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Experts question Govt’s move of shifting academic session

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Irshad Khan

Srinagar Apr 08: With the government set to shift school examinations in Kashmir to March session, valley-based educationists expressed reservations over rushing through the decision.

Education Minister, Mohammad Altaf Bukhari Saturday confirmed to The Kashmir Monitor that the decision to shift the exams to March session would be implemented “from current (academic) session”.

 

“There would be four term examinations in the academic year and in March there would be annual examination like we have in Jammu,” Bukhari said.

Counting the ‘advantages’ of holding annual exams in March, Bukhari said: “The competitive examination aspirants would not have to wait for six months. Besides, March session would curb the menace of private coaching to a large extent”.

However, noted educationist, Prof A G Madhosh opined against shifting the exams to March session at all.

Madhosh believed that “the present system (November session of exams) is good” and said that “the benefits that the government counts by shifting the exam session to March would not be attained.”

“Has the government conducted any single examination in March in the last 10 years?” asked Madhosh.

“The schools do not open even till March ending nowadays. To add to that, the unrest in the schools of late,” he added.

Over the Education Minister claiming that the March session would curb private coaching, Madhosh said, “I would congratulate them if the coaching is done away with it, but that would not happen.”

Madhosh, in fact, believed that private coaching “has relevance”.

“It is a need. A student has to be resourceful. Any resource in the form of coaching available to the students asks to be exploited. What is the objection you are holding against it. The coaching is holding a promise against money. You are investing money and you are getting dividends in return. What else do you want?” he added.

Professor Siddiq Wahid, a leading academician suggested that the government should “absolutely not rush” in shifting the exams to March session.

“To take a call whether the exam session should be switched should be left to the educational administrators not the government per se. Government gives a statement. It is the task of the professionals in educational administrative wings to say whether it is suitable or not,” he said.

“It cannot be a political decision…It has to be a decision that is made with a reason and once the reason is clarified then we can say yes or no. Why should we make the change in air?” asked Prof Wahid.

He wanted the educational administrators to “put up a rationale” whether the exam session was at all to be shifted.

“The arguments and counter arguments are something that need to be discussed. What is troublesome in the current situation is that everybody follows an order. And the discussion for it takes place later. First, the discussion should take place.”

While the government was supposed to “institute laws, but they cannot participate in micromanaging an educational system,” Prof Wahid argued.

“What is the guarantee that a Minister for Education or Minister for Health is an educational or a health professional? That is not necessarily right? That is why we have bureaucrats.” he said.

 “The whole thing is that the system has broken down. And now we only have decisions and no rationale,” Prof Wahid lamented.

He also debunked the perception that switching the exam session would check private coaching.

“The coaching can end only if the schools, whether government or private improve. It cannot end because the government changes the schedule,” Prof Wahid said.

“There is no reason the coaching should stop… I think if the schools run properly and if the teachers teach properly in the schools, then (only) there is no need for private coaching,” he added.

Ex-Secretary Board of School Education, B A Dar rebutted the Education Minister’s claim that under the March session of exams the students would not have to wait too much for appearing in various competitive examinations.

On the contrary, Dar said that under the November session, “the competitive examination aspirants get sufficient time for preparation”.

 “Like the class 12 exams were declared in January, so they get a sufficient 3-4 months for preparing for the exams. Now under the March session, they would get a lesser time to prepare. This is not a valid argument in favour of this (switching the exam session),” Dar argued.

Dar, however, believed that the March session would “do away with the practice of private coaching”.

Before taking any decision, Dar said that the government “should do some groundwork to find out what academic calendar suits us”.

“It should not be at the whims of a minister or the bureaucrats. There should be a consultative committee in this regard,” he added.

 


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VIDEO | Ahead of Anantnag polls, truck laden with cash and trash catches fire in Qazigund

Nisar Dharma

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Srinagar, Apr 22:  A truck filled with copper coils and cash caught fire during the intervening night of Sunday and Monday in Panzath area of Qazigund in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district.

Sources told The Kashmir monitor that the truck (registration numberJKO5A-8795) that had left from Srinagar and was heading to Jammu mysteriously caught fire on a link road in Panzath area of Qazigund.

 

Interestingly, sources said the truck was laden with trash and bundles of Rs 500 notes. The area, they said, was littered with half burnt notes and the residents around had even taken many of them.

The driver, who wished to remain anonymous, said that he did not know that the vehicle had cash in it.

