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Municipal Polls: Bleak show as 92% stay away from polls

Firdous Hassan

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Srinagar, Oct 8:Kashmir on Monday preferred to stay away from the polls, as only 8.3 percent of the electorate preferred to cast their vote in the first phase of Municipal elections held in the state after 13 years.

While Jammu and Kargil pushed the overall turnout of the state to 56.7 percent, Kashmir would have come up with even bleaker numbers had not the day ended with 32.3 percent polls in 18 municipal wards of district Kupwara.

Of 84,692 electorates in the valley, only 7,057 turned up at the polling booths manned by a barrage of police and paramilitary forces.

 

Except Kupwara (32.6 %) and Budgam (17%), the final turnout in the rest of the districts remained in single digits.

In 16 polling wards of Bandipora Municipal Committee that went to polls, the final turnout was mere 3.4 per cent.

Similarly, in Srinagar where polling was held in three wards, the Joint Hurriyat’s boycott call was mostly followed by the people as only 6.2 per cent turned up to cast their votes.

The polling booth at Bemina, Bagh-e-Mehtab and Humhama, despite well-guarded by the forces, remained deserted for a major part of the day.

Out of the 30,074 voters in three wards of the Srinagar Municipal Corporation, 1,862 turned up at heavily-fortified polling stations.

At noon, clashes broke out between the government forces and protestors in Bagh-e-Mehtab and Machuwa area of Srinagar when the polls were underway.

A group of protesters assembled near the railway bridge in Muchwa near Baghi Mehtab Srinagar and pelted the government forces, already deployed near the bridge, with stones. However, no injuries were reported.

The government forces responded by firing teargas shells.

Fearing outrage for defying boycott call, many people who exercised their vote in these polling stations tried every means to keep their identity hidden.

At all the three polling stations of Srinagar, including Bemina, Bagh-e-Mehtab and Humhama, while women were seen covering faces with headscarves, men wore caps or pheran to be as discreet as possible while entering the polling stations.

At Bemina polling agents had kept on job their fellow voters to keep an eye on the people trying to click their photographs.

Photojournalists, too, were attacked by voters during morning hours at the polling station.

“It has happened for the first time that photojournalists were attacked by people during polling. They actually didn’t want to be photographed,” said Faizan Altaf, a photojournalist working with a local Urdu newspaper.

Anantnag witnessed a slightly higher voter turnout out as compared to Srinagar, where 7.3 per cent of the electorates came out to exercise their franchise.

Initially, the district saw five per cent voting till 1pm in all the four wards, which later dropped as only 7.3 per cent voter turnout was recorded at 4 pm.

All the roads leading to the four polling stations were sealed as heavy deployment of forces were witnessed.

As per the reports people who cast their votes too preferred not to be identified  and even rejected being inked by the polling agents.

In Bandipora where minimum voter turnout was recorded in 16 wards under first phase, a woman and a BJP candidate was injured during clashes between forces and stone pelters.

Adil Ahmad Buhru, a BJP candidate who is contesting from Ward-15   received minor injuries when a group of protesters pelted him with stones. However, Buhru was soon taken to district Hospital Bandipora for the treatment where he is said to be stable now.

 

A woman identified as Shabeena, wife of Javid Ahmad Dar of Lankreshipora sustained pellet during clashes in the area.

Shabeena was soon rushed to Bandipora’s district hospital for the treatment, where she is said to be stable now.

Baramulla, where polls were held in 15 wards also choose to stay away from polls as only 5.1 voter turnout was recorded in the district.

While no incident of violence was recorded, those who turned to vote were highly guarded by forces on way to the polling booth.

Frontier district Kupwara, saw a least impact of boycott call by Hurriyat where people in number came out of their homes to exercise the franchise in all 18 wards.

Peoples Conference Chief, Sajjad Gani Lone, also casted his vote and took a dig at National Conference (NC) and People Democratic Party (PDP) for boycotting the Municipal Polls.

In contrast, municipal bodies in the Jammu and Leh region witnessed a healthy participation of electorates.

In Jammu division, the Jammu district in 153 wards recorded a voter turnout of 63.8 per cent, while Poonch (26 wards) and Rajouri (59 wards) recorded 73.1 per cent and 81 per cent, respectively.

