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Expect high security bandobast for Srinagar LS polls

Press Trust of India

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Srinagar, Apr 14: Two years after Srinagar Lok Sabha bypolls made news for the wrong reasons, the security arrangements will be put to test in this constituency with over 12 lakh voters on April 18.
The Srinagar Lok Sabha bypoll, necessitated after PDP leader Tariq Hamid Karra resigned from the lower house of Parliament, was marred by violence and saw the lowest ever voter turnout of 7.2 per cent.
Nine persons were killed in security forces’ action against protestors in different parts of the constituency and an Army officer used a shawl weaver as a human shield on polling day.
This year, stringent security measures have been put in place to prevent any untoward incidents. Additional security personnel have been deployed in the three districts — Srinagar, Ganderbal and Budgam — that make up the Srinagar Lok Sabha seat.
The fate of 10 candidates would be decided by 12,90,318 voters.
Prominent among these candidates is National Conference (NC) president and former chief minister Farooq Abdullah, who is in the running to enter the Lok Sabha for the fourth time.
Farooq faces a challenge from Aga Syed Mohsin of the Peoples Democratic Conference (PDP), who had contested as an independent in the 2014 parliamentary elections.
Political observers feel that by fielding a “weak” candidate in Mohsin, the PDP might have conceded the Srinagar Lok Sabha seat to Farooq.
However, PDP spokesperson Harbaksh Singh said it would be wrong to write off Mohsin just yet.
“He (Mohsin) had contested 2014 Lok Sabha polls and won a significant number of votes. He is a prominent Shia leader and scholar. Moreover, he has the backing of the biggest political party of the state,” Singh said.
Sajad Gani Lone-led Peoples Conference has emerged as an alternative to the NC and the PDP in regional politics.
The party, which moved out of the separatist camp in 2009 to return to electoral politics, won the mayoral elections to Srinagar Municipal Corporation.
The Peoples Conference has fielded businessman Irfan Ansari, a greenhorn, against Farooq.
Ansari, however, has his elder brother Imran Ansari, a prominent Shia leader and former minister, to guide him.
The 41-year-old businessman is confident that he will be able to connect with the youth.
“I represent the younger generation and I believe I am more in touch with the problems and realities faced by today’s generation and would be able take on the challenges confronting the generation of today,” Ansari said.
“I will not only be able to understand them well but also try and find a way to resolve those problems,” he added.
The BJP too has fielded a debutant, party spokesperson Khalid Jehangir, from the seat.
Jehangir was vice chairman of Jammu and Kashmir Project Construction Corporation, a state PSU, during the PDP-BJP coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir.
The Congress, an ally of the NC, has decided not to field any candidate against Farooq. It had not fielded any candidate opposite the NC patron even in 2017.
Farooq (83) has lost an election only once in his 42-year-long political career.
He was first elected to the Lok Sabha in 1980. However, he returned to state politics due to the failing health of NC founder and his father Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah in 1981.
Farooq first became the chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir in September 1982, following his father’s death.
He remained part of state politics till 2002, when he passed on the torch to his son Omar Abdullah
However, Omar’s loss in the 2002 Assembly election put paid to his hopes and the NC, despite emerging as the single largest party, decided to sit in the opposition.
Farooq stayed away from active politics for several years but made a comeback after first winning Rajya Sabha elections in early 2009. He entered the Lok Sabha for the second time in May 2009.
As many as 1,716 polling stations have been set up in Srinagar.
For migrant voters of the constituency, 26 polling stations have been set up including 21 in Jammu, one in Udhampur and four in New Delhi.


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Will electric buses mark a turnaround in SRTC?

Mudassir Kuloo

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Srinagar, Jul 21:  Newly inducted Electric Buses have rekindled a fresh hope for turnaround in the otherwise loss making State Road Transport Corporation (SRTC).

A source in the SRTC said the PSU has suffered a loss of more than Rs 160 crore in the last 10 years. Official figures reveal that against the expenditure of Rs 120 crore, SRTC has earned Rs 95.55 crore in 2018-2019.

Struggling to pay salaries, the government has sold SRTC’s land at several places to run day to day affairs of the PSU.

 

Manzoor Ahmad, President, SRTC Drivers Association, said they are without salaries for the last two months. “Our salaries are often delayed,” he said.

Ahmad however hoped that newly launched electric buses would give a new lease of life to the loss making PSU.

“We have been imparted training about how to ply electric buses. We hope these buses will enable the Corporation to earn revenue,” he said. 

Around 20 electric buses were flagged off by Governor Satya Pal Malik on Friday. Malik said electric bus service is a step towards providing eco-friendly public transportation with modern facilities to the commuters. He also emphasized on using e-buses to abate pollution levels.

Established in 1948 with a fleet of 50 buses, the SRTC was converted into PSU in 1976. The Corporation had 1603 vehicles in 1989, including 978 buses and 625 trucks.  However, their numbers have reduced to 847 which included 528 buses and 319 trucks.   Among these, 397 are overage vehicles.

Similarly, the number of employees has decreased from 6650 to 2147 since 1989.

