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Need to regain lost trust in Kashmir: Governor

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Srinagar, Jan 02: Batting for regaining the lost trust and negating the misgivings in certain sections in Jammu and Kashmir, Governor N.N. Vohra on Tuesday said the State government sees 2018 as a year of opportunities and a period for fully exploiting all possible openings and opportunities.

He also called for tough and targeted actions by the security forces to ensure that the arc of violence does not spread from the fringes to the mainstream, to disrupt the lives in the valley yet again.

“We shall need to regain the lost trust and negate the misgivings in certain sections of our society [in Kashmir],” he said in his address to the joint session of the legislature in Jammu on Tuesday.

 

The Budget Session began on a stormy note as the Opposition staged a walkout during Vohra’s address to protest alleging failure of the PDP-BJP government on all fronts particularly security.

“The subsequent appointment by the Union government of a special representative to hold talks with the people belonging to all shades of opinion is recognition of the concern for widening the constituency of peace, to include even those who may have contrary ideological convictions,” Vohra said.

The Governor hoped that 2018 will prove to be a year of opportunities on several fronts.

“Government firmly believes that the elected and the electorate have equal stakes in the peace process and, together, they will have to rise against those who choose violence to disrupt the established order,” he said.

The governor further said “such challenges will be met through dialogue, which is the best means of resolving all disagreements.”

He said the government appeals to all those who had earlier refused to be part of the peace process to come forward and accept the special representative for Kashmir’s offer for engaging in dialogue.

 Vohra batted strongly for tough and targeted action by security forces to check violence.

“Government remains committed to taking all possible steps for building on the peace dividend and also remains equally determined to ensure that the arc of violence does not spread from the fringes to the mainstream, to yet again disrupt our lives. This will require tough and targeted actions by our security forces,” he said.

“For the past several months our security forces have been successfully carrying out targeted counter terrorist operations. While they shall engage in such operations whenever it is necessary to do so, it is hoped that these shall involve the least possible collateral damage to the lives and properties of innocent persons,” he said.

He also hailed the role of the brave hearts of Army, Central Armed Police Forces and the J&K Police who have been operating in the most difficult circumstances and laying down their lives in the fight against terror and violence.

He said that while the valour and sacrifices made by our police personnel cannot ever be viewed in monetary terms, the government has, to express it unbounded gratitude, taken several measures for further enhancing the welfare of our policemen and their families.

“Side by side, recognising the serious visual disabilities suffered by youth who received pellet injuries, government has decided to rehabilitate them and mitigate their sufferings to the maximum possible extent,” he added.

The Governor said that the government is aware of the growing aspirations of our students, some of whom have secured outstanding achievements in academics, sports and many other fields.

“As regards our youth who have been influenced and misled into deviating from the path, the government remains committed to weaning them away from the purveyors of violence,” he said.

Vohra said the real battle is “not on the streets but to combat and counter the deviation of the younger generation from the inherited values of our society.”

Asserting that the Government remains committed to take all possible steps for building on the peace dividend, he said it also remains equally determined to ensure that the arc of violence does not spread from the fringes to the mainstream, to yet again disrupt the people’s lives.

 “As regards our youth who have been influenced and misled into deviating from the path, the Government remains committed to weaning them away from the purveyors of violence. Thus the real battle is not on the streets but to combat and counter the deviation of the younger generation from the inherited values of the society. Government is committed to patiently listening to the youth and to do everything to bring them back to the fold,” he opined.

Describing as sad the enduring images of the happenings in 2016 related to stone pelting mobs on the streets and pictures of those who had received pellet injuries, he expressed satisfaction that the children have since gone back to where they belong, to schools and colleges, and are now doing their best to do well in their studies and in other activities.

The Governor said the government is well aware of the growing aspirations of the students, some of whom have secured outstanding achievements in academics, sports and many other fields.

The Governor said that recognizing its responsibility to rehabilitate the trauma-affected children, the Government has decided to promote their all-round development and, as a part of this effort, the Juvenile Homes in Harwan and R S Pura are being upgraded to provide rehabilitative facilities for the affected children. He further informed that the Government has also established 22 Juvenile Police Units across all districts of the State and proposes to establish 8 Juvenile Justice Boards and 8 Observation Homes in eight districts, during the current fiscal. The facilities at the existing Orphanages are also being upgraded.

Recalling that for the past several months the forces have been successfully carrying out targeted anti-militancy operations, the Governor hoped that these shall involve the least possible collateral damage to the lives and properties of innocent persons.