Addressing a press conference in Jammu, the DC Jammu Ramesh Kumar said that ULB polls held in J&K through EVMs after 13 years ended peacefully in Jammu with minor reports of technical problems in EVMs in some areas.

“Some complaints from hypersensitive areas were also received during the day, but we had deployed adequate numbers of Jammu and Kashmir Police and Central Paramilitary forces’ personnel,” he said.

The DC Jammu said that micro observers, who were independent officers of the Central government, were also deployed at the hypersensitive and sensitive polling stations across Jammu to ensure smooth conduct of polls.

He said that the ULB polls carry huge significance for Jammu and Kashmir State as after the polls, all municipalities of the State will get proper funding from the Central Government.

The counting of votes, as per the DC will take place on October 22 with declaration of results the same day.

Kargil and Leh also responded to the polls enthusiastically, where 78.2 and 55.2 polling percentage was recorded in 13 wards each, respectively.

As many as 321 wards went for polls under first phase across the state in which 5, 86,064 electorates were supposed to exercise their franchise.

Official records suggest there were no candidate for 23 wards while only one candidate each had filed nomination for 78 wards who are thus elected unopposed.

Of 820 polling station across the state, 138 polling stations were categorized as hypersensitive in Kashmir, while 52 in Jammu division.

Separatist leaders including Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Syed Ali Shah Gilani were put under house arrest on Sunday evening while Muhamamd Yaseen Malik was also detained.

Militants also backed separatists appeal for boycott elections and have threatened for dire consequence to the candidates and voters.


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Kashmir receives fresh snowfall, aerial traffic affected

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By Tabish Shafi

Srinagar, Jan 17: Kashmir on Wednesday received fresh snowfall affecting the aerial traffic and bringing life to halt.

The fresh snowfall in this morning across the Valley disrupted the normal life in Kashmir with surface traffic remaining suspended for a day while as the Srinagar-Jammu highway remained open despite the snowfall.

 

Authorities in Srinagar Airport said that the flights to and from Srinagar were suspended in view of the prevailing weather conditions as well as the poor visibility.

Officials said that flights will be operational once the weather conditions and visibility will improve.”Due to bad weather/ heavy snowfall, all flights have been cancelled”.

Meanwhile, the 300-km long Srinagar-Jammu highway was open for one-way traffic as there was little or no snowfall in south Kashmir parts on Wednesday.

“Road Status: #Srinagar-Jammu highway open, Traffic plying from Srinagar to #Jammu; Srinagar-Kargil road Closed; Anantnag-Kishtwar road Closed; Mughal Road closed; Bandipora-Gurez road closed; Kupwara-Karnah, Kupwara-Keran, Kupwara-Machail roads closed. @JmuKmrPolice,” Police tweeted.

Director of Meteorological department (MeT), Sonum Lotus said that the light rains as well as snowfall were predicted by the department earlier. “The reports of moderate snowfall were received from some places in Kashmir today,” he said.

He added that the weather would remain mostly cloudy in Kashmir from Jan 18-19, saying that from Jan 19 evening onwards; there is possibility of light rains and snowfall at isolate places.

Lotus further added that the MeT has predicted highly dynamic weather till Jan 23 in Kashmir. “From Jan 20-23, there is possibility of moderate rains and snowfall across the Valley,” he said, adding that the surface as well as the road traffic would also get affected due to the snow spell.

Meanwhile, the state administration claimed to have adequate measures to ensure basic facilities and road clearance during and in the aftermath of fresh snowfall.

The top officials held a series of meetings so far to finalize arrangements in this regard.

The respective district administrations have also asked the officials to gear up for the fresh snow spell as predicted by the Meteorological department

Meanwhile, the day temperatures across the Kashmir Valley nosedived amid fresh snowfall.

A meteorological department official told that Srinagar recorded a maximum of 1.0 degree Celsius, more than six degrees below normal for this time of the year. The capital city saw 5.4 mm of snow (when converted into rain) from 0830 to 1730 hours.

The famous hill resort of Pahalgam recorded a maximum of minus 1.6 degree Celsius and saw snowfall of 8.5mm.
Qazginund, the gateway town of Kashmir, saw a maximum of 2.2 degrees Celsius while Kokernag, also in south Kashmir, recorded a maximum of 1.1 degrees Celsius. Both these places saw zero or traces of snowfall.

