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Crores swindled in rice distribution nexus; tainted, controversial company hired for 10 years

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Srinagar, Aug 27: For a decade, a tainted and controversial company has been the Department of Food, Civil Supplies & Consumer Affairs’ only choice for transporting rations to parts of state.


Since 2008, the company—M/S Ladakh Road Lines, which functions from its Parimpora head office and branch offices in Jammu and Leh—has been continuously working with the State Road Transport Corporation (SRTC) and Department of Food, Civil Supplies & Consumer Affairs (FCSCA).
The records, however, indicate that the company’s past is filled with controversies and possible scandals.

It is yet to clear its challans amounting to Rs 12 crore; for its dubious role, the company’s name surfaced in reports of Central Vigilance Committee and Crime Branch; and as per a complaint lodged in the High Court, the company, in connivance with the government officials concerned, has swindled crores of rupees.

 

Official documents and sources revealed to The Kashmir Monitor that “corruption, monopoly, and disregard to rules” has become a norm in SRTC and FCSCA.
The official process requires the FCSCA to use SRTC’s services for supplying rations.

The SRTC, given its dearth of vehicles, opens tenders to hire a private transporter to do the job, and gives the contract to one which promises to pay the highest commission to SRTC.

The hired transporter files the challans of the vehicles and trips it has made, which first go to the SRTC and eventually to FCSCA for release of payments.

A Crime Branch report reveals that Ladakh Road Lines (LRL) got the contract for a month in 2008, however the same was extended for the whole 2008-09 “without any tendering process and without fixing the commission of the SRTC”.

The SRTC, the report adds, again extended the contract to the company for 2009-10 “without issuing tenders” and LRL were paid “without executing any agreement”.

For the years 2010, 2011, and 2012, the company continued as a contractor while offering a commission of 11.5 per cent to the SRTC.
On February 24, 2012, SRTC invited tenders for 2012-14 duration, and LRL, as per official records, filed its tender at 37.10 per cent—300 percent more than what it paid to SRTC as commission in previous years.

