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Dredging was long stalled, authorities were working on excuses

Hirra Azmat

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Srinagar, Jun 30: The long pending dredging work on river Jhelum is stalled for the last several months even as Kashmir Saturday grappled with yet another flood-like situation.
In the aftermath of September 2014 floods, the dredging of Jhelum was to be carried in two phases to increase its carrying capacity for preventing Valley from floods. The Rs-280 crore project for phase I was subsequently awarded to Kolkata based company to clear the excessive siltation that had accumulated and drastically reduced the carrying-capacity of river Jhelum.
After missing several deadlines, the deadline for phase I was extended to March 31, 2018. However, the company failed to meet the final deadline as well.
Consequently, over a period of four months, the project work has seen no progress. To make the matters worse, the unprecedented rainfall in the last few days has exacerbated the situation.
Bashir Ahmad, a resident of Rajbagh lamented over the failure of government in completing the dredging work in the set time-frame.
“Whatever work has been done till now has proved futile. I believe the carrying capacity has not increased at all. This is pretty evident by the way water levels increase at slight rainfall,” Ahmad said.
An official from Irrigation and Flood Control Department said, “In phase I, we achieved a target of 6.68 lakh cubic meter against the target of 7 lakh cubic meter in Srinagar.”
Asked why dredging work progressed at a snail’s space, the official wishing anonymity said, “It was not easy to carry out such projects in a volatile place like Kashmir. Other than administrative hassles, we received less cooperation from locals too”.
SE Hydraulic Circle Srinagar I&FC Er B L Bharadwaj acknowledged the firm’s failure in completing the project in stipulated period of time.
“Yes, the firm has been unable to meet the last deadline and work remains completed suspended at present. The fresh tenders will be issued soon,” he said.
Asked if the same firm will be hired for phase II, he said that they have hired a new company.
“The period of tendering and agreement with the firm has expired on March 31. The phase II will be taken over by a Delhi- based firm who are yet to issue with new instructions,” he said.
Commenting on the submission of Detailed Project Report (DPR) for phase 2, he said that they are yet to frame the report.
The dredging of the river Jhelum was to be carried in two phases and phase-I of the project was initiated in north and central Kashmir. For Bell Mouth to Panjinara stretch in Srinagar, the deadline for completing the first phase of dredging was January 2017 but the government extended the deadline to December 2017 due to 2016 unrest. And for Sopore to Baramulla stretch, the deadline for completing the first phase of dredging was September 2017.


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Lead Stories

JK’s liability swells

Mudassir Kuloo

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Srinagar, Jan 17: Similar to previous years, Jammu and Kashmir has accrued a liability of over Rs 7,000 crore in the ongoing fiscal even as experts blame state’s political leadership for not finding a solution to the issue.

Official documents of the finance department reveal that the state is running a liability of Rs 7,531 crore so far this fiscal, a figure close to the annual build-up J&K witnesses every year.

The total liabilities for the state have now swelled up to over Rs 68,000 crore.“The three fiscal parameters–revenue deficit, fiscal deficit and outstanding liability–indicate the extent of overall fiscal balance in the finances of the state government during the specified period. The nature of deficit is an indicator of the prudence of budgetary policy of the state government. Another useful measure of the deficit-base in a state’s fiscal policy is the State’s Own Deficit (SOD),” the documents reveal.

 

Noted economist, Professor Nisar Ali said the state’s expenditure and revenue system has been “mismanaged”.“The power purchase has been an important factor for swelling liabilities. The GST has further increased the mismanagement between expenditure and tax revenue,” he said.

Prof Ali also blamed J&K’s political leadership for increasing liabilities.“The annual liabilities increase due to power purchases despite the state having huge hydro resources. The state’s leadership has failed to fight for the return of power projects.

“It also depends upon the government of India how it wants to find a solution to this problem,” he added.

Endorsing Prof Ali’s views, a senior official of the finance department said that little or no use of revenue generation avenues, increasing power purchases and bulging expenditure on salaries are the main contributors to the escalating liabilities of the state.“There is a steep rise in salary and pension bills, power deficit, rising interest liabilities, loan repayments, and deficit on account of non-tax revenue,” the official said.

 

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Conducive atmosphere inevitable for dialogue: Farooq

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Srinagar, Jan 17: Former Chief Minister and National Conference (NC) president, Dr Farooq Abdullah on Thursday said that the favourable atmosphere is inevitable for dialogue, which is the only way out to settle the issues.
Addressing party workers in Jammu, Dr Farooq said that the dialogue is the only way out to resolve the issues but there is a need of conducive atmosphere which is inevitable. He added that “under the shades of gun, no dialogue process is possible. We have to stop bullet culture for lasting peace in the region.”
“NC has also given priority to the people. When I became Chief Minister in 1996, I fought with many things as the school were shut, no bridge was there, no office was functioning as the people were frightened by the turmoil then, but I stood up to fight against the forces who were inimical to peace.”
About 35 percent reservation in other states, Dr Farooq said that the incumbent Chief Minister of Odissa, Naveen Patnayak has written to him, suggesting there should be reservation of 35 percentfor women in Jammu and Kashmir also. “We will implement the law, which will ensure 35 percent reservation to women in the State once getting into the power,” he said.
However, he said that it is not easy to take such decisions as when his government took a decision to make 50 percent reservation for girls in Medical College then some people knocked the door of Supreme Court to put halt over the decision.
Dr Farooq also appealed the party workers to work hard and ensure the win of NC leaders who will be contesting the elections.

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Abundant snowfall in January makes Gulmarg the perfect winter-destination for tourists

Bisma Bhat

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Srinagar, Jan 17: Unlike last January, the abundant snowfall so far this month has attracted a lot of tourists to Gulmarg as the destination is brimming with over 90 per cent occupancy these days.

The valley has received at least four moderate to heavy snowfalls this year with an even stronger wet spell predicted from January 19 to 23.
Tourists from across the world are cherishing this and making their way to Gulmarg, whose slopes offer a perfect destination for skiing.

Speaking to The Kashmir Monitor, CEO Gulmarg Development Authority, Syed Hanief Balkhi said that most of the hotels are fully occupied as people are heading to Gulmarg to enjoy the charismatic scenery offered by the snow-covered hills.“Gulmarg is under 4-5 feet snow and is looking like a playground these days. Tourists from India and abroad enjoy skiing, snow cycling, ice skating, snow-sculptor activity, sledge-racing and other games here,” he said.

 

Apart from the hoteliers, the rush of the tourists, Balkhi said, has provided good workdays for sledge keepers, skating guides, local cab drivers and many others associated with tourism.

In 2018, as per the official figures, Gulmarg received 5.76 lakh tourists as compared to 5.69 lakh in the preceding year.

The tourism players also expressed satisfaction over the rush of tourists heading to the valley.

President Hotel and Restaurant Owners Federation, Wahid Malik said that snowfalls have pushed up the number of tourists visiting the valley.
“Gulmarg saw lesser arrival when winters begun, however, now the snow has ensured all the hotels and resorts are booked,” he said adding that Gulmarg hotels are running on 90 per cent occupancy so far this season.

Gulmarg is declared the ‘heartland of winter sports in India’ by the Winter Games Federation. This year too, Gulmarg Tourism Authority is going to organise winter sports carnival starting from the first week of February.

Additional Director Tourism Department, Nasir Khan said that Gulmarg is “rocking these days as it has received 34,712 and 35,022 tourists in the month of November and December”.

“We are going to organize the winter carnival from the next month to make the place more attractive,” he said.

He added that night market and cultural shows will also be arranged by the department.

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