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Didn’t ask people to boycott civic polls: Omar

Mudassir Kuloo

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Srinagar, Sep 13: Senior National Conference leader, Omar Abdullah on Thursday said his party did not ask people to boycott the panchayat and municipal elections.

“National Conference (NC) has decided to boycott the polls, but we did not ask people not to participate in the elections. We did not launch any poll-boycott campaign neither are we on the same page with the separatists,”Omar told a press conference here.
He said if the government was thinking of conducting elections without the participation of two major parties, they can go ahead.
“The NC has footprints in all the regions of the state, and the PDP has its own importance. Yet, the people can participate in the elections,” he said.
Asked about the elections held in Kargil, he said, “Those polls were not connected to the Article 35A. It is the centre that opened the chapter and connected elections with this legislation.”
The political parties want deferment of the Article 35A hearing and removal of Additional Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta from the case till a new government gets elected in Jammu and Kashmir.
Omar said the NC President, Farooq Abdullah, had invited leaders of political parties for a meeting on Thursday morning to discuss the political and security situation of the state.
“It was unanimously agreed in the all-party meeting that hearing of Article 35A has to be deferred till elections are held and new government is in place in the state,”Omar said.
He said Jammu and Kashmir “is under the centre’s rule and New Delhi is yet to clear the stand over Article 35A”.
“The governor rule is directly under central government’s control. We don’t know the position of the centre government over Article 35A. There are apprehensions regarding defence of the case in Supreme Court. So, the case shall not proceed until J&K has an elected government,Omar, former chief minister of the state, said.
“We have also decided that we will write to government that we want elections to take place first so that there is elected government in the valley and then this case can be defended,” he said.
He said everybody was on the same page to defend the legislation.
“Even BJP MLAs have given statements in support of Article 35A,” he said.
The Supreme Court has deferred the hearing of the case till the second week of January in view of the civic polls in Jammu and Kashmir.
Kashmir, Ladakh and parts of Jammu had observed shutdown several times for the last two months against a possible tampering with the legislation.
The National Conference leader said that politicians who participated in the meeting have called for removal of Additional Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta from Article 35A case for “going beyond his brief”.
He said Mehta was sent to defend the state and the Article 35A case, as he was representing state government and not the central government.
“All the leaders in unison decided they don’t trust him. We all want that he should be taken off from the case when this comes up in January for hearing and previous advocate should be appointed to defend the state,” the National Conference leader said.
During the hearing of the case in the Supreme Court, Mehta had said that Article 35A and certain aspects needed to be debated upon and claimed, “It can’t be denied that there is an aspect of gender discrimination in it (Article 35A)”.
However, the PDP did not participate in the meeting. “We knew what the agenda of the meeting was, so we did not participate in it,” PDP Chief Spokesperson, Rafi Ahmad Mir, said.
The NC and PDP have announced that they will boycott the upcoming panchayat and municipal elections in the state.
Both the rival parties have made it clear that they will not contest the election unless the Centre clarifies its position on Article 35A of the Constitution, which is facing legal challenge in the Supreme Court.
Omar meets Guv
Omar Thursday met Governor Satya Pal Malik at the Raj Bhavan here on Thursday.
Omar apprised the Governor about his views regarding the prevailing law and order, education and development scenario in the State and about certain development issues relating to his Constituency.
He also apprised Governor about his Party’s views on the upcoming elections to Urban Local Bodies and Panchayats.
The duo discussed the importance of empowering people by strengthening local self-governing institutions at grass root level and measures required to be taken for the restoration of peace and normalcy and creating an environment suitable for the holistic development of the youth.


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At Live Wire: Lack of training, safety gear bringing more deaths to PDD employees

