Srinagar, Oct 16: The NC and the PDP should not have boycotted the civic polls, Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik said Tuesday, asserting that articles 35A and 370 of the Constitution were non-issues in this election.
The National Conference (NC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had announced not to contest the polls over the legal challenge to the articles.
Expressing satisfaction over the peaceful conduct of the polls, Malik, in an exclusive interview to PTI soon after the conclusion of the urban local body elections’ final phase, said, “It (the response) has been very good.”
“Today (Tuesday) Srinagar saw 9,578 votes being cast. Ganderbal saw 1,000 votes. The turnout is better than some recent elections,” he said.
The real achievement of the elections was that it was conducted peacefully and people came out to vote without any fear, the governor said.
“The real factor is being overlooked. The four-phased elections has been concluded and not a bird was harmed, it was a peaceful election.
“There were no complaints of any malpractices or violation of the model code or interference by the government,” he said.
Elections to 79 municipal bodies in the state started October 8 and ended Tuesday. It was held in four phases.
Asked if the polls could have been conducted any better in view of the low voter turnout in Kashmir, Malik said it could not have been any better.
“This was the best… I congratulate the administration, police and the people that they came out without fear to participate in the polls.
“The disappointment is that the political parties should not have boycotted. They should have participated in the elections… There was no benefit for (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi or me … They should have allowed the people to vote. This is a posturing for assembly elections,” he said.
Malik attributed the low voter turnout to several factors, including the Hurriyat Conference influence, the boycott by the NC and the PDP, and the fear of the gun.
“Two parties boycotted, Hurriyat had called for boycott, there were militant threats and also non-issues were made into issues like (Article) 35-A and (Article) 370. These were the reasons that turnout was little less but I want to tell you that Muslim areas like Rajouri, Poonch and Uri saw 70 to 80 per cent voter turnout,” he said.
The Constitution’s Article 35A, which was incorporated in the Constitution by a 1954 Presidential Order, accords special rights and privileges to the citizens of Jammu and Kashmir and bars people from outside the state from acquiring any immovable property in the state.
Article 370 is a “temporary provision” with respect to Jammu and Kashmir and restricts the applicability of various provisions of the Constitution by “curtailing” the power of Parliament to make laws on subjects which fall under the Union and Concurrent lists.
Asked if the administration had any plans to woo the people back to the democratic process in view of the panchayat polls due next month, Malik said he would again appeal to the people to participate in these elections as it could bring in huge funds for development of local areas of these panchayats.
“I will again appeal to the people to take part in the panchayat elections because every panchayat will get a crore of rupees. How much loss is that for the development? These elections are not party based.
“They (the NC and the PDP) can field even proxy candidates. If the number of candidates is high, the possibility of violence will be low,” he said.
JK’s liability swells
Srinagar, Jan 17: Similar to previous years, Jammu and Kashmir has accrued a liability of over Rs 7,000 crore in the ongoing fiscal even as experts blame state’s political leadership for not finding a solution to the issue.
Official documents of the finance department reveal that the state is running a liability of Rs 7,531 crore so far this fiscal, a figure close to the annual build-up J&K witnesses every year.
The total liabilities for the state have now swelled up to over Rs 68,000 crore.“The three fiscal parameters–revenue deficit, fiscal deficit and outstanding liability–indicate the extent of overall fiscal balance in the finances of the state government during the specified period. The nature of deficit is an indicator of the prudence of budgetary policy of the state government. Another useful measure of the deficit-base in a state’s fiscal policy is the State’s Own Deficit (SOD),” the documents reveal.
Noted economist, Professor Nisar Ali said the state’s expenditure and revenue system has been “mismanaged”.“The power purchase has been an important factor for swelling liabilities. The GST has further increased the mismanagement between expenditure and tax revenue,” he said.
Prof Ali also blamed J&K’s political leadership for increasing liabilities.“The annual liabilities increase due to power purchases despite the state having huge hydro resources. The state’s leadership has failed to fight for the return of power projects.
