Srinagar: Once an epicentre of trade in Old Srinagar, Maharaj Gunj wholesale market now fails to appeal even to its old clientele.
Located close to Aali Kadal, a cobweb of lanes and by-lanes forms this oldest market, also known as Shri Ranbir Gunj.
The market currently houses around a thousand shops including 150 wholesalers struggling to peddle their wares.
The market’s first lane next to Budshah’s Tomb or Mazar-e-Salateen (Graveyard of Sultans) is similar to opening a Pandora’s Box of delights: you can walk and explore meandering sub-lanes while thumbing through an array of goods displayed at the quaint wholesale shops.
From intricately designed copperware to cylindrical jars full of dry-fruits, aromatic spices, edible oil, different varieties of tea, textiles, wedding accessories and eatables occupy the even rows of shops.
Maharaja Ranbir Singh set up this wholesale market in 1863-64.
It was constructed on the banks of Jhelum to pay off debt his forefathers owed to non-Muslim traders of Amritsar since the time they had purchased Kashmir from the British for Rs 75,00,000.
The traders, locally known as Khaetris, shifted to the valley to claim Maharaja’s offer in return of their loaned capital and began trading from Mahraj Gunj.
Goods from all over the world began to be traded here.
“My grandfather used to tell me how goods from Central Asia were brought here on tongas,” recalled Tariq Ahmad, a textile trader. Khaetris owned the market until Partition of 1947. Even today, many old buildings stand witness to their influence over the era. With the end of Dogra rule, however, their monopoly over the market waned, and thus started a gradual decline, which now strikes an observer forcefully at the first glance.
The old stories are crumbling or have already crumbled. Several godowns and shops in these buildings have been bolted shut for years now. A sense of gloom and doom overwhelms the eye.
The symbol of this decay is the Tomb of Budshah. Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin popularly known as Budshah, built this tomb in the 15th century. The tomb located on the banks of Jhelum serves as the final resting place of Sultan Zain-ul-Abdin’s mother.
The driveway leading to the heritage structure is obstructed by a water tank and a concrete mixer.
The graveyard around has become a hub of stray dogs, gamblers, and drug-addicts. Dampness has seeped into the walls of the monument and the cracks are clearly visible. The whole atmosphere bodes a sense of “gloom and decay.”
According to the shopkeepers, the tomb has fallen to “encroachments on its three sides”.
It still doesn’t find a place on the tourism map. The restoration work of the monument had started three-four years back, but the work seems to be dragging on with no end in sight.
The shopkeepers lament: “All you can see is dug up the earth, construction material and stray dogs roaming around. Nowhere have we seen this method of preserving so-called “heritage sites.”
“We even submitted a memorandum before government, but to no avail,” they complain.
Budshah’s tomb is not the only structure that has become the victim of state negligence.
The primary health centre housed in a heritage building in the vicinity faced the same fate. A major portion of the heritage structure was demolished last year by the Roads and Building Department of Kashmir.
The Chief Minister’s grievance cell took cognisance of the media reports of demolition and ordered Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) to design a new blueprint for conserving and restoring the building.
With such apathy, the footfall of tourists and locals alike has declined drastically.
“This market would earlier attract tourists from different foreign countries. Now hardly anyone bothers to come here let alone non-locals,” lamented trader of decorative items, Farooq Nawaz.
The shopkeepers look expectantly at every passer-by hoping they turn out to be their potential customers.
The lack of parking spaces compounds the issue. Haphazardly parked vehicles make walking through the narrow lanes difficult, as many shops get blocked from view.
The lack of “proper transport facility” is a major deterrent for the shoppers who find it “inaccessible”.
The area features nowhere in the traffic department’s plans of easing traffic congestion. No roadside parking has been identified unlike that of uptown.
“People find it difficult to shop here. With narrow lanes and no place for parking vehicles, how can you expect a huge rush of customers?” asked Farooq Ahmad Baba, a middle-aged trader dealing with copperware.
The market awaits a healing touch, and one hopes it is provided sooner than later.
Govt directs DCs, SSPs to provide security to Panchayat members
Srinagar, Oct 22: Waking up to militant threats, Jammu and Kashmir government has directed district development commissioners and district police chiefs to provide security cover to Panches and Sarpanches during their visit to respective constituencies.
The Kashmir Monitor had broken the story about Panchayat members’ reluctance to visit their constituencies due to alleged militant threats.