The MeT official said the famous ski-resort of Gulmarg in north Kashmir saw a maximum of minus 2.4 degrees Celsius and it had a snowfall of 15.2 mm during the day.

Kupwara town in north Kashmir registered a maximum of 0.8 degrees Celsius, the official said.

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JK showcases tourism potential at Asia’s largest travel show

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NEW DELHI, JANUARY 16: Launching its aggressive marketing campaign, the Department of Tourism, participated in the 3-day South Asian Travel and Tourism Exhibition (SATTE) travel show which began here on Wednesday.

SATTE is one of the biggest travel shows in Asia providing platform for travel agents, tour operators, hoteliers, destination management companies, tourism boards to sell their products and network to their potential clients from across the globe.

Besides, J&K Tourism Department, over hundred travel agents, hoteliers, other service providers and heads of the various travel and hotel associations from the Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh regions are participating in the travel show to showcase the State’s tourism potential.

 

Secretary Tourism, Rigzin Samphel, Director Tourism Kashmir Nisar Ahmad Wani and Director Tourism Jammu Om Prakash Bhagat along with other senior officers from the Department participated in the travel show.

They had an interaction with the leading travel agents from within and outside the country and apprised them about the State’s tourism products.

“SATTE is one of the largest tourism shows in Asia where we can promote our tourism destinations. The department will provide all the information about the JK’s destinations, products, services to the visitors to attract them to the state,” the Secretary Tourism said.

Over 20000 visitors, including domestic and international sellers and buyers, State tourism officials, heads of international tourism boards, hoteliers, and aviation experts showcased their products and services to the global trade community.

The travel show also provides an opportunity for the state tourism department to conduct business sessions with the visitors during the travel show.

On the first day, the Tourism Department of at its pavilion screened short films on different destinations for the visitors who were mesmerized to see the stunning beauty. It also showcased State’s splendid art, craft and sumptuous traditional food.

A large number of visitors turned up at J&K pavilion to inquire about the State’s tourism products, new destinations and infrastructure development.

The Department informed them about the pilgrim, MICE, heritage, art and craft, food, known and lesser-known destinations of all the three regions of the state.

The Department also distributed comprehensive publicity material in the form of brochures and pamphlets, pen drives containing travel videos of different destinations to the visitors at its pavilion.

During the convention, Secretary Tourism, Director Tourism Kashmir, Director Tourism Jammu along with heads of local travel and hospitality sector will also hold separate meet with media to apprise them about the Kashmir being the safe tourist destination.

The Director Tourism Kashmir said the department has planned series of road shows and shall also participate in travel marts in the next two months.

“We will be visiting major cities in the country for road shows. We have also planned road shows in countries like Malaysia, Thailand and Bangladesh where from we have got a good response from the travellers,” he said.

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All election formalities to be completed by Feb end: Sources

Kashmir News Service

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Srinagar, Jan 16 : All election formalities in Jammu and Kashmir are likely to be completed by February end after which the Election Commission of India will take a final call on the dates for the conduct of Lok Sabha and Assembly elections simultaneously.

Top sources while disclosing this to Kashmir News Service (KNS) revealed that the Jammu and Kashmir government has fast paced the process of completing election formalities for both Lok Sabha and Assembly elections by February end and the final electoral roles are likely to be published anytime after January 20.

As already reported the Jammu and Kashmir Chief Electoral Officer Shailendra Kumar held video conference on finalization of electoral roles and other election related arrangements with all the district election officers (DEOs) of all the three regions of the state Tuesday this week.

 

Sources said the authorities in the election commission will work on the suitability of the location of polling booths across Jammu and Kashmir after January 20 and the process is likely to be completed by February 15.

The Election Commission of India, sources said, is likely to take a final call on the dates for the conduct of Lok Sabha and Assembly elections simultaneously earliest by February end and latest by March 15 and the polling in Jammu and Kashmir is likely to be held in the month of April only.

The polling, sources said, is likely to be held in eight phases adding that the polls in south Kashmir however may be held exclusively on the day when polls in no other part of the state will be held keeping in view the volatile situation in four districts of south Kashmir.

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