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PUBLIC FUMES OVER POWER CUTS; PDD SAYS SERVICE UNLIKELY TO IMPROVE TILL FEB

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Srinagar, Jan 03: The power scenario in Kashmir has turned from bad to worse as the state’s Power Development Department (PDD) is following its whims and desires rather than the designated curtailment schedule of providing electricity.
The situation remains so despite the Centre, last month, announcing an additional grant of over 700 MWs to the state.
Sources, however, say the grant won’t provide any relief to the people as the state government did not have the required capacity to transmit the additional power supply.
“One of the factors responsible for this sad situation is the existing transmission system that has not the sufficient carrying capacity from the northern grid,” a source in PDD said.
As such, common people have been left to fend for themselves as the erratic power supply has made lives miserable.
Residents of at least a dozen metered and non-metered areas of the summer capital and a few other districts expressed their anger over the unpredictable power supply, which they claim is the poorest they have experienced in recent years.
For instance, locals of Srinagar’s Safa Kadal and its peripheries including Sekidafar, Ganderpora, Zari Masjid, Waniwar, Noorbagh, Rathpora and Malik Saab are livid with the supply.
“We only receive around four hours of electricity, at times it is six. Almost every day we have to eat our supper under lantern light,” says Umar Rashid, a resident of Safa Kadal periphery.
Rashid’s, like most old-city areas, has not been metered yet.
Hardly a kilometre away from where Rashid lives, Barbarshah has a different tale of woes.
“Aes che aasaan dohoi waer (each day we face curtailment during evening hours),” says Irfan, a middle-aged man, whose home is not more than a 500 metres away from city-centre Lal Chowk.
In local parlance, “Waer”, when it comes to electricity in Kashmir, is used for a scheduled cut-off of power during evening hours, mostly from 6 pm till 10 pm, when people need it the most.
Traditionally, only non-metered areas used to witness “waer” once or twice a week.
“We face it seven days a week,” claims Irfan.
“How can we wait until 10 pm that too of winters to have our supper? We are done with our food and chores by 9:30 pm. We don’t wait for it (electricity) anymore,” he says.
Furious with the poor supply, residents of Munawar, an area close by Barbarshah, blocked movement of traffic on the busy crossing in the uptown city for nearly an hour on Wednesday.
They, eventually, were appeased by cops, on whose ‘assurance’ the locals dispersed.
Go up the city, residents in areas like Natipora, Mehjoor Nagar, Padshahi Bagh, Nowgam, Chanapora and the like count only six to eight hours of electricity.
“That too in patches, like a sub-schedule within that schedule that they are supposed to follow. So, if they are supposed to resume it (electricity supply) from 9 am to 12:30 during the day, they will still cut it in 15 minute or so intervals. We sometimes feel, they take pleasure switching the supply on and off,” says Bilal Haroon, a resident of Chinar Lane in Natipora.
Irate comments, quips, and ‘this-is-the-limit’ remarks against PDD, was the response of many other residents of Nowgam, Dalgate, Magarmal Bagh, Batamaloo, Rainawari, Ellahi Bagh, Habba Kadal and Habak this reporter spoke with.
Chadoora’s Sogam and Anantnag’s main town has a similar tale to tell. All claiming that PDD hardly follows any schedule.
Chief Engineer PDD, Shehnaz Goni, however, refuses to trust the people’s statements.
“I don’t believe that any area from entire Kashmir gets less than 8 hours of electricity. About unscheduled curtailments, we do face such situation when there’s overloading in areas,” she told The Kashmir Monitor.
Asked would there be any improvement in the supply or should people expect the same or worse, she said: “The supply situation would remain the same, at least for this month. May be we will see some improvement in February.”


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ISIS claims responsibility for Colombo blasts, city on high alert

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Colombo: Islamic state has claimed responsibility for coordinated bombings in Sri Lanka which killed 321 people and injured about 500 others, the group’s AMAQ news agency said on Tuesday.

The group did not give evidence for its claim.

 

Sri Lanka on Tuesday placed all police stations in Colombo on high alert as police were hunting for an unidentified container truck and a van, believed to be carrying explosives.

A warning issued by the Director of Security at the Colombo Harbour said intelligence had found information that an unidentified container truck and a van carrying a potential explosive device was heading towards Colombo. Search operations are currently underway at the Colombo Harbour for the potential threat.

The alert came as the island nation observed a day of national mourning for over 320 people killed in a series on blasts on Easter Sunday.

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Phase III Lok Sabha polls: Anantnag to go to polls today

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Srinagar, Apr 22: The Anantnag Lok Sabha constituency in Jammu and Kashmir goes to the polls in the third phase on Tuesday even as the security forces face a serious challenge to ensure that the democratic process passes off peacefully.

Due to the overwhelming security concerns, the Anantnag parliamentary constituency comprising four districts — Anantnag, Kulgam, Shopian and Pulwama — will vote in three phases. Polling in Anantnag will be held on Tuesday, followed by Kulgam (April 29) and Pulwama and Shopian (May 6).Over 100 additional companies of Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) have been deployed to augment an already existing large contingent of state police and CAPF personnel deployed on poll duty in this constituency.

Because of the serious security challenges in the constituency, by-poll could not be held in Anantnag after Mehbooba Mufti, President of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), resigned the seat in 2016 to become the state’s Chief Minister following the death of her father, Mufti Muhammad Sayeed.