It, as a result, easily grabbed the contract.
However, as per the Central Vigilance Committee (CVC) Report of December 2012, LRL withdrew its offer on 30.03.2012, for reasons “which were not quite apparent”. The company then, the report says, itself filed some writ petition in the High Court thereby enmeshing SRTC in litigations.
The SRTC cancelled the tender and forfeited the earnest money LRL had deposited.
It, however, allowed LRL to again bid and eventually get the contract 18.5% commission.
Since the court had ordered that the tendering may go on, but the final contract order may not be made, LRL continued to work on only 11.5 % commission.
At present LRL continues to be contractor for the JKSRTC and the FCSCA even though its last contract expired in 2016.
A top official at SRTC, wishing not to be named, told The Kashmir Monitor that there are, at least, 98 trips made by LRL, with the earliest of them in 2010, which have not be reconciled since there is a clash between the vehicle details furnished by FCSCA department and the actual vehicle numbers.
“It seems the rations meant to be distributed in those 98 trips have been siphoned off. If that is true, it is a huge scam worth at least Rs 40 crore. We have halted the payments until we get a clearer picture,” the official said.
The official added that LRL has created a monopoly since some of the top rung employees at SRTC and FCSCA were “on its payrolls” or “even silent partners” who ensure that if there is a tender out, it only and only goes to LRL.
The same point was made by the 2012 CVC report which stated that “whenever tender is invited, it would contain such terms and conditions which will keep out the other competitors”.
The Kashmir Monitor was also able to access the list of 98 missing vehicles compiled by SRTC’s Traffic Manager (Load) on August 08. The column header “actual vehicle number” was left blank.
The official added that “there was a lot of pressure” to release the payments and “to not fiddle with LRL”.
“I can tell you that except the CM’s office, I have received calls from everyone asking me why I was interfering in this matter,” the official said.
To enquire into the scam, the Vice-Chairman SRTC, last month, formed a 5-member committee to conduct an enquiry into the case of mismanagement in handling and transportation, and siphoning off food grains worth crores.
With Financial Advisor and Chief Accounts Officer (FA&CAO) SRTC as its Chairman, the team was supposed to submit its report within one week.
Haji Pervez, Vice-Chairman SRTC, told The Kashmir Monitor that the report had not been prepared yet.
“You know how things work in Kashmir. Since 2014, Ladakh Road Lines has halted our commission by not submitting the challans worth crores. When I took over in March, I sensed that there was something wrong and hence constituted the committee to inquire into it. I expect them to file the report soon. We have sent them a few reminders,” he said.
The FA&CAO SRTC, Pritam Singh, who headed the committee, told The Kashmir Monitor the team has “conducted a meeting into and will furnish the report soon”.
He, however, claimed that LRL had “not created any monopoly” and had received all the contracts only after offering the best rates.
Contrary to the VC, Pritam claimed that “no challans were pending from LRL”. When this reporter showed him a copy of one LRL letter dated October 2016 in which the company itself claims that challans amounting to Rs 12 crore were pending, the CAO said that since then, the new records show that “SRTC has received challans for Rs 6 crores”.
On the 98 trips, details of which are missing from the records, the CAO blamed the FCSCA department saying that they were responsible to “check the vehicles”.
“The Food Department asks for the list of the vehicles, they are the ones who load them and tell them where to supply the ration. They then pay us as per the vehicles they have used,” he said.
Apprised of the whole matter, Chowdhary Zulfikar Ali, Minister of FCSCA said that his department “had properly registered and checked all the vehicles used to ferry the ration.”
He added that the matter was actually nothing but “a tiff between the two companies who are competing for the tender”.
“We had received an audit objection of 1100 vehicles supplied by SRTC of which we did a detailed verification but nothing was established. As far as giving out tenders are concerned, it is the job of SRTC. We have nothing to do with it,” he said.
A petition was recently filed in the High Court by one Haji Goods Carrier against LRL, SRTC and the Food Department.
The court, on August 23, directed the authorities to look into the complaint “with zeal and zest”.
“It is also expected that the complaint of the petitioner shall be looked into and the enquiry shall be logically concluded,” court of Justice M K Hanjura directed.