Principal Secretary Transport Department Dr Asgar Hassan Samoon however said government was making efforts for revival of SRTC. “We have also procured 40 electric buses. Besides overage vehicles are also being replaced,” Samoon added.

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Centre approves 381 Cr for new CUK campus

Bisma Bhat

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Srinagar, Jul 21: The government of India has approved financial assistance of Rs 381.68 crore to complete pending construction projects of the Central University of Kashmir.

As per the figures provided by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), the Centre has approved financial assistance of Rs 381.68 crore through Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA) to construct the campus in Ganderbal district.

“The university has to approach HEFA board to get the funds released,” reads an official document.

 

Earlier in 2018, the University had to forfeit Rs 800 crores after it could not utilize the funds because the land earmarked for the campus was not found suitable for construction in the Ganderbal district. The funds were later diverted to other universities.

For the last 10 years, the varsity has been operating from rented accommodation at different places in Srinagar.

However, after facing pressure from the higher authorities, the university shifted most of its department to the Ganderbal district.

“Two campuses of CUK are functioning from two separate locations in Behama. In Nunar area, the old DIET building is being used as an administrative block for the University,” an official of the CUK said.

Officials said the varsity had invited a team from outside the state for soil testing. “We are going for G+1 cluster type of constructions which stands approved by the competent body,” the official said.

Speaking to The Kashmir Monitor, Registrar CUK, Professor Fayaz Ahmad Nika, said: “We have to recast the master plan and frame architectural design. There were certain difficulties with the land. Once it is resolved, we will then approach the HEFA.”

“We don’t have any deadline. Developing Campus is not a short term activity. We are focusing on constructing and developing the campus at Tulmulla in Ganderbal.  The construction work is going on at Tulmulla,” said Nika.

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To ‘curb militancy’; VDCs to be revamped in Kishtwar

Press Trust of India

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Jammu, Jul 21: Nearly 500 elderly Village Defence Committee (VDC) members and Special Police Officers (SPO) in Kishtwar district of J&K will be replaced soon, a senior police officer said on Sunday.

The step is part of a strategy to counter militancy activities in the hilly district which was rattled by the killing of BJP state secretary Anil Parihar and his brother Ajeet Parihar on November 1 last year, followed by the assassination of senior RSS leader Chanderkant Sharma and his security guard inside a health centre on April 9.

The decision was taken despite reservations expressed by former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti over arming of civilians in Chenab valley.

 

“Keeping in view the present security scenario in Kishtwar town and the overstaying of SPOs in the district (Kishtwar), an overhauling is being done. A process to replace 352 VDC members and 117 VDC SPOs who are above the age of 60 years has been set into motion,” the officer said.

The SPOs, who have overstayed at a particular place, have also been replaced. Besides this, 9 VDC SPOs have been disengaged from the VDC rolls for noncompliance of orders, the officer said.

In response to the recently held SPOs recruitment, he said a list of around 85 meritorious candidates was sent to police headquarters for final approval.

The VDCs were setup in the mid-1990s with an aim to strengthen the security of Hindus living in remote and mountainous areas of Doda, Kishtwar, Ramba, Rajouri, Reasi, Kathua and Poonch districts of the region.

The members of these committees not only guard the identified villages along the border, but also the infrastructural installations in and around them.

But eventually there were several cases of the VDCs misusing their powers and engaging in human rights violations.

Kishtwar along with several other districts of Jammu province were declared militancy-free over a decade ago but after the recent killings, the authorities have taken various steps to counter attempts by militants to gain a foothold in the Chenab valley. Inspector General of Police, Jammu, M K Sinha recently said at least 10 local militants – eight belonging to Hizbul Mujahideen and two affiliated to Lashker-e-Toiba – were active in the district.

Describing the reported plans of the Centre and the Jammu and Kashmir administration to arm civilians in the sensitive Chenab valley as “alarming”, Mufti, who is also Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president, had warned that the move would have “dangerous consequences”.

She said similar experiments of arming civilians under the anti-militancy grid in the 1990s had led to complete chaos and the wounds inflicted upon the general masses were still fresh.

“Reports about the administration trying to arm civilians under the garb of creating VDC in Chenab valley are disturbing and alarming especially at the time when the government has to be inclusive to avoid further alienation of youth across the state,” Mufti had said in a statement on Saturday.

On Friday, police registered a case against former PDP MLC Firdous Tak and some other party leaders after they staged a demonstration against the state administration for strengthening VDCs in the district.

Mufti dubbed the FIR “false and frivolous” and demanded its immediate rollback.

“The party leaders have represented the sentiments and aspirations of the people but it seems that the local administration are working under pressure from a particular political organisation. The registration of the case only speaks about the sorry state of affairs in Chenab valley,” she said.

On July 17, a three-member delegation of senior BJP leaders led by former deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh met Governor Satya Pal Malik at Raj Bhavan in Srinagar and demanded the strengthening of the security apparatus including VDCs and provision of mobile bunkers in Chenab valley region.

They expressed concern regarding growing threats to the safety and security of people, illegal encroachments on forest land, and incidents of bovine smuggling in the region.

The Governor had assured the delegation due consideration of its demands.

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