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Post Snowfall: Parts of Kashmir still wait for basic govt support

Mudassir Kuloo

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Srinagar, Nov 8: Five days after Kashmir received widespread snowfall, the people in parts of the valley say the administration is yet to restore basic amenities.
Kashmir was hit by snowfall on Saturday and Sunday, resulting in power breakdown.
Around 20 to 30 percent of the standing apple crop in orchards across the valley got damaged in the November snowfall happening after nine years.
However, many areas of Kashmir are still craving for basic facilities.
In south Kashmir’s Kokernag, the government has failed to restore the electricity.
“The electricity is yet to be restored in many parts of Kokernag. These areas have been reeling under darkness for the last six days,” Abdul Jabbar, a local said.
The MLA Kokenag, Abdul Rahim Rather, has expressed his concern over the delay caused in the restoration of electricity in his constituency.
He termed the assurances given by the government regarding the early restoration of electricity as “hollow and baseless”.
“People of my constituency have been suffering terribly due to the absence of electricity since the start of the recent bad weather and snowfall,” Rather said.
He further stressed upon the Governor administration to clear snow from Gowran to Madwa-Wadwan.
Shabir Ahmad, a resident of Kokernag, said the students preparing for different exams were not able to study in absence of the electricity. “We have been without electricity for the last many days. Many roads have not been cleared of the snow,” Shabir said.
Mohammad Usman, a resident of Langate, said they received electricity only for a few hours.
“The education of our children is suffering badly. We have to sit under candle light during evening hours,” he said.
State Congress chief G A Mir has urged upon the Governor administration to restore Lissar Power Grid Station due to snowfall. “It has left Kokernag, Veerinag and other adjoining areas without electricity,” Mir said.
Expressing serious concern over the problems confronting people in Veerinag, Kokernag and surrounding areas, Mir blamed that divisional administration for failing to make Lissar Grid Stations functional, saying that “few inches of snow have exposed the preparedness of the Govt”.
He urged upon the divisional administration to gear up, making Power Development Department accountable.
National Conference said that the assessment to ascertain the losses to farmers has not been commenced.
South Zone President Dr. Bahsir Ahmad Veeri said that the affected farmers have suffered immense losses due to the vagaries of weather.
“The marginalized farmers are at receiving end of all this. Most of the farmers had pinned their hopes on the annual produce to pay for their loans and other debts but the fury of nature left them wailing,” he said.
He said that electricity hasn’t been restored in many hamlets of the south Kashmir.
“The day-to-day working of the secondary and tertiary health care systems has been affected toting up the miseries of common people.”
Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir, Baseer Ahmad Khan said he would look into these issues.
“People shall also approach the concerned authorities related to grievances and addressing of any problems,” Khan added.

‘Farmers call for an immediate assessment of losses’

Srinagar, Nov 8: Expressing concern over the losses caused to horticulture by snowfall across Kashmir Valley, a group of farmers from Pulwama district Thursday demanded immediate compensation to the affected orchardists.
“Thousands of fruit and other trees are reported to have suffered massive damages due to latest snowfall, witnessed throughout Kashmir valley. There should be immediate assessment of losses suffered by the farmers on account of this snowfall,” they demanded.
The farmers said that that thousands of apple trees have either been broken or uprooted due to snow. “The government must depute an expert team to assess the losses especially in South Kashmir which has been the worst hit,” they said and demanded early relief to the affected orchardists and farmers.
They said the farmers have since long been demanding for implementation of crop insurance scheme in Kashmir Valley to benefit the farmers’ community in the event of such natural calamities. “When you have crop insurance for Jammu why can’t it be implemented in Kashmir Valley,” they questioned.

 
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JK’s liability swells

Mudassir Kuloo

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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.

 

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Conducive atmosphere inevitable for dialogue: Farooq

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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.

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Abundant snowfall in January makes Gulmarg the perfect winter-destination for tourists

Bisma Bhat

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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.

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