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Highway of miseries affects passengers, locals alike

Hirra Azmat

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Srinagar, Feb 12: While they are no less than a nightmare for the stranded passengers, the frequent blockades on Srinagar-Jammu highway, the only all-weather road connecting Kashmir with the rest of the world, are equally affecting all and sundry in Kashmir.

The highway has remained closed for a total of more than four weeks in 2019, leading to a shortage of essentials including vegetables, meat, chicken besides petrol and diesel in the valley.

Khalid Nazir, an engineering student, said that all the previous regimes have failed to effectively deal with the recurring issue of closure of Srinagar-Jammu highway.

 

“A poor man is left to die. There is acute shortage of mutton, chicken and fresh vegetables in the market. In such a situation what can a poor Kashmiri do, where he shall go?” Nazir rued.

An elderly Abdul Hameed, a resident of Saraf Kadal, Srinagar said that almost every other day, the highway is closed forcing an ordinary Kashmiri to depend on the black marketers, who, ironically, always get away with their illegal price hikes.

“The price of vegetables has skyrocketed while LPG and petrol too are sold against higher prices. After searching for LPG cylinder in Srinagar for hours, I finally got one at Karanagar against Rs 2500, thrice the fixed price of the government,” he said.

Divisional Commissioner Kashmir, Baseer Khan, as per news agency KNS, admitted that people were facing hardships due to frequent closure of the highway.

“One can’t stop landslides and shooting stones. I believe Mughal road should have been fully functional long back, vulnerable areas prone to shooting stones and landslides should have been dealt with by the concerned departments and that the train services from Jammu to Srinagar should have been through,” he said.

“Had these three things been done, there would have been no shortage of essentials in this hour of crisis,” he said.

Meanwhile, tens of hundreds of Kashmiri passengers stranded in Jammu due to a closure of the highway alleged that the state administration has done nothing to help them.

“The fares, which were in the range of Rs 4,000 for traveling to Srinagar, have been hiked steeply to Rs 12,000 by the airlines after highway closure,” one of the passengers stranded at Jammu Bus stand told The Kashmir Monitor over the phone.

The hike, he said, has hit the passengers who belong to labour class and have exhausted all their cash in buying the essentials.

“We cannot afford the hefty air fare,” he said.

Pictures and videos of passengers wrapped in thin blankets reclining against the luggage bags in the bay area of Jammu bus stand are being widely shared on social media in the last one week.

The passengers–students, businessmen, labourers¬–all rue the apathy of the government in dealing with the issue.

Wasim Ahmad, a University student complained that the frequent closure has made him skip his examinations.

“We kept calling the officials and they gave us false hopes for three days that the snow was being cleared but we are still stuck. As a result, I am unable to appear in the examinations,” he said.

Many commuters also accused the governor’s administration of being biased towards them and deliberately turning a blind eye to their plight.

“The governor rule was implemented in the past as well but this administration has other priorities. They are more interested in granting division status to other places and not attending to the needs of the people,” the passengers said echoed, adding that the governor is not paying any heed despite witnessing the difficulties they are facing.

While the travelers lament the apathy of the administration, they also complain of overcharging by nearby hotels and shops.

“For charging a mobile phone, we are asked to shell out fifty rupees,” said 20-year-old Umar.

“The people living in the nearby quarters gave us some food. We are literally living like beggars right now.”


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ACB registers case; Dy Mayor Imran, bank, govt officials in the soup

‘Bank gave Rs 36 cr loan on property already declared NPA’

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Srinagar, Jun 15: Accusing them of criminal conspiracy and illegal appropriation of subsidy worth crores, the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has registered a case against businessman and deputy mayor Sheikh Imran and some government and J&K Bank officials.

The three parties are accused of “illegal appropriation of subsidy with inflated project cost for establishment of CA storage at Lassipora, Pulwama.”

The development happens days after ACB had raided 10 premises of Imran-owned Kehwa group last Tuesday.

