convoys.
As per the new safeguards, the civil traffic is stopped for ‘short’ intervals during the movement of convoys. In addition to this, more barricading is done to ensure vehicles don’t get close to the convoys.
However, the curbs aimed to segregate the civil traffic and military movement is distressing thousands of commuters.
In the last few days, several videos showing government forces stopping civilian vehicles have surfaced on social media.
In one of the videos, a bunch of CRPF troopers and several government employees were seen engaged in a tussle after the former stopped them.
One CRPF man tried to snatch the phone of a man capturing the video while the other man pleaded him to let them go as they were already late to their workplaces.
Another female protester in video can be seen shouting: “Why should I back off? Why wouldn’t you let us go? There are patients in the ambulances and people waiting to report to their offices. This is not acceptable. Please let us go.”
Salim beigh, who studies in a different state, was returning home after six months. He had left airport around 9 in the morning and reached his home in Anantnag at half past 1 in the afternoon.
“My mother and sisters had been eagerly waiting for this day. But their excitement was marred by my late arrival. The inordinate delay was caused by the convoy movement,” he said.
“We were halted near Pampore for nearly three hours. Around 200-300 vehicles were stuck there and that too for a convoy comprising of just 5-6 security vehicles. Those who tried to intervene got abuses and rebuffs as a response from the forces.”
Umar, a resident of Pattan Baramulla complained that it took him two hours to reach home which normally would take just 35minutes.
“We had to make halt on highway twice as a convoy was passing through. One halt was at Narbal and then another one at Pattan. Both were for nearly 25 minutes each,” he said.
On Tuesday, Private Schools Association of Jammu and Kashmir too expressed its concern over halting of school buses during plying of convoys and said the practice has created a chaotic situation in educational institutes.
The Association, in a handout, said that the schools have been opened only for two days but the situation has become so chaotic that nobody is able to understand what to do.
“Our entire transport plan and plying of school buses has been disrupted. The schools particularly on National Highway and even those schools where buses have to simply cross a road have seen their time tables going down the drain,” said G N Var chairman of the amalgam.
“Our classes are starting late and sometimes even we do not know when will children or staff reach home,” he said.
The Association said that Kashmir already has limited working days and now the waste of time is compounding the problems.
“At times our buses have to wait for anywhere from half an hour to even more than one hour. Add to it the associated traffic jams and our buses arrive hours late after the prescribed school opening time,” said Var.
“Some of our buses have small children, who have to unnecessarily wait and suffer on roads. Our morning prayers, classes and examinations are being disrupted,” he added.
The Association said that government should exempt school buses and ambulances from the restrictive orders.
“World over there is a norm that school buses and ambulances are given preference over any other traffic. In western countries even Prime Minister and President of that nation makes way for school buses and ambulances,” said Var.
“School buses and ambulances should be exempted from such an order. There is no harm if these vehicles ply alongside the convoy,” he said.

“Since 90s we have seen almost every leader of government employees starting his career in the name of employee welfare, supporting peoples cause. As soon as they get an opportunity, they take no time in switching over their loyalty.”

 
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Not holding simultaneous elections will impact voter turnout in LS polls: Experts

