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Former bureaucrats, civil society members write to Rajnath 

‘Closing highway will weaken democracy, attract military rule’

Firdous Hassan

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Srinagar, Apr 9: A group of India’s intellectuals including former government servants, academicians, journalists and civil society members have written to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and expressed their collective concerns over the “worsening” situation in Kashmir.

The letter is signed by former Deputy Governor of Reserve Bank of India, Ravi Vira, former Secretary, Ministry of Defense Amitabh Pande, former Home Secretary of India Gopal Pillai, former Secretary Hindal Tyabji, and academicians and authors including Anand Sahay, Prem Shankar Jha, Radha Kumar Happymon Jacob, Shiv Vishwanathan and Badri Raina.

In the letter, the signatories have specified that president’s rule coupled with crackdowns and arrests in Kashmir are “formidable disincentives” to the voting exercise.

 

“In these conditions, what kind of a turnout can we expect in the valley? Taken together, the policy of President’s rule, counter-insurgency, crackdowns and arrests, combined with threats to rollback Articles 370 and 35-A and alterations to the administrative structure of the state, provide formidable disincentives to vote,” the letter reads.

The signatories have mentioned that the closure of the highway for forces’ movement would weaken the “democratic credentials and attract the military rule.”

“It is, moreover, only the most recent of a series of actions that add to disaffection in the valley. Others include banning the JKLF and the Jamaat-e-Islami, imprisoning their leaders as well as those of the Hurriyat, and denying security to members of political parties,” it said.

The signatories slammed BJP by claiming that its rule in last four years has undone the hardwork of 15 years by previous regimes in Kashmir.

In the letter, the intellectuals suggested the Home Ministry for immediate rollback of its decisions, which they believe deteriorated situation in Kashmir.

“The first step would be to rescind orders for closure of the highway, followed by release of those arrested (unless there is substantive evidence of their being involved in recent terrorist attacks such as on the CRPF at Pulwama), restoration of security to political leaders and return to a policy of defense against attack rather than preemptive action. If your government could initiate a Ramzan ceasefire, then why not one for elections?”

 “No reasoned explanation has been offered. These elections offer an opportunity to craft a more conciliatory policy towards the people of the state, including dissidents who have engaged in peace initiatives, such as the Hurriyat M, who have once again held out an offer of talks,” it said.

In the letter, the intellectuals criticised the BJP’s manifesto, saying it is opposed to conciliation in Jammu and Kashmir.”

“Nevertheless, whether your party wishes to avail of this opportunity or not, surely you would recognize that governance is larger than party interest and a change of course is required. Lest the situation in the state worsens to a point of no return. We urge you, even at this late stage, to take the steps mentioned above. Jammu and Kashmir will only then be able to have a free and fair election,” it said.

Former Kashmir interlocutor and one of the signatories, Radha Kumar told The Kashmir Monitor the policies of the current government for Kashmir compelled them to write to the Union Home Minster about the ground situation.

“It was a very hard task to find email of the Home Ministry as all their contacts mentioned in websites are incorrect. Actually we are a group of people who are aware of the situation in Kashmir and are upset about it,” she said.

“We have written on Kashmir so far and we thought to find something which will have more weightage,” she said.


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Bureaucratic red tape mars waste-to-energy project at Achan

Bisma Bhat

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Srinagar, Nov 20: Four years on, installation of ecofriendly waste-to-energy plant at Achan has been stuck in the bureaucratic red tape.

 An official of Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) said Housing and Urban Development Department, Power Development Department and Centec Bio Energy Private are yet to sign the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) that would have paved the way for setting up waste-to-energy plant.

 “It will take us 18 months to set up waste-to-energy plant once the PPA is signed,” the official said.

 

In 2015, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) had passed an order for setting up of first of its kind, 5MW waste-to-energy plant in Srinagar. Srinagar Municipal Corporation was made nodal agency to install the plant.  The NGT had also warned of levying Rs 50,000 fine per day of delay.

 “The document is lying with the State Electricity Regulatory Commission (SERC). Since the Commission has been abolished on October 31, the fate of PPA is not known,” said Khurshid Sanai, SMC Commissioner, told The Kashmir Monitor,

SERC has the power to finalise tariff for the electricity which will be generated by waste-to-energy plant.

Sanai said that they are trying hard to complete the paper work for installing the plant.

 “Centec bio-energy private limited is the amalgam of three companies-Highland automobiles private limited, Keystone Energies LLG and Aspex infra private limited, which has been given the contract for its installation,” said Nazir Baba, Solid Waste Management Officer, SMC.

