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Men who call it right: Meet Sonam Lotus’ able right-hand who takes calls past midnight

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By Hirra Azmat

Srinagar, Apr 14: Dr Mukhtar Ahmad is a very important man for us all, yet not everyone is aware of his role and existence.
He is the Deputy Director Meteorology in J&K, assisting the well-known weatherman Sonam Lotus.
Ask for the Deputy Director in the Meteorology’s Rambagh office, and you would get to meet the young man whose facial features reveal his Ladakhi origin.
“It seems you are also good at forecasting,” he quips on being asked about his homeland.
Born and brought up in Drass, a part of district Kargil, he completed his primary and secondary education from a local school.
“The temperature often dropped on my way to school, which was set against the towering mountains. Going to school in extreme cold conditions was difficult. I often wished to know about the change in weather beforehand,” recollected Dr Mukhtar.
After completing his graduation and masters in science from Delhi, he pursued his post-doctorate in agricultural technology.
In 2015, he qualified an UPSC exam for the post of the Deputy Director in Meteorology.
“Initially, I was skeptical about working in the department, but all my fears proved to be false. I didn’t know what to expect from Sonam (Lotus) Sir,” Dr Mukhtar said.
His fears turned out to be unfounded, as the celebrated weatherman took him under his wing and helped him learn the ropes of the trade. Now, the chemistry between them is such that Dr Mukhtar takes over in Sonum’s absence.
“Sonam Sir is a very dedicated person. Working with him is a pleasure. The way he coordinates with the staff of around 50 people is quite exemplary,” he said.
Both these men are fond of Kashmir.
“My experience of working in Kashmir has been great. We have immense public support, as people have a firm faith in our forecasts. For me, the valley is second home,” he said.
Reposing trust and confidence in them, people call them frequently to enquire about the weather.
“You won’t believe that we sometimes get calls till 3 in the night. Farmers and businessmen call us frequently,” he said.
“Farmers need to be sure about weather before spraying the costly pesticides or insecticides over their crops. The businessmen usually are concerned about the status of the highway.”
How exactly do they predict the weather and provide the information? Mukhtar explains: “We rely on the data gathered from advanced technological equipment including Doppler Weather Radar and Satellite Meteorology. This helps in data analysis through graphical information.”
Asked if the department faces any challenges in the conflict-ridden valley, Mukhtar said that every area has its own challenges.
“As long as you are in good health, every challenge can be overcome,” he said.

 
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Kashmir

FB’s #10 yr challenge: Netizens mock languishing govt projects in Kashmir

Hirra Azmat

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Srinagar, Jan 20: The #10year challenge–the latest rage on Facebook is triggering an unintended consequence in Kashmir.

It has thrown light on the abysmal pace of execution of key developmental projects.
In Kashmir, the government works are conceived and launched with much fanfare, but years, and in some cases decades, pass before they see the light of day.

The #10year challenge, new fad that has taken Facebook by storm and involves a person juxtaposing his or her decade-old photo with the current one, has seen Kashmiri people sharing photos of the incomplete government works here.

 

Netizens mostly share two similar photos of an incomplete pillar of the Jehangir Chowk-Ram Bagh (JCRB) flyover project, which was announced in 2009 and is still incomplete.

The project has missed multiple deadlines. To shut up the criticism they were receiving for the delay, the authorities opened up one way traffic on the first phase of the project, the overall completion of which is still a distant dream.

Announced in 2009, the construction on the flyover, funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) at an estimated cost of Rs 359 crore, began in 2013, with September 2016 set as its first deadline. The then chief minister Omar Abdullah had laid the foundation of the flyover.