“It also depends upon the government of India how it wants to find a solution to this problem,” he added.
Endorsing Prof Ali’s views, a senior official of the finance department said that little or no use of revenue generation avenues, increasing power purchases and bulging expenditure on salaries are the main contributors to the escalating liabilities of the state.“There is a steep rise in salary and pension bills, power deficit, rising interest liabilities, loan repayments, and deficit on account of non-tax revenue,” the official said.
Conducive atmosphere inevitable for dialogue: Farooq
Srinagar, Jan 17: Former Chief Minister and National Conference (NC) president, Dr Farooq Abdullah on Thursday said that the favourable atmosphere is inevitable for dialogue, which is the only way out to settle the issues.
Addressing party workers in Jammu, Dr Farooq said that the dialogue is the only way out to resolve the issues but there is a need of conducive atmosphere which is inevitable. He added that “under the shades of gun, no dialogue process is possible. We have to stop bullet culture for lasting peace in the region.”
“NC has also given priority to the people. When I became Chief Minister in 1996, I fought with many things as the school were shut, no bridge was there, no office was functioning as the people were frightened by the turmoil then, but I stood up to fight against the forces who were inimical to peace.”
About 35 percent reservation in other states, Dr Farooq said that the incumbent Chief Minister of Odissa, Naveen Patnayak has written to him, suggesting there should be reservation of 35 percentfor women in Jammu and Kashmir also. “We will implement the law, which will ensure 35 percent reservation to women in the State once getting into the power,” he said.
However, he said that it is not easy to take such decisions as when his government took a decision to make 50 percent reservation for girls in Medical College then some people knocked the door of Supreme Court to put halt over the decision.
Dr Farooq also appealed the party workers to work hard and ensure the win of NC leaders who will be contesting the elections.
Abundant snowfall in January makes Gulmarg the perfect winter-destination for tourists
Srinagar, Jan 17: Unlike last January, the abundant snowfall so far this month has attracted a lot of tourists to Gulmarg as the destination is brimming with over 90 per cent occupancy these days.
The valley has received at least four moderate to heavy snowfalls this year with an even stronger wet spell predicted from January 19 to 23.
Tourists from across the world are cherishing this and making their way to Gulmarg, whose slopes offer a perfect destination for skiing.
Speaking to The Kashmir Monitor, CEO Gulmarg Development Authority, Syed Hanief Balkhi said that most of the hotels are fully occupied as people are heading to Gulmarg to enjoy the charismatic scenery offered by the snow-covered hills.“Gulmarg is under 4-5 feet snow and is looking like a playground these days. Tourists from India and abroad enjoy skiing, snow cycling, ice skating, snow-sculptor activity, sledge-racing and other games here,” he said.
Apart from the hoteliers, the rush of the tourists, Balkhi said, has provided good workdays for sledge keepers, skating guides, local cab drivers and many others associated with tourism.
In 2018, as per the official figures, Gulmarg received 5.76 lakh tourists as compared to 5.69 lakh in the preceding year.
The tourism players also expressed satisfaction over the rush of tourists heading to the valley.
President Hotel and Restaurant Owners Federation, Wahid Malik said that snowfalls have pushed up the number of tourists visiting the valley.
“Gulmarg saw lesser arrival when winters begun, however, now the snow has ensured all the hotels and resorts are booked,” he said adding that Gulmarg hotels are running on 90 per cent occupancy so far this season.
Gulmarg is declared the ‘heartland of winter sports in India’ by the Winter Games Federation. This year too, Gulmarg Tourism Authority is going to organise winter sports carnival starting from the first week of February.
Additional Director Tourism Department, Nasir Khan said that Gulmarg is “rocking these days as it has received 34,712 and 35,022 tourists in the month of November and December”.
“We are going to organize the winter carnival from the next month to make the place more attractive,” he said.
He added that night market and cultural shows will also be arranged by the department.