The Governor said that the Government is also committed to look after the Kashmiri Pandits who chose to stay back when their brethren left the Valley during the period of peak militancy. Recognizing the sacrifices made by the Kashmir based Pandits, Government has authorized their special recruitment under the Prime Minister’s Package, at par with their migrant brethren.

He said the tourism is the mainstay of the state’s economy. Around 1.2 million tourists, including over 26,000 foreigners, visited the State during 2017, despite unrest in the Valley and less than fair reporting by certain sections of the media. Further, more than 8 million pilgrims paid obeisance at Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine while about 2.60 lakh yatris visited Shri Amarnathji Shrine last year.

The Governor said that the Government will take all required steps to ensure that tourists from far and wide find their way back to the State. Towards this end, all infrastructural bottlenecks will be removed and the State’s strengths in this sector will be positively leveraged to not only build the required capacities but to also address the perception issues.


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Almost two months into the year: No action plan for districts submitted yet

Mudassir Kuloo

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Srinagar, May 20: The delay in finalizing the district action plans for the current year may hit the developmental works in Jammu and Kashmir.

Though the financial year began on April 1, the district development plans in the state are yet to be finalized for 2019-2020.

Principal Secretary, Finance Department, Arun Kumar Mehta, recently wrote a letter to district development commissioners to furnish the yearly district action plans.

 

“All district development commissioners shall initiate tendering process immediately after model code of conduct is over and ensure that process is completed before March 31 for commencement of works. The annual maintenance contract should be based on the rate of contract as per laid down rules and regulation,” the order reads.

It says that delay in furnishing of this information will entail “further” delay in the tendering process and have “cascading” effect on the executing of ongoing works.  It will subsequently lead to delay in execution of new works.

An official of the Planning and Development Department said that delay in finalising the district development plans would affect developmental works in Kashmir.

“The district development commissioners should have finalised the district development plans even though they were busy with elections. The Valley would be adversely affected due to delay in finalizing the district development plans as Kashmir has a limited working season,” the official said.

The Kashmir has a limited working season from May to October and the region’s developmental activities are worst affected when there is delay in the approval of annual plan or there is some disturbance in the Valley.

“The non-finalization of the plan would lead to delay in execution of works as funds remain unspent. Once the funds meant for Kashmir get lapsed, they are diverted to Jammu region,” the official added.

During 2018-2019, Rs 4,000 crore had lapsed in the state due to non-utilisation of funds.

District development commissioner formulates the plans with the assistance of district level officers as per guide lines and parameters set by Planning and Development Department.  The district development commissioner has to monitor all the developmental programmes in the district.

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Decline in number of local youth joining militancy: Army

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Jammu, May 20: Top Army commander, Lieutenant General Ranbir Singh, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of Northern Command Monday said even though the local militant recruitment has shown a significant decline, “the issue of local boys joining militancy remains a matter of concern.”

“Local recruitment remains a matter of concern for all of us. Last year, we had 217 local youth who had picked up militancy. This year, the number has significantly reduced and as on date there are only 40 youth who have picked up arms,” Lieutenant General Singh said while addressing the media in Udhampur.

Out of 40, six were killed in various encounters in South and North Kashmir while as three had returned. The Army had claimed that its appeal to Kashmiri mothers was proving a success as youth who had picked up arms were returning back to the mainstream.

 

According to the figures available with the KNO, in 2017, the number of youth who had picked up arms in J&K was around 240 that reduced to 2017 in 2018.  In 2016, the number was around 200, as per the official figures.

The Army commander said that one of the key reasons for locals picking up gun was the “radicalization and exploitation of social media by Pakistani agencies.” The army commander said that Pakistan was feeling “starved” due to a very effective counter infiltration grid of the Indian Army.

It is pertinent to mention that only 40 youth joining militancy this summer so far in Jammu and Kashmir is lowest ever since 2016. However, officials assert that they won’t take a chance and will ensure local militant recruitment remains plugged in remaining months of the year especially the summer months when infiltration is expected to pick up due to melting of snow. According to officials, no foreign militant was killed on the LoC this year so far.

‘VDCs useful, need to energise them’

Press Trust of India

Udhampur, May 20: The Army Monday batted strongly for “energising” village defence committees (VDCs) in Jammu and Kashmir calling them a “useful instrument” for the state.