 

An ACB spokesperson in a statement on Saturday said: “Case FIR No. 3/2019 u under section 5(1) (d) P.C Act Samvat 2006, punishable u/S 5(2) of the Act r/w 420 & 120-B RPC has been registered in Police Station Anti-Corruption Bureau, South Kashmir (Anantnag) against Shiekh Imran Director M/S Kehwa Square Pvt Ltd Bohri Kadal Srinagar, officers of J&K Bank and other government officials, for illegal appropriation of subsidy with inflated project cost for establishment of CA storage at Lassipora, Pulwama, (sic).”

Imran, who’d written dozens of tweets accusing the former J&K Bank Chairman Pervez Ahmad of being corrupt soon after the latter was sacked, has now himself landed in the soup.

During the verification conducted by ACB Kashmir, it was revealed that Imran had submitted a proposal to J&K Bank for establishment of controlled atmosphere (CA) storage under the name of M/S Kehwa Square Pvt Ltd at Lassipora, Pulwama.

As per the norms of Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture (MIDH, a Joint Inspection Team of various experts and government officials along with Shiekh Imran (Director M/S Kehwa Square Pvt. Ltd) conducted spot inspection of the site, the ACB spokesperson said.

The team assessed the cost of the project as Rs 33 crores including the 50% subsidy of Rs 16.50 crores, under Horticulture Mission for North East & Himalayan States (HMNEH), a part of MIDH scheme.

The assessment report, as per the spokesperson, was sent to the empowered monitoring committee of MIDH, Government of India, for its final approval.

Once approved, the J&K Government, the spokesperson said, too constituted a committee which, after spot inspection and physical verification, recommended release of subsidy as per norms without altering or amending the component wise value of machinery and civil works.

The subsidy component (Rs 16.50 crores) released by National Horticulture Board (NHB), was, required to be kept in a separate account by the credit provider bank.

The money, as a matter of fact, was to be termed as ‘subsidy reserve fund’ and had detailed terms and conditions for its adjustment.

The Kehwa Group, meanwhile, was running six more business units for which Imran had raised varied loans and overdrafts, the total liabilities on account of which had accumulated to Rs 138 crores.

At this point, Kehwa Square including its sister business concerns, had turned Non-Performing Assets (NPA). Imran, as such, sought a one-time settlement (OTS) with J&K Bank authorities to which the bank accepted to wave-off Rs 33 crore from his total liabilities.

The Kehwa group was now asked to deposit Rs 105 crores in two instalments with the first instalment of Rs 50 crores to be paid by March 03, 2017.

With crores off his shoulder just like that, Imran then thought of another ploy.

He, the ACB investigation reveals, usurped the subsidy component he’d received for his CA storage business by declaring it as NPA without paying even a single instalment towards the bank.

This Imran did with connivance of the Horticulture Officers and Bank Officials, the ACB spokesperson added.

Meanwhile, the cost of the CA project assessed by ACB was found much lower than the projected cost.

It didn’t stop here though.Imran, with the active support of the officials of J&K Bank, roped in another business unit ‘M/S Go Fresh’, whose proprietor, as per ACB, is one Nadeem Ahmad Mayar.

Nadeem sought and obtained a loan of Rs 36.10 crore in lieu of the proposed transfer in his name the same CA Store in Lassipora which Imran had received the loan on.
Ironically, the property Nadeem got the loan on was already under hypothecation with the bank as the asset of the principal borrower, Kehwa Square Pvt. Ltd.
Nadeem, as per ACB, then physically took over the operation of the CA storage business unit “without formal transfer of assets/liabilities in his favour.”
The ACB inquiry revealed that Kehwa Square Pvt Ltd surreptitiously sought and got further concessions from the bank on his second installment of Rs 55 crore of the total one-time settlement of Rs 105 crores.
The Rs 55-crore installment, as per ACB, was further reduced to Rs 27 crore.
The ACB inquiry revealed that Kehwa Group “in furtherance of a well-knit conspiracy with respective Government agencies and bank authorities under the garb of NPA and OTSs in mutual conspiracy illegally benefitted the proprietor/s of M/S Kehwa Group with illegal appropriation of subsidy amount of Rs 16.50 crores and layering of various transactions.”
Thus, the spokesperson of the Bureau said, it was established that the Kehwa Group had got their loan of Rs 138 crores with J&K Bank, restructured for an amount of Rs 78 crores.
“Under a well-knit conspiracy Sheikh Imran and partners of M/S Kehwa Square were extended covert/overt support by Officers of J&K Bank and Joint Inspection Team (the one which inspected the CA facility), dishonestly and fraudulently, who by abuse and misuse of their official position as public servants conferred undue pecuniary/monetary advantage on Kehwa Group of Companies thereby causing illegal appropriation of crores of rupees from State exchequer, for personal motives,” the spokesperson said.
“The investigation has been set into motion and further action as per law is in process,” he added.
Imran, in the meantime, did not respond to several calls and a text message by The Kashmir Monitor. Later, he switched off his phone.

