Srinagar, Dec 14: Peoples Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti Friday said there was a need to replace the idea of ‘Azaad Kashmir’ with a better one within the framework of the Indian Constitution.
Addressing a seminar ‘Kashmir – The Way Forward’ at the Observer Research Foundation in Mumbai, Mehbooba said, “We need to replace the idea of Azad Kashmir with a better idea within the framework of the Indian Constitution. We cannot go back to 1947, we have to move forward.”
Mehbooba, who led the PDP-BJP coalition government for over two years, said governance was only possible when there is peace.
“Thank God we are living in a democracy where people are allowed to vote and not cows,” she said.
“Kashmiris are the sufferers. Till when will our people keep witnessing this farce of people getting killed? Youngsters are taking up the guns. A 17-year-old boy who played a role in Hyder movie and 14-year-old boy recently got killed after they took up the arms.”
Referring to her coalition government with the BhartiyaJanta Party (BJP) in 2014, Mufti said it was a “suicide”.
“We put everything at stake because we hoped that Narendra Modi will pick up where Vajpayee Ji had left. Unfortunately, Modi ji could not rise to the occasion. Like Vajpayee, we invited him to address a gathering of around 30,000 people in Srinagar. Instead reaching out to people, he said he did not need anybody’s advice. We (Kashmir) are sufferers. If he does not listen to us, whom will he listen to?” she asked.
She said there was a total “distrust and disconnect” between people of Kashmir and New Delhi Delhi.
“They look inwards or outwards (outside the border) for support. During the time of Vajpayee, the people of Kashmir thought of him as a leader who cared,” she said.
“Even Pakistan responded positively resulting in reduction of militancy and ceasefire. Between 2002-05, it was the golden period of Kashmir, since for the first time the CM of Kashmir and PM of India were on the same page. Even Mirwaiz Umar, Yasin Malik, Prof Abdul Gani Bhat went New Delhi and met Vajpayee.”
She asked New Delhi to make Kashmiris its integral part instead talking only about the land.
“Vajpayee did not hand over Kashmir to Pakistan but he realised the pain of Kashmiris. But the Indian leadership is only stuck that Kashmir is an integral part of India without talking about its people. New Delhi has to make Kashmiris its integral part.”
While her party is losing more people in last few days, including former cabinet ministers, Mehbooba said she felt that SAARC countries were being held hostage to the animosity between India and Pakistan.
“For example, why can’t we have a SAARC Handicrafts University in Kashmir?” she asked.
“India is never an issue during Pakistan elections. However, that is not the case in India. It is for the country to rise up, reach the Kashmiris and find a solution. All the SAARC nations must come together and make Jammu and Kashmir a model of cooperation.”
“Unfortunately, the media which is an important stakeholder in this discussion, is only adding fuel to the fire. The shaking of fists and shouting at one another is not representative of the real Kashmir. We need to change the discourse,” she 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.