The VDCs were setup in the mid-1990s with an aim to strengthen the security of those living in remote and mountainous areas of Doda, Kishtwar, Ramba, Rajouri, Reasi, Kathua and Poonch districts of the region.
A total of 4,125 VDCs exist in the state. “VDCs are most useful instrument available with the state”, General Officer Commanding in Chief (GoC-In-C), Northern Command, Lt Gen Ranbir Singh told reporters here.

“They (VDCs) are always to be energised and they shall be able to take on responsibility (of securing the villages in remote and hilly areas) tasked to them,” he added. The Army commander said that it must be ensured that the volunteers are provided weapons so that they can “defend their villages and pass information to the security forces regarding movement and presence of militants.”

“All have to play a role to ensure peace and normalcy in Jammu and Kashmir,” he said. Notably, the Army has reached out to VDCs in various districts to strengthen the security apparatus of the population of rural and remote areas in Jammu region.

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Suffering in silence: Sexual abuse takes heavy toll on children in Kashmir

Hirra Azmat

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Srinagar, May 20: Ahmad’s room is a witness to his feats. His glass almirah is decorated with trophies and certificates that he won for his excellent grades and extra circular activities. A brilliant student, he was looking forward to top the upcoming matriculation exams when world suddenly came crashing down. His grades started falling and he turned aggressive by the day. What complicated the problem was his addiction to cannabis and psychotropic drugs.

“He shed a sea of tears while narrating his ordeal. It wasn’t the drug abuse; it was the sexual abuse that had worsened his mental health. His classmate had sexually assaulted him in front of group of boys and mocked him”, said the counselor at a private school in the valley.

Ahmad is not the isolated case. Rizwan (name changed), 16, fainted in class when the teacher was delivering a lecture. His sister and her husband rushed to the school and took him to the physician. The doctor gave some medicines for dehydration and didn’t take it seriously. The problem didn’t end here. The boy refused to eat or drink and locked himself in the room throughout the day.

 

“He looked like corpse when he was brought here. The reason for his high level of anxiety was the sexual abuse he faced. He was sodomised by his elder brother. We made the brother apologize before him. That has alleviated his pain to some extent,” said the counselor at Department of psychiatry, SMHS.

Mental health counselors’ note that the sexual abuse of young boys and girls mostly go unreported because of the family taboos. “They think it will bring humiliation to the family and the only thing they can do for the victim other than counseling is to make the perpetrator apologize”, said a counselor

Even children are often scared to report the abuse. “Many cases of abuse are not reported.  Most of the time it remains a secret crime, unless the victim is bold enough to tell someone about it. Mostly such crimes remain under wraps. This abuse can take place at home school or in places where child labour is common”, said Ezabir Ali, a noted Social Activist.

Experts dealing with such cases say most sexual abuse offenders are acquainted with their victims and they can be relatives of the child, most often brothers, fathers, uncles, or cousins; neighbors and even strangers.

“What can be done? We need to encourage children to speak. The communication channel between parents (especially mother) and children should be open so that the child feels confident to shares when something is not going right. We need to make children aware of good touch and bad touch”, said Ali.

Psychiatrists say that childhood sexual abuse is less talked about and least researched in spite of being associated with a broad array of adverse long term consequences for survivors.

“It creates powerlessness, betrayal, stigmatization, and sexualization; each having a profound effect on further development of child. Using Victims of childhood sexual abuse report more symptoms of anxiety and depression”, said Dr Arshad Hussain, a leading psychiatrist who works as associate professor, psychiatry at Government Medical College, Srinagar.

What has complicated the problem is that there is a dearth of counselors in schools who can tackle such issues. “A handful of counselors at some noted private schools and colleges remain confined to being just academic counselors. We have to increase the domain of counselling”, said Dr Saima Farhad, Professor at MSW Department in University of Kashmir.

According to Dr Saima, there are three levels by which we can curb such incidents, “The first step begins from the family. Parents have to make their children understand the difference between good touch and bad touch. The second level begins at the school. We have a lot of Co-ed schools. The teachers have to make the students aware about the difference between a boy and a girl and at the same ensure that no difference is being done based on their gender”, she said

Experts suggest a separate wing in the police department to deal with the sex abuse cases for speedy justice.

“We have dearth of investigating officers in police stations. There is one IO in every police station and he is single-handedly dealing with 10-15 cases. The delay happens because we have to multi-task. There should be a separate wing for law and order, a wing for dealing with cases for CSA and qualitatively segregating the options”, said an investigating officer, who requested anonymity.

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