Apart from JCRB, the other major projects which were started years ago but are yet to be completed include: Boulevard widening project, construction of tunnel on the Mughal Road, and widening of an arterial passage in the capital city, Syed Meerak Shah-Zakura road.
Government had approved the Boulevard widening project in 2009 and had directed the concerned authorities to complete the project on fast-track basis. However, the project is yet to be completed.
The next project following suit is the construction of the tunnel on the Mughal Road.
Fourteen years since the Government of India approved its construction, the project is yet to see the light of the day. The project was approved in 2004, when the PDP shared power with Congress in the state. The proposal was for seven-kilometre long tunnel between Zaznar and Chathapani at 3,000 meters altitude on the 230-year-old Mughal road.
However, the work on the project is yet to be started as a result the road remains closed for nearly six months each year.
Similarly, in 2009 authorities started expansion of the Syed Meerak Shah Road from Dalgate to Zakura, primarily for facilitating smooth flow of vehicular movement through congested areas of old city Srinagar.
The widening project for the 10.33 kilometre road estimated at Rs 336.24 crore was aimed to serve as key surface link to old city Srinagar, Hazratbal shrine and the University of Kashmir. However, ten years have gone by but the project is still lingering.

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257 militants killed in 2018 is highest in 4 years

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New Delhi, Jan 20: Jammu and Kashmir witnessed the killing of 257 militants in 2018 – the highest in four years – by government forces, official figures show.
A total of 213 militants were killed in 2017, 150 in 2016 and 108 in 2015.
While 142 militants were eliminated in anti-militancy operations till August 31, the rest were killed in the remaining four months.
An official told IANS that August witnessed the killing of 25 militants – the highest in a single month in 2018.
Also, 105 militants were arrested and 11 surrendered in 2018. The number arrested in 2017 was 97, 79 in 2016 and 67 in 2015.
Government forces also secured surrendering a higher surrender of militants in 2018, which was almost six times more compared to 2017. Only two militants surrendered in 2017 against one in 2016. No militant surrendered in 2015.
The data further revealed that the number of violent incidents were also at a peak during 2018 – almost one-and-half times more than 279 incidents in 2017. A total of 223 violent incidents were registered in 2016 and 143 in 2015.
The security forces also seized 153 AK rifles in 2018 — a dip from 213 in 2017, data accessed by IANS revealed. The number was 178 in 2016 and 177 in 2015.
An official deployed in internal security in Jammu and Kashmir said AK-47 assault rifles were the preferred weapon of militants.
The official, who did not want to be named, said that over 300 militants, including foreigners, were still active in the Kashmir Valley, especially in south Kashmir, which is the epicentre of militancy for over three years now.
“And these militants have been continuously attempting to radicalize youngsters in the Valley to take up arms and to shed fear of getting killed,” said the official.
“Militants were known to monitor activities of youngsters on social media – Facebook and Twitter — who are inclined to militant activities and hardcore religious activities,” the official added.

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Mehbooba among ‘strongest’ CMs of JK: Beg

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Srinagar, Jan 20: Senior Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leader Mehboob Beg on Sunday hailed party president Mehbooba Mufti as one of the most consistent and strongest chief ministers of Jammu and Kashmir.
Beg, in a statement, said no matter if she is in the government or in the opposition she remained “steadfast”.
“Her politics and conviction finds basis in her ‘pro-people belief’, how she handled the Kathua rape case is a case in-point,” the statement said.
He said that the PDP president resisted the “sinister attempt to disturb and dislodge the tribal community and ensured no politics was played on this issue.”
Beg said: “Mehbooba’s stand was made crystal clear to the all-powerful central government as well, the Home Minister offered unconditional talks, the cases against protestors were withdrawn, the unilateral ceasefire was announced, how can we not appreciate her persisting with pro-people policies and made the BJP agree to matters that were politically inconvenient to them.”
“She took stands very well realizing that she did not have the numbers to dictate terms to the BJP, yet she persisted and since the BJP did not have the intentions to fulfill the terms agreed upon, they had to pull-out,” he said.
He claimed in the statement that the BJP had entered into this coalition by signing on dotted lines, the Agenda of Alliance was a carefully drafted ‘pro-people’ document.
Beg said “it appears that the BJP had no intention to fulfill what they had committed to do, one cannot do much about if somebody intends to cheat and deceive you.”
“We have had people waste historical opportunities. 1996 was a historic opportunity, the government of the day had overwhelming numbers, but did that government dare to take ‘pro-people’ stands? Let history be the judge on that,” he added.

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