Baba informed that this project is based on Public Private Partnership (PPP) and the investment will be managed by the assigned company.

 “The PPA of waste-to-energy plant will be signed after SERC finalizes the tariff,” said Deeraj Kumar Gupta, Principal Secretary Housing and Urban Department.

Gupta said that SERC will be reconstituted and it will take some time to complete the process.   

Environmentalist, Dr AR Yousuf said the waste-to-energy plant will not only generate 5 MW power but shall make Srinagar garbage free.

“The biodegradable and non-biodegradable wastes will be treated separately. Biodegradable waste will be then converted into compost which will be used as fertilizer while non-biodegradable waste will scientifically get disposed of,” he added.

The plant is to be installed in Srinagar’s land fill site, Achan which is spread over 540 kanals of land. Official data of SMC reveals that the Srinagar city – with a population of 1.4 million – produces between 380 metric tons to 450 metric tons of solid waste every day. About 60 per cent of this is dumped at Achan, a dump yard on the outskirts of Srinagar and 40% includes the debris of the construction material which is used for leveling of low-level areas.

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From five years to two years: Law Comm recommends slashing employees’ probation period

Mudassir Kuloo

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Srinagar, Nov 18:  Newly appointed government employees have a reason to rejoice as Jammu and Kashmir Law Commission has recommended reduction in probation period from existing five years to two years. 

PDP-BJP government headed by the then chief minister late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed in 2015 had rolled out a recruitment policy wherein it was decided that the new employees will have to complete five year probation period before being regularized.

Under this policy, which was also known as SRO-202, a new recruit was entitled for full salary and grade only after he or she completes five-year probation period.

 

The policy however stirred a hornet’s nest with Law Commission recommending two year probation period instead of five.

“Five-year appears to be disproportionate and supernatural. An employee cannot be asked to wend a tortuous journey tottering, or rather, doddering his/her way to register his/her claim for the completion of the period of his probation after a great deal and lull of five years,” read the Law Commission report, which has been submitted to Chief Secretary B V R Subrahmanyam.

“The ruling elite of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir lived a life which even Vikramaditiyas and the Mughals would not have dreamed of. They made room for keeping palatial government houses at their disposal with modern facilities till such time that they live and to the contrary they kept the sword of Damocles hanging high on the heads of this set of employees,” the Commission added.

Slamming PDP-BJP government for formulation of job policy, the Commission said the taxable income of this ruling class all by itself had to be borne by the state exchequer in addition to a host of other amenities and facilities provided to them at the cost of the tax payers’ money. “These helpless employees who would hardly be making their both ends meet had the perks provided to them have been held in a leash,” it said.

Several commissions have been dissolved after state’s bifurcation into two commissions. However, Law Commission has not been touched by the new dispensation.

 “Law Commission was framed under an executive order issued by the Cabinet and can recommend for changes in existing laws,” said Anchal Sethi, Secretary Law Department.

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Uncertainty fallout: 60000 carpet artisans suffer in silence

Firdous Hassan

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Srinagar, Nov 18:  It was after years that 50-year-old Mohammad Aslam of Budgam resumed his family business of handicrafts.

Associated with the business for the last more than four decades, he had temporarily given up dealing in carpets after suffering heavy losses in 2015.

While previous year’s profit rekindled hope, three month-long internet blockade dealt him a killing blow.

 

“I have almost 20 carpets ready at my home.  I am not getting any customer. I have borrowed money from people to buy raw material,” he said.

 Like Aslam, nearly 60,000 artisans and hundreds of dealers across Kashmir are currently in distress due to continuing internet blockade.

 Dealers said lack of internet facility in the valley resulted in massive cancellation of orders from August to November.

“We receive maximum orders from abroad in July, August and September.  Lack of internet cost us a fortune. Unavailability of mobile internet and broadband will further put us in debt trap as we are unable to receive online orders for Christmas and New Year,” said Ali Mohammad a carper dealer from Pattan.

Handicraft sector particularly carpets had been hit after it was brought under the ambit of Goods and Service Tax in 2017.

Carpet Export Promotion Council (CEPC), state head and President, Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries, (KCCI) Sheikh Ashiq Ahmad said dealers have lost all their contacts with the foreign clientele due to internet blockade. “Even if we manage to contact them, they are reluctant to place orders considering the uncertain situation in the valley,” he said.

Ahmad said the valley would export handicraft to the tune of Rs 2000 crore annually to different states and European countries.

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