A top source in the divisional commissioner Kashmir’s office said Sarpanches and Panches have told government that they are scared to visit their constituencies.
“They have told the government they live under constant fear and are unable to review the developmental works,” he said.
Sensing danger, the government directed district development commissioners and district police chiefs to make adequate security plan for Panches and Sarpanches during their visit to constituencies.
“Prior to their visit, they have to inform the concerned SHOs so that necessary security arrangements are put in place,” the source added.
Additional Director General of Police, Law and Order, and Security, Munir Ahmad Khan, said directives have gone to DCs and SSPs to ensure security of Panches and Sarpanches.
“Wherever they (Panches and Sarpanches) need security, they can approach concerned SSPs and DCs. They have been assured of security cover when they intend to visit their respective constituencies,” Khan told The Kashmir Monitor.
Centre has announced to release Rs 3700 crore for Panchayats in Jammu and Kashmir, of which around Rs 1000 crore stand released so far.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently stressed for empowerment of Panchayats in Jammu and Kashmir.
Panchayats, in addition to being involved in the selection of eligible beneficiaries for various government welfare schemes, can get Rs 50 lakh-80 lakh per year for implementation of key national schemes such as the National Health Mission, Samagra Shiksha, etc.
ACB registers 60 cases in 2019: Top babus, politicians under investigation for graft
Srinagar, Oct 22: Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has gone whole hog against corrupt politicians and government officials and registered 60 cases under different anti-graft laws in 2019 across Jammu and Kashmir.
Official details accessed by The Kashmir Monitor reveal that the ACB has registered 29 cases in Kashmir and 31 in Jammu in 2019 so far. Some of the cases have been registered against top politicians and bureaucrats in the state.
Cases were registered against deputy mayor of Srinagar Municipal Corporation, J&K Bank and government officials for “illegal appropriation of subsidy with inflated project cost for establishment of CA storage at Lassipora, Pulwama”.
The anti-graft has also registered a case against former chairman of the bank for allegedly misusing his position. A case has also been registered against former Director Archives and Archaeology Department for allegedly misusing his position by ordering enhancement of consolidated wages without authorization.
A case has also been registered against former directors of Rural Development Department Jammu for allegedly misusing official position and causing loss to state exchequer. The anti-graft body has also registered a case against former Managing Director JAKFED for misuse of official position. It has registered a case against a Naib Tehsildar in Srinagar for allegedly misuse of official position.
The anti-graft body has registered a case against former senior town planner and former commissioner municipal corporation Jammu. They have been booked for alleged criminal misconduct, abuse and misuse of their official position as public servants.
The ACB has also booked Divisional Manager of State Forest Corporation (SFC) Udhampur in a graft case. A case has also been registered against former Assistant Commissioner Development, Rajouri on corruption charges.
Last year, Governor Administration set up ACB to combat corruption in Jammu and Kashmir. Later The ACB was given more teeth to take on highly influential people.
An official of ACB said that there are complaints against several top government officials for their involvement in corruption. “Some are still at an initial stage and action would be taken in next few weeks,” he said
Governor Satya Pal Malik had said that “Anti-Corruption Bureau won’t spare anyone even those who are part of big political parties.”
Chief Secretary B V R Subrahmanyam had said the establishment of ACB would do away with the shortcomings and multiplicity of roles in the existing anti-corruption mechanism operational in the state.
“The ACB has been empowered. It is as powerful as CBI. The government has strengthened the ACB so it acts against powerful people,” he had said.
Govt employees of UTs of J&K, Ladakh to get all 7th CPC allowances from October 31
SRINAGAR, OCTOBER 22: The Union government on Tuesday issued orders announcing that the employees of the new Union Territories — Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh — will get salaries and other benefits as per the recommendations of the 7th Pay Commission from October 31.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah has approved the proposal of payment of all 7th CPC allowances to the government employees of Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir and Union Territory of Ladakh, which shall come into existence from October 31, 2019.
The move will benefit 4.5 lakh government employees who are working in the existing state of Jammu and Kashmir and will become the employees of UT of J&K and UT of Ladakh from 31 October 2019.
The annual financial implications of 7th CPC allowances like Children Education Allowance, Hostel Allowance, Transport Allowance, LTC, Fixed Medical Allowance etc in respect of 4.5 lakh government employees of existing State of J&K shall be Rs 4800 crore tentatively.