Firdous Hassan

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Srinagar, Mar 19: Not holding Assembly and Parliamentary polls together is likely to impact the overall voter turnout in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections in the valley, claim valley based experts in politics.
This year many new parties have come to the fore and the Centre is likely to enhance its deployment of forces in Kashmir to ensure “violence free elections.”
However with spontaneous disturbance across the valley coupled with delaying of the Assembly elections by the Centre, the experts claim a major proportion of the people are likely to keep away from casting their votes.
“Parliamentary election in Kashmir usually invite low voter turnout. Had it been both Lok Sabha and General Assembly elections held together in the state the voter turnout could be expected higher. As of now, we don’t see chances of any major turn out in voting ahead especially in Kashmir,” said Prof Gul Muhammad Wani who teaches Political Science at Kashmir University.
Wani expressed doubt over the participation of newly formed parties in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.
“I am not sure if these smaller parties will field their candidates. Even if their leaders file nomination, people won’t vote for them in huge proportion compared to the two main political parties of Kashmir (NC and PDP),” Wani said.
“Many parties will use this election to mobilise people for the upcoming assembly elections,” he said.
In 2014 LS polls, 49.7 per cent voter turnout was recorded in Jammu and Kashmir. Barring Jammu, people mostly in Kashmir prefer to choose boycott over ballot as only 11.46% voter turnout was recorded in summer capital.
In 2017 by-polls, the turnout in Srinagar dipped further to only seven percent as violence and killing gripped the valley on poll day.
Prof Noor Ahmad Baba, another expert in politics, claims the parliamentary elections in Kashmir won’t be a “bigger affair” as he believes that there are less “reaction” votes from the valley.
“In other states people vote to express their dissent, which is not in case of Kashmir. Some people will vote here positively. The turnout is expected to be higher in Assembly polls ahead,” he said.
Prof Baba said the emergence of new parties too won’t woo many people to cast their vote for them.
“These new parties won’t have much impact immediately. Sajad Lone has no appeal outside Baramulla and Shah Faesal too can’t make a bigger difference. However, if NC and Congress form an alliance then some may come out to vote,” he said.

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Slow repair work halts cross-LoC trade in Uri

Traders fear losses in crores

Bisma Bhat

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Srinagar, Mar 19: The Cross-LoC trade in Uri has hugely suffered due to snail-paced repair work on the Kamaan Post Bridge, traders rued on Tuesday.
As per them, around 116 trucks are stuck at Uri road in north Kashmir while 24 others are stranded at Traders Federation Center Salamabad. The stranded trucks are carrying delicate items including fruits and vegetables which cannot be preserved for long course of time.
Aggrieved over the losses, the Cross-LoC Traders Association claimed that the delicate goods in stranded trucks have been damaged due to the delay.
Speaking to The Kashmir Monitor, Hilal Turki, chairman, Cross-LoC Traders’ Association, said the items in the trucks have almost “perished” as around two weeks have passed since the repairing work started.
“The losses might be in crores as there are 140 trucks stranded. We have written to the Director General of Police to seek the intervention for speedy repairing of the bridge,” he said.
In a letter to government authorities, the association stated: “Our traders mostly deal with fresh items and the value of those items is in millions of rupees, here we would like to bring in your kind notice that most of the products come from all over the country and as such our loaded fresh trucks remain in transit for a week or more due to this uncomfortable situation our traders are desperately waiting for speedy repairing of Kamaan Pull so that heavy losses can be saved.”
Earlier on March 9, police communicated to the concern authorities that due to the sustained use of Kaman Aman Setu for cross-LoC trade for a long period, the bridge has suffered some damages which requires immediate repair to prevent further deportation.
“Inspection of the bridge was carried out on March 8, 2019, which indicated that the bridge needs urgent repairs and maintenance to ensure its longevity. The repair would require minimum 10-15 days,” he said.
However, around two weeks after, the repair work is still on at a very slow pace.
Riyaz Malik, SDM, Uri told The Kashmir Monitor that the resurfacing work in Kamaan Post bridge is going on. “Trade is suspended since then as work is going on and it will take 10-15 more days to allow traffic on the bridge. We have advised the traders to get the items down some where in Srinagar,” Riyaz said.
Cross-LoC trade and the bus service between India and Pakistan were suspended last month too, in backdrop of the Pulwama suicide attack in which 49 CRPF personnel were killed.

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Centre misusing NIA to target Kashmiris: Soz

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Srinagar, Mar 19: Alleging that Narendra Modi-led government at the Centre was misusing National Investigation Agency (NIA) to target Kashmiris, senior Congress leader Prof Saifuddin Soz on Tuesday said this will be useless and counter-productive.
The former union minister supported chairman of Hurriyat (M) Mirwaiz Umar Farooq who has asked NIA to question him in Srinagar as he cannot travel Delhi for security reasons.
In a statement here this afternoon, Prof Soz said, “I give credence to Mirwaiz Umar Farooq’s stand that he should be questioned anywhere in Srinagar and not asked to travel to NIA headquarters in Delhi”.

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