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JK Bank implements RTI, CVC guidelines framework

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Srinagar, Jun 15: The Board of Directors of J&K Bank Saturday took some important decisions towards improving governance and bringing more transparency in the functioning of the Bank.

While meeting for the first time under the Chairmanship of its interim Chairman & Managing Director Rajesh Kumar Chhibber, the Board took major decisions in this direction which include implementation of J&K RTI Act, 2009 and CVC guidelines from June 17.

Besides other directors on Board of the Bank, the meeting was attended by Promotor Director Dr Arun Kumar Mehta, Financial Commissioner of J&K State.

 

Notably the Board of Directors after receiving directions from the Government of J&K had in its meeting held on March 16 decided to implement the RTI and CVC guidelines from June this year.

While passing directions to arrest any further slippages of accounts to NPA, the Board also decided that strict action shall be initiated against all the willful defaulters.

The Board also urged for a strong monitoring mechanism for ensuring timely implementation of Board decisions.

Boosting the digital vision of the bank, the Board also called for strengthening of technology framework that includes migration of its Core Banking Solution to Finacle 10 besides strengthening its early warning and alert generation systems.

Expressing total confidence in the Bank’s management and staff, the Board unanimously assured all the stakeholders that the Bank is fundamentally strong and was in safe Zone as all the measures were afoot to institutionalize transparency and strengthen accountability frameworks structurally by reinforcing proper checks and balances within the system.

The Board was optimistic that the bank will achieve all the envisaged business targets in time and would do better on all performance indicators going forward.

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JK’s inspection dept doesn’t inspect

Cries manpower shortage with just 5 officers in place for 40 depts

Mudassir Kuloo

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Srinagar, Jun 15: As incredible as it may sound, Jammu and Kashmir has only five officers to conduct the administrative inspection of 40 departments to ensure proper maintenance of records and implementation of the rules and regulations.

Jammu and Kashmir government has established Department of Administrative Reforms, Inspections and Trainings (ARI&T) with a specific mandate to finalise recruitment rules and maintain the records.

As per the rules, the Department of ARI&T has to carry out periodic inspections of different offices and submit their performance report to the government.

 

Yet only five officers have been posted to conduct the inspection of 40 departments.
“These five officers are unable to conduct periodic inspections. This department has the responsibility to conduct surprise inspections but these are rarely being done given the dearth of manpower,” said a source in the department.

There are several departments which have not even framed the recruitment rules or promotion policy.

For instance, Srinagar Development Authority (SDA), an official said, is functioning without any recruitment rules which has resulted in stagnation and impacted the promotion prospects of its employees.“Eighteen months ago departmental promotion committee of SDA recommended promotion of some officials, but it was not approved for the want of recruitment rules. Department of Administrative Reforms, Inspections and Trainings too did not conduct any inspection to finalise the recruitment rules,” the official added.

Sources said that given the shortage of workforce, the Department of ARI&T will take years to conduct the administrative inspections of all the departments.

A senior official of the ARI&T, however, said they have written to the government to fill the vacant posts at the earliest. “Once we get the adequate staff, there will be regular inspection of the departments,” he added.

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