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Muhammad- A Positive Genius

The Kashmir Monitor

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By Jinan Yusuf

The Prophet Muhammad was a positive genius- someone who sees that he has the ability to do something about the negative realities in the world, by the grace of God. In his book, Before Happiness*, Shawn Achor lists the five skills of a positive genius, and I could see each one in the Prophet (PBUH).
The first skill is choosing the most valuable reality. Our biggest mistake sometimes is believing that our negative perception is the only reality that exists. Now what was the Prophet’s reality? He was an orphan, no brothers or sisters, with a handful of believers who were harassed and abused by the wider society. When his uncle and wife passed away, there was literally nothing preventing Quraish from murdering him- and we know they tried. And this is reality, is it not? He could have focused on that. He could have been so consumed by that reality that he could not see anything else. But when his uncle passed away, he focused on Taif. When Taif fell apart, he knew he had the hajj (holy pilgrimage) season to look forward to because all the tribes would come to Makkah from all over Arabia. But things were not easy for the Prophet (PBUH) even after migrating to Madina. Actually, they were difficult. The companions became ill. They missed Makkah and recited poetry about it. So what did the Prophet do? He prayed to God to make Madina as beloved to them as Makkah. He knew that his du`a’ (supplications) could change reality. And it did- after the conquest of Makkah, the Prophet and many of the companions went back to Madina.
Secondly, the Prophet (PBUH) knew what was meaningful to him. Achor defines “meaning markers” as things in your life that matter to you, which you use to draw mental maps to success. Without meaning, we burn out. This can be applied to things like activism or our jobs to things like prayer. When we get tired of praying, it is because we have not connected to the meaning of prayer, or we forgot along the way. It becomes a chore. Similarly with activism, we burn out because we forget what gave it meaning to begin with. We get tired and then maybe leave it. When Aisha, radiAllahu ‘anha (May Allah be pleased with her), saw the Prophet (PBUH) praying for so long that his feet became swollen, she said to him:
“O Messenger of Allah, why do you undergo so much hardship despite the fact that Allah has pardoned for you your earlier and later sins?”
He responded: “Afalaakunaabdanshakura? – Should I not be a thankful servant?” (Bukhari)
This is why we are taught to attach a sincere intention to everything we do. This gives what we do meaning. You can give current things in your life meaning by attaching a sincere intention to them (for example, your halal income), but once you know what is truly meaningful to you, you can change your present situation to include those things (starting a hobby outside work for example). Moreover, it is about diversifying. If we only attach meaning to our jobs, and forget our family and friends, pretty soon we will find ourselves drained. The Prophet was balanced. He spent quality time with his family. Aisha said that the Prophet would joke with them, talk to them, and even race with Aisha. He spent quality time with the companions. Amr bin al-Aas said that the Prophet (PBUH) was so attentive to him he thought he was the best companion! He ensured his time with his Lord was about quality too, as we saw with the hadith (tradition of the Prophet) above.
Thirdly, he knew how to propel himself more quickly towards his goal. Achor explains that the closer we perceive ourselves to be to our goal, the faster we move towards it, like a runner finishing a race – he speeds up. Allah promises in the Qur’an that He will make after hardship ease. The conviction in that alone meant the Prophet (PBUH) knew that there would be something good coming. Moreover, the Prophet (PBUH) did not focus on the problems of the present, but saw each step (no matter how small) as him getting closer to his finish line. And that made what he went through worth it, and it gave him energy to continue. It is not about how far or near the goal actually is, but where we perceive it is. If you want to encourage people to donate money for a cause, what encourages people more is knowing that, for example, you have already raised 10%. If you tell people you need to raise $100,000 and you have already raised $10,000, it is easier to get people to donate than to tell them you need to raise $90,000 and you have nothing. At the end, the amount you have to raise is the same, but it is our perception that gives us the energy to move towards the goal.
So that is what our brain responds to. When the Prophet (PBUH) was migrating from Makkah to Madina under dangerous circumstances, he said to Suraqa bin Malik (who was initially trying to kill the Prophet!): “What about a day when you will be wearing the bracelets of Kisra.”” Suraqa was shocked. “Kisra?!” And the Prophet (PBUH) said “Yes, Kisra the son of Hermuz” (the leader of the powerful Persian empire). Simply by being en route to the safety of Madina, the Prophet (PBUH) saw his finish line as closer. And he was confident about reaching his target.
Fourthly, he cancelled out the noise, and focused on the signals. Achor says in the book that your brain can process only 40 bits of information per second despite the fact that you are inundated with 11 million pieces of information coming from all your nerve endings! Most of that is just noise, meaning information that distracts us from making positive change. What we choose to process then in turn reflects where we put our energy. So noise is information that is negative, false or simply unnecessary, whereas signals are pieces of information that are true and reliable and alert us to possibilities. The Prophet (PBUH) focused on signals, meaning things that he could actually use. For example, if he focused on all the noise that was telling him that everyone was out to get them, he would not have been able to utilize the opportunities when they came up. But when the Muslims migrated to Madina, the Prophet (PBUH) conducted a population census- he even created a signal, because that information would come in handy. He then set up a new market so the Muslims could begin to work and trade. What he could have done was worry about imminent attacks from the Mekkans. It’s not that there wasn’t that threat, but he gave them the attention that they needed, and not more. He could have focused his energy on arming the Muslims, but he dealt with that aspect by concluding treaties with the different communities in Madina for protection. He then worked on getting the companions settled.
An important aspect is he did not have the issue of internal noise. Sometimes we are our own worst enemy with the negative talk we subject ourselves to. But he had a strong relationship with Allah and thus he knew his worth to Allah.
The fifth skill? He transferred his positive reality to others. He taught people how to see the good. He taught us not to belittle any good deed, even a smile to someone. When Mu’adh bin Jabal was sent to Yemen, the Prophet (PBUH) told him:
“Make things easy and do not make things hard. Tell people of glad tidings, and do not push them away.” (Bukhari)
He reminded us always that the door to God is always open. When a man came to Prophet (PBUH) confessing that he had done impermissible things with a woman he was not married to, the Prophet (PBUH) recited the following verse to him:
“And establish prayer at the two ends of the day and at the approach of the night. Indeed, good deeds do away with misdeeds. That is a reminder for those who remember” (Qur’an, 11:114).
That is why the companions were the best of people. They internalized the positive genius of the Prophet (PBUH), and created their own positive realities.