“The vehicle was loaded in Srinagar. I had gone home for Shab-e-Baraat. Yesterday, we tied the ropes around the truck and headed towards Srinagar. I did not know that cash was stuffed in it,” he told The Kashmir Monitor. 

SHO Qazigund and other police officials have reached on the spot. (This is a developing story and more details will be added soon).

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Easter Sunday turns into mourning in Sri Lanka

Multiple blasts in churches, 5-star hotels; At least 215 killed, over 500 injured

Press Trust of India

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Image credit: AFP

Colombo, Apr 21: A string of eight devastating blasts, including suicide attacks, struck churches and luxury hotels frequented by foreigners in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, killing 215 people and shattering a decade of peace in the island nation since the end of the brutal civil war with the LTTE.

The blasts – one of the deadliest attacks in the country’s history – targeted St Anthony’s Church in Colombo, St Sebastian’s Church in the western coastal town of Negombo and Zion Church in the eastern town of Batticaloa around 8.45 a.m. (local time) as the Easter Sunday mass were in progress, police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera said.

Explosions were reported from three five-star hotels – the Shangri-La, the Cinnamon Grand and the Kingsbury in Colombo.

 

Gunasekera confirmed 207 deaths. However, the News 1st channel said that 215 people have died in the blasts.

Director of the National Hospital Dr. Anil Jasinghe identified 11 of the 27 foreign nationals killed in the coordinated attacks believed to be carried out by a single group.

An Indian, two Chinese and one each from Poland, Denmark, Japan, Pakistan, America, Morocco and Bangladesh are among the dead at the National Hospital.

Around 500 people, including Indians, were injured in the attacks.

No group has claimed responsibility for Sunday’s attacks.

However, most of the deadly attacks in the past in Sri Lanka were carried out by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) which ran a military campaign for a separate Tamil homeland in the northern and eastern provinces of the island nation for nearly 30 years before its collapse in 2009 after the Sri Lankan Army killed its supreme leader Velupillai Prabhakaran.

Briefing reporters, Gunasekera said the police was not able to confirm at the moment if they were all suicide attacks. He, however, said that one of the blasts at the Katuwapitiya (Negombo) church has signs of being what looked like a suicide attack.

An unnamed official said a suicide bomber blew himself up at the restaurant of the Cinnamon Grand hotel.

Gunasekara said that 66 bodies were kept at the National Hospital while 260 injured were receiving treatment there and 104 bodies were placed at the Negombo Hospital and 100 injured were receiving treatment at the Hospital.

Later in the day, a powerful blast in the capital’s southern suburb near the Colombo Zoo killed two persons, Gunasekera said.

When a police team entered a house in the Colombo north suburb of Orugodawatta to conduct a search, a suicide bomber blew himself up causing a concrete floor of a two-storey building to crash on them, killing three policemen in the eighth blast, police said.

Soon after the eighth blast, the government imposed curfew with immediate effect. The curfew will be in force indefinitely until further notice, officials said.

State Minister of Defence Ruwan Wijewardene said seven persons had been arrested in connection with the blasts.

“We believe these were coordinated attacks, and one group was behind them,” Wijewardene said.

President Maithripala Sirisena has appealed for calm.

“I have been shocked by this totally unexpected incidents. The security forces haven been asked to take all action necessary,” Sirisena said.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe termed the blasts as “cowardly attacks” and said his government was working to “contain the situation.”

“I call upon all Sri Lankans during this tragic time to remain united and strong… The government is taking immediate steps to contain this situation,” he tweeted.

Security has been intensified around the religious places across the capital. The government has temporarily blocked all social media platforms.

“Horrible scenes. I saw many body parts strewn all over,” said Harsha de Silva, Sri Lanka’s Minister of Economic Reforms and Public Distribution.

The Indian High Commission in Colombo said that it was closely monitoring the situation in Sri Lanka.

“We are closely monitoring the situation. Indian citizens in need of assistance or help and for seeking clarification may call the following numbers : +94777903082 +94112422788 +94112422789,” the High Commission tweeted.

“In addition to the numbers given, Indian citizens in need of assistance or help and for seeking clarification may also call the following numbers +94777902082 +94772234176,” it said.

The first blasts were reported at St Anthony’s church in Colombo and St Sebastian’s Church in Negombo just outside the capital.

