Jammu, Oct 22: A court in Jammu and Kashmir on Tuesday directed the police to register an FIR against six members of a Special Investigation Team (SIT) that probed the 2018 rape and murder of an eight-year-old nomadic girl in a Kathua village for allegedly torturing and coercing witnesses to give false statements.
Judicial Magistrate Prem Sagar gave the direction to senior superintendent of police (SSP) of Jammu on an application by Sachin Sharma, Neeraj Sharma and Sahil Sharma, who were witnesses in the case, saying cognizable offences are made out against the six.
The court directed registration of FIR against the then SSP R K Jalla (now retired), ASP Peerzada Naveed, Deputy Superintendents of Police Shetmbari Sharma and Nissar Hussain, Sub-Inspector Urfan Wani and Kewal Kishore of crime branch of police and asked the SSP Jammu to report compliance by next date of hearing on November 11.
“From the gist of the complaint cognizable offences are made out against the non-applicants herein. Therefore, application of the applicant under section 153 (3) CrPc is allowed with the direction to SSP Jammu to register FIR against the non-applicants under relevant provisions of law and report compliance by next date of hearing on November 11,” it said.
In June this year, District and Sessions Judge Tejwinder Singh sentenced to life imprisonment the three main accused, while awarding five years in jail to three others for destruction of evidence in the case that had sparked nationwide outrage.
The trial was shifted to Pathankot on orders of the Supreme Court after some cabinet ministers of the then PDP-BJP government in the state came out in open support of the accused while lawyers in Kathua attempted to prevent submission of the charge sheet in court.
Advocate Ankur Sharma pleaded the case for the applicants.
Zojila project: Design changes to dodge cost escalation
New Delhi, Feb 16: The strategic Zojila tunnel for all-year connectivity between Leh and Srinagar may undergo some design changes to prevent cost escalation as the government plans to complete the project at the earlier estimated cost of about Rs 6,800 crore, Union minister Nitin Gadkari said.
The tunnel project, stalled for about six years, holds strategic significance as Zojila Pass is situated at an altitude of 11,578 feet on the Srinagar-Kargil-Leh National highway and remains closed during winters due to heavy snowfall, cutting off Ladakh region from Kashmir.
“We are planning to make some design changes that may include doing away with escape tunnel and instead (have) alternative tunnels to cross from one side to the other as it will be my endeavour to prevent cost escalation and build it at the previous estimated cost of Rs 6,800 crore,” Road Transport and Highways Minister Gadkari told PTI.
Though the revised project cost estimate of a little over Rs 8,000 crore has been sent to the Cabinet, “we are deliberating on minor design changes to prevent cost escalation,” the minister said.
“Besides the escape tunnel, we can do away with vertical shafts not compromising with safety,” he said, adding that rebidding for the project was expected in a month or two.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had in May 2018 laid the foundation stone for the Rs 6,800 crore project, billed as the Asia’s longest bi-directional tunnel, in Jammu and Kashmir.
However, barely months after the foundation, the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd (NHIDCL) on January 15, 2019 terminated the contract awarded to troubled IL&FS group company IL&FS Transportation after it abandoned the project citing financial problems.
“The project which was earlier constructed on hybrid annuity mode will now be converted into EPC (engineering, procurement and construction) mode,” Gadkari said.
The cancellation of the award in January last year was the second time NHIDCL had scrapped the contract for the 14.15-km tunnel project which would cut down the 3.5-hour long drive through the mountainous Zojila Pass to just 15 minutes.
The corporation had earlier cancelled the bid of IRB Infrastructure. IL&FS Transportation in 2017 emerged as the lowest bidder in the rebidding process.
Unveiling a plaque for commencement of work for the tunnel, Modi had said, “Zojila tunnel is not a mere tunnel but a modern day marvel.”
The Cabinet on January 3, 2018 had approved the Zojila tunnel project with Parallel Escape (Egress) tunnel between Baltal and Minamarg on the Srinagar-Leh section of NH-1A at a total cost of Rs 6,800 crore.
The project was expected to be completed in seven years.
On March 1, 2016, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways had ordered “re-bidding” for the project, which had been awarded to IRB Infrastructure.
The decision was taken at a high-level meeting, chaired by Gadkari, after Congress leader Digvijay Singh had alleged that guidelines were violated while awarding the contract.
The original plans of the tunnel included fully transverse ventilation system, uninterrupted power supply (UPS), tunnel emergency lighting, CCTV monitoring, variable message signs (VMS), traffic logging equipment, overheight vehicle detection and tunnel radio system.
Besides, it included pedestrian cross passages at every 250 metres and motorable cross passages and lay-bys at every 750 metres, as well as emergency telephones and fire-fighting cabinets at every 125 metres.
Females continue to face harassment in public buses
Srinagar, Feb 16: Asra Shafi (name changed) was traveling in a bus to reach her college when she felt a strange touch on her back. She realized that a man of his father’s age seated next to her was touching her inappropriately.
“I was dumbstruck and not able to understand how to react in front of many passengers. I asked him to move aside and placed my bag in between until I reached college,” Asra said.
It did not stop there. Next day the man was waiting for her at the same bus stand. “I got into a bus but he followed me. I tried to call up my friend. He seemed hardly bothered and repeated what he had done a day before,” she said.
For next one week, Asra had to endure the torture until her friend asked her to call up an NGO. “My friend advised me to teach him a lesson. I called up an NGO and the next day he was caught and put behind bars,” she said.
Another teenage girl from Srinagar faced similar kind of harassment while traveling in a local bus. “I was standing inside a jam-packed bus when a male passenger, who was in his 50’s and standing behind me, tried to rub his hands on my shoulders. I tried to move aside but couldn’t help as the bus was overloaded,” she said.
This is just a tip of the iceberg of the sexual harassment of girls on the public transport. Hundreds of girls are enduring torture every day on the public transport across the valley.
“There is no data available on the harassment of women on public transport because most of the cases go unreported,” said Safeena Nabi, a Kashmir-based women’s activist.
Moreover, she said, there is no proper mechanism in place to encourage women to report their problems. “There was a woman commission where crimes against women were reported. After Article 370 abrogation, it was disbanded,” she said.
District Commissioner, Srinagar, Shahid Iqbal Choudhary said they have set up One Stop Center for women in the city. “Any woman facing any kind of harassment can call on 181 for immediate help. It is a center established by the Ministry of Women and Child Development. Women in distress can register the complaints about harassment at public places with this center”, he said.
Transfer policy flouted in education department
Srinagar, Feb 16: In clear violation of the government’s transfer policy, many teachers and employees of the education department have not been transferred for the last 10 to 20 years.
Under the 2010 government transfer policy, the minimum tenure of a government employee on a particular post should be two years which can be extended to a maximum of three years. However, some officials and teachers have not been transferred for 20 years.
“In 2019, Zonal Education Officer, Gulab Bagh, transferred many teachers who had overstayed in a particular school. But due to the political approach, their transfer orders were revoked. They still continue to enjoy their posts,” said an official of Education Department.
Another official said a female teacher posted in one of the Boys Higher Secondary Schools has not been shifted for more than 20 years. “Due to her political background and bureaucratic approach, no one dares to transfer her,” he said.
Likewise, there are number of teaching and non-teaching staff across Srinagar who enjoy their posts for the last many years.
Lieutenant Governor G C Murmu has directed all the government departments to rotate staff from sensitive to non-sensitive positions and strictly follow the important provisions of transfer policy 2010.
Director and Secretary Education, Dr. Younis Malik, and Secretary Hirdesh Kumar did not answer after repeated calls made by The Kashmir Monitor.