Bisma Bhat

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Srinagar, Sep 22: Lack of training and reluctance to use the safety gear is bringing more deaths to the Power Development Department (PDD employees by electrocution in Kashmir Valley.
Official reports reveal that since 2014, more than 70 PDD employees and contractual labourers died on-duty due to electric shocks.
More than 25 people have become disabled and while 30 others have sustained severe burn due to electric shocks in the same period.
In the last two weeks, two deaths have been reported in Anantnag district alone.
On September 2, two employees of PDD where repairing a snapped conductor in the morning when it came into contact with a live, overlying feeder due to which one person died on spot and other received burn injuries.
In yet another incident on September 14, a 29-year-old man in Anantnag district was installing an electric transformer when he got electrocuted, and the person assisting him received burns.
An official in the PDD, who wished to be anonymous, said the main reason of the accidents was the department’s recruitment policy.
“The department is hiring men on contract based for installing poles and LT (Low Tension) and HT (High Tension) lines. They do not have proper training of the field due to which the incidents occur,” he said.
Earlier, he said, the department used to give proper training to the men responsible for field work.
The other reason was the unavailability of safety tools for the men working on poles, he said.
The department provides compensation to the families of electrocuted and injured workers from the welfare fund but that is not enough for them, he said.
The workers who suffer serious injuries at work may be unable to bear the medical expenditure, even as many have become permanently disabled.
The president of the PDD employees association, Zahoor Ahmad, said, “A daily wager from Eidgah area lost both his arms due to electric shock. He has to live with a lifelong disability.”
“The LT poles that are installed by the department should have only LT network, but unfortunately one pole have two to three feeders installed that is life threatening.”
He also claimed that department does not provide sophisticated equipment to the workers.
“No worker will risk his life and go without wearing safety equipment, if is available,” he said.
Chief Engineer PDD, Qazi Hashmat, said, “Sub-divisions are well equipped with safety gear like helmets, gloves, and boots, but having them in our division is not enough. We have to build among our employees the culture of actually using them.”
“People get very casual and take chances, and the accidents happen.”
He said they have made people well aware of fatal deaths due to electric shocks. Moreover they have shown them how people die due to electrocution so that they would get to know about it.
“We are working very hard to bring the culture of wearing proper safety measures. We are also trying to train our employees.”

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JK MLAs are among most paid legislators in India

Firdous Hassan

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Srinagar, Sep 22: The average annual income of Members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs) in Jammu and Kashmir is nearly Rs 13 lakh, a study by National Election Watch (NEW) and Association of Democratic Reforms stated.
The sum is more than what the legislators in, at least, 11 other states get including New Delhi, where the annual income of an MLA is Rs 9.3 lakh.
As per the study, the data collecting NGOs have analysed the annual income of almost 57 MLAs in the state. The remaining 30 have not revealed their income.
The total annual income of the MLAs in Jammu and Kashmir adds up to Rs 7.25crore.
Karnataka, as per the study, has the richest MLAs in India, with its 203 MLAs having an annual income of Rs one crore each.
The average annual income of MLAs in India is Rs 24.59 lakh.
Sixty-three MLAs of the Chhattisgarh Assembly have the lowest annual income of about Rs 5 lakh.
The states where the MLAs have lower income compared to Jammu and Kashmir include Bihar, Jharkhand, Odhisa, Uttarakhand, Assam, Arunchal Pradesh, Tripura, and Pondicherry.
The study has also mentioned about the valley’s two MLAs including National Conference leader Nazir Ahamd Gurezi and Peoples Democratic Party’s Noor Muhammad Sheikh, who have an income of below Rs 60,000 per month.
Government recently in June doubled the salaries and allowances of legislators (both MLAs and MLCs) from Rs 80,000 per month to Rs 1.6 lakh per month.
It included a massive hike in the salaries of the Chief Minister, Ministers, and Ministers of State.
It also increased pension of former legislators from Rs 28,000 per month to Rs 50,000 per month, which too was close to the 100 per cent hike.
The erstwhile report of NEW in January this year mentioned that former Chief Ministers Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah owned property worth less than Rs 65 lakh.
While Mufti has declared her movable assets of worth Rs 10,96,854 and Rs 45,00,000 immovable assets, Omar assets include Omar assets include Rs 1.10 lakh in cash, bank balance and deposits worth Rs 46.59 lakh, gypsy and motorcycle valued Rs 3 lakh and jewellery worth Rs 15 lakh.

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Govt seals 170 illegal clinics across Kashmir

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Srinagar, Sep 22: On the directions of Divisional Commissioner Kashmir Baseer Ahmad Khan, Directorate of Health Services Kashmir (DHSK) has sealed 170 illegal and un-authorized clinics across the valley.
Consequent upon the daily reports received by the Divisional Commissioner office, regarding the operating of un-authorized clinical establishments in different areas across Kashmir Division, the Divisional Commissioner had already directed all Chief Medical Officers (CMOs) to constitute teams comprising of members from Health Services and Revenue department to conduct daily inspection of all clinical establishments and diagnostic labs across the valley including Leh and Kargil districts.
He had also directed them to take necessary action against such establishments which are operating in violation of rules, norms, laws and without licenses or run by incompetent persons in all districts.

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