“A bomb attack to our church, please come and help if your family members are there,” read a post in English on the Facebook page of the St Sebastian’s Church.

Images circulated on social media showed severely damaged St Sebastian’s church, with a shattered ceiling and blood on the pews.

Heavy security has been deployed at the Bandaranaike International Airport. The riot police and the Special Task Force, extra police security has been deployed around the airport, state-run Daily News reported.

Leave of all police personnel has been cancelled in the wake of blasts.

Doctors, nurses and health officials who were on leave have been asked to report to work, Health Ministry sources said.

All state Universities have been closed until further notice.

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith said all Easter masses in the Colombo District have been cancelled.

Former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, under whose leadership the Lankan Army crushed the LTTE, termed the attack as “barbaric”.

“We will not tolerate such violence, such acts of terrorism, of cowardice within our borders once again,” he said.

REACTIONS!

  1. India condemns the terror attacks in Sri Lanka and offers its condolences to the people and government of the country. Such senseless violence, aimed at innocent people, has no place in civilised society: Ram Nath Kovind, President.      
  2. I strongly condemn the cowardly attacks on our people today. I call upon all Sri Lankans during this tragic time to remain united and strong. Please avoid propagating unverified reports and speculation. The government is taking immediate steps to contain this situation: Ranil Wickremesinghe, PM Sri Lanka
  3. Strongly condemn the horrific blasts in Sri Lanka. There is no place for such barbarism in our region. India stands in solidarity with the people of Sri Lanka: PM Narendra Modi
  4. Strongly condemn the horrific terrorist attack in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday resulting in precious lives lost & hundreds injured. My profound condolences go to our Sri Lankan brethren: Imran Khan, Pak PM
  5. Outraged by the terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka. Hope the perpetrators will be quickly brought to justice. Commend the unity of the Sri Lankan people after the Easter Sunday attacks: Antonio Guterres, UN Gen Secy.
  6. The United States offers heartfelt condolences to the great people of Sri Lanka. We stand ready to help: Donald Trump, US Prez
  7. I condemn in the strongest terms possible the Easter terror attacks in Sri Lanka. This is an assault on all of humanity: Erdoğan, Turkey Prez
  8. To see an attack in Sri Lanka while people were in churches and at hotels is devastating. New Zealand rejects all forms of extremism and stands for freedom of religion and the right to worship safely: Jacinda Ardern, NZ PM
  • I wish to express my heartfelt closeness to the Christian community [of Sri Lanka], wounded as it was gathered in prayer, and to all the victims of such cruel violence: Pope Francis
  • I strongly condemn the Sri Lanka Attacks. This is totally unacceptable. We firmly believe in peaceful coexistence. My thoughts are with the victims & their families: Mufti Menk, Islamic Scholar

At least 3 Indians among dead

New Delhi, Apr 21: At least three Indians were among the deceased in the series of bomb blasts in Sri Lanka on Sunday.

Over 200 people were killed and at least 450 injured in bomb blasts that ripped through churches and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, the first major attack on the Indian Ocean island since the end of a civil war 10 years ago.

“Indian High Commission in Colombo has conveyed that National Hospital has informed them about the death of three Indian nationals. Their names are Lakshmi, Narayan Chandrashekhar and Ramesh. We are ascertaining further details,” tweeted External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.

“Indian High Commission in Colombo @IndiainSL will provide you all help and assistance. Our helpline numbers are:  +94777903082, +94112422788, +94112422789,” she wrote in another tweet.

Seven people were arrested and three police officers were killed during a security forces raid on a house in the Sri Lankan capital several hours after the rash of attacks, some of which officials said were suicide bombs.

The government declared a curfew in Colombo and blocked access to social media and messaging sites, including Facebook and WhatsApp. It was unclear when the curfew would be lifted.

Guv, Omar, Azad condemn Sri Lanka blasts

Jammu, Apr 21: Jammu and KashmirGovernor Satya Pal Malik strongly condemned the blasts that ripped through many churches and hotels in Sri Lanka on Sunday.

In a message, Governor has expressed shock and anguish over the serial blasts at Churches and Hotels in Sri Lanka in which innocent lives were lost, and many were injured. We stand in solidarity with the people of Sri Lanka, he said.

Calling it a heinous act which attempts to spread fear and hatred, Governor said that the whole world shall stand united in the fight against terrorism.

Governor has conveyed his heartfelt condolences to the families bereaved in this dastardly attack and wished speedy recovery to those injured.