 
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Kupwara incident: Nasrullah was examined by army doctor to see if he was ‘fit to be thrashed’

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A stained left eye, bruised limbs, and a mark caused around his neck by an attempted hanging quietly narrate the story of torture that 28-year-old Nasrullah Khan received from the army.
A resident of Kupwara’s Devar area, Nasrullah, along with his neighbour Manzoor Khan, was detained by the army on Thursday noon.
Nasrullah was let go half-dead at around 9 in the evening, while there is no clue yet about Manzoor.
Under treatment at Srinagar’s SMHS Hospital, no part of Nasrullah’s body is unhurt.
Dreadful memories of the incident make him wish for death and admit even what he isn’t actually guilty of.
He narrates that, at Thursday noon, he had to cross through the local 27 RR camp to reach Tremokh to tend to the livestock.
He, however, was not let to go after he marked his routine entry in the army ledger.
Nasrullah and Manzoor were told that the “Major” needed to speak with them.
“I was taken to a room. Suddenly a doctor came in. He checked me with a machine (a stethoscope) and told me that my heart was beating fast and whether I was afraid of something. I replied that I was okay,” he says, his lower body shivering with pain.
When the doctor vetted him as “fit for a thrashing”, the “Major”, as per Nasrullah, came in along with other personnel and accused him of sheltering militants.
“He told me that I had sheltered and provided food to the militants at my Dhoka (hut) on August 27. I replied that I was not even present. To it, he started beating me up with a cricket bat while others kicked and punched me at the same time,” he says adding that the army actually beat him as if they were hitting a cricket ball.
“They even thrust a wicket in my mouth and an iron rod in my bottom.”
After about 15 minutes of continuous thrashing, as per Nasrullah, the doctor again came in and started checking him with the stethoscope.
He, Nasrullah adds, then again nodded to the army personnel that he was okay to be thrashed again.
“I was praying that I become unconscious so that they would give me a few minutes of relief, but as soon as I used to pass out, they poured water on me and started thrashing me again,” he says.
To save his life, Nasrullah says, he finally accepted whatever army accused him of: that he had sheltered the militants.
“They asked me how much was I given. I said Rs 100. That infuriated the Major, who again thrashed me. I then said Rs 1000, then 10,000. But they kept on beating me.
“I asked them whatever they wanted me to say, I will say the same. One of the troopers said that I must have taken Rs 1 lakh. I agreed to it. They asked me where the money was. I was so beaten up that I told them it was in my pocket triggering another round of thrashing.”
Nasrullah faced this ordeal until 9 pm when he was finally removed to a nearby hospital and taken away by his family on a makeshift stretcher.
He was first taken to a nearby local health centre from where he was sent to the police hospital in Srinagar.
“There the doctor said that his situation was bad and asked them to shift him to the SMHS Hospital. We have done a few scans, hope his injuries are only external,” said Shiraz Ahmad, who was tending to Nasrullah at the hospital.

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