National Conference Vice President Omar Abdullah on Sunday while condemning the attacks Lanka in which at least 137 people were killed said the hope to see the end of terror attacks in Sri Lanka has been shattered.

Omar wrote on Twitter: “Terrorism strikes #SriLanka again. It had been hoped that the end of the war with the Tamil Tigers would also see the end of terror attacks on the Emerald Isle but sadly that hope has been shattered today.”

In another tweet Omar said “While condemning these horrible attacks, designed to cause massive loss of life on a day that was to be celebrated, my prayers for the deceased & injured as also for their loved ones.”

Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, condemning the violence said there was no place for terrorism and intolerance in a civilized society.

Talking to a news agency Azad said: “There is no place for violence, terrorism and intolerance in any civilized society and we all are resolved to fight against such forces with all might at our command.”

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India missed ‘golden opportunity’ to resolve Kashmir dispute in 1971 war: PM Modi

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Barmer, Apr 21: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday said India missed a “golden opportunity” to resolve Kashmir dispute during 1971 war when “under global pressure” it released hundreds of Pakistani troops who were in the custody of Indian army.

Speaking at an election rally here, Modi said then Congress government signed Shimla agreement (in 1972) “under global pressure” and released over 90,000 prisoners of war (PoW) instead of resolving the Kashmir dispute “in lieu of the PoW.”

“Pak troops were in our custody. A big area of Pakistan was also captured by Indian forces during 1971 war but the Congress government lost it on table in Shimla agreement and they were released,” he said.

 

“The government crumbled under global pressure and signed the Shimla agreement and the matter was closed. PoW and the capture land were released. That was a golden opportunity to resolve the Kashmir dispute in lieu of the PoW,” he said.

The prime minister said that it was a trump card in the hands of the government but the chance was missed and the entire country is facing its result today.

Modi said it was the reason why Congress leaders do not want nationalism to be an issue.

The statement from Modi came after Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot in his recent election rallies highlighted that a new nation (Bangladesh) was created by dividing Pakistan by Indian armed forces during the rule of former prime minister Indira Gandhi in 1971.

The prime minister also said India no more afraid of nuclear threats from Pakistan.

“Otherwise, Pakistan used to give nuclear threats. What do we have? Have we kept it for ‘Diwali’ (Warna aay din nuclear button hai, ye kehte the. Hamare paas kya hai. Ye diwali ke liye rakha hai kya),” Modi commented.

He said Indian forces killed “terrorists” across the border without engaging in a war.

“This is called a strong government. We have created fear among militants,” the PM said.

Modi said his government “crushed the ego” of Pakistan and “forced the neighbouring country to roam in world with begging bowl.”

“Hamne Pakistan ki sari hekdi nika di. Use katora leke dunia me ghumne ko mene majboor kar diya hai,” he said.

The prime minister said people were happy and think the Modi government has done good but it is not the case with Congress leaders and its alliance partners.

He said his government fulfilled long pending demands during Congress rule like One Rank, One Pension for the forces and National War Memorial in Delhi.

“There was a long pending demand for war memorial but Congress built memorial for their family. They built ‘Samadhi’ for their family but did not built war memorial in the memory of jawans who sacrificed life for the country,” he said.

Targeting the chief minister of Congress-JDS led Karnataka government, Modi said the CM had said that “those who are hungry and do not get two-time meals get into army,” which, he said, was the insult of troopers and their family members.

He said that scams in defence sector used to happen during the former Congress governments’ rule and the defence forces lacked modern equipment and weapons.

“Therefore they (Congress) do not want to talk about national security, Modi said.

The PM said there was no progress in Rafale deal during Congress rule, Mig planes kept on crashing but they did nothing to enhance the power of the forces.

Referring to the issue of Pak refugees in India, Modi said that Hindus who are in minority in Pakistan face discrimination there and the government of India made efforts to get citizenship amendment bill passed.

“The Chowkidaar has also made efforts to get citizenship amendment law passed for those having faith in the country (Maa Bharati). The people of this country who chose to live in Pakistan at the time of partition …. started facing atrocities because their faith and the way of revering god was different, he said.

The PM said that efforts will be made to complete the long pending work after the government formation on May 23.

Modi said that the upcoming polls are also “very important” for those who are going to vote for the first time.

“I understand your dreams and ready to sacrifice my dreams for you, he added.

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