 

In addition to the presence of foreign militants, homegrown militancy is a big challenge here for the agencies maintaining ‘law and order’.

In the last four years, a large number of local youth, majority of them well-educated and belonging to upper middle class families, have joined militant ranks in the four districts of Anantnag, Shopian, Kulgam and Pulwama.

The problems for the security personnel have been compounded by stone pelting at armed forces during security operations against holed up militants, thousands of mourners turning out to attend funerals of slain militants and the failure of the mainstream politicians to move out even in areas from where they were voted to the state Assembly in 2014.

Due to security issues, the voting process here would be held between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m., instead of the 6 p.m. deadline observed in the other constituencies of the state.

While there are five main candidates in the fray from Anantnag — PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti, Congress’ Ghulam Ahmad Mir, Hasnain Masoodi of the National Conference (NC), Sofi Yusuf of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Chowdhary Zafar Ali of the Peoples Conference (PC) — the key contest here is between Mufti and state Congress President Mir.

Out of the 16 Assembly segments under the Anantnag Lok Sabha constituency, the PDP had won 11, Congress 2, NC 2 and CPI-M 1 in the 2014 Assembly elections.

Given these statistics, Mufti’s victory may look like a cakewalk, but the ground situation has undergone a sea change since 2014.

The failed ruling alliance between the PDP and the BJP in the state has hit the former’s prospects in Anantnag as it has done in the rest of the Muslim majority Valley.

Mufti has taken a huge gamble by deciding to fight the Lok Sabha polls from here. Her victory or defeat would seriously impact the prospects of her party in the state Assembly elections likely to be held later this year.

Her problems have been compounded by Mir throwing his hat in the electoral arena. Mir has committed vote banks in Dooru, Shangus, Kokernag and Devsar segments.

While it is expected that the voter turnout would be good in these segments, there is a possibility of thin voter turnout in the segments where the PDP believes its vote banks exist.

Given this reality, the final result could see a photo finish between Mir and Mufti.

Poll campaign by different parties here has been generally muted because of security constraints.

How many voters come out to vote on Tuesday would be keenly watched. But no matter what, the security forces will have their tasks cut out to ensure that polling is conducted smoothly in this volatile constituency.

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SRI LANKA BOMBINGS: Death toll rises to 290

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Colombo, Apr 22: The toll in the eight coordinated bomb blasts that rocked Sri Lanka during Easter celebrations rose to 290, police said on Monday.

Police spokesperson Ruwan Gunasekara told The New York Times that 24 people have been arrested in connection with the deadly explosions in which nearly 500 people were injured on Sunday.

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told the reporters that the authorities had prior “information regarding a possible attack” before the bomb blasts ripped through churches and hotels in Colombo and two other towns in the island nation.

 

“While this goes on we must also look into why adequate precautions were not taken,” Wickremesinghe was quoted as saying by Al Jazeera.

The police said that the investigation will examine reports why the intelligence community failed to detect or warn of possible suicide attacks ahead of the blasts, the worst violence in Sri Lanka since the end of the civil war 10 years ago.

They also said that an improvised pipe bomb found close to Colombo’s main airport late on Sunday, was successfully detonated. No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

The Prime Minister said, “So far the names that have come up are local,” adding that the investigators are looking into whether the attackers had any “overseas links”.

According to Sri Lanka’s Foreign Ministry, at least 17 people from eight countries, including three from India, were among those who were killed in the serial blasts. The dead included five citizens of Britain, three Danes, two each from China and Turkey and one each from the Netherlands and Portugal, reported CNN.

The ministry said that 19 foreign nationals injured in the attacks are receiving treatment at Colombo National Hospital.

Following the bomb attacks, the Sri Lankan government had imposed a 12-hour island-wide curfew from 6:00 pm on Sunday.

After a discussion with heads of security forces and all other departments regarding the current security situation in the country, President Maithripala Sirisena had announced that the government and private schools would remain closed till Tuesday.

In addition, steps have been taken to temporarily block all social media accounts until the investigations are concluded.

‘National Tawheed Jamath’ suspected plotters: Sri Lanka

Press Trust of India

Colombo, Apr 22: A local outfit identified as the ‘National Tawheed Jamath’ is suspected of plotting the deadly Easter blasts that killed 290 people and wounded 500 others in the worst terror attack in the country’s history, a top Sri Lankan minister said on Monday.

Health Minister and the government spokesman, Rajitha Senaratne, also said that all suicide bombers involved in the blasts are believed to be Sri Lankan nationals.

Speaking at a press conference here, the minister said that the Chief of National Intelligence had warned the Inspector General of Police (IGP) regarding the probable attacks before April 11.

“On April 4, international intelligence agencies had warned of these attacks. The IGP was informed on April 9,” Senaratne said.

He said that the local outfit identified as the National Tawheed Jamath – a radical Muslim group – is suspected of plotting the deadly explosions.

“There may be international links to them,” he added.

Senaratne sought resignation of police chief Pujith Jayasundera in view of the major security lapse.

Rauff Hakeem, a government minister and the leader of the main Muslim party – Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, said that it was lamentable that no preventive action had been taken despite the inputs.

“They have known this…, the names have been given, identified, but (they) took no action,” he added.

Two Sri Lankan Muslim groups – the All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama and the National Shoora Council – have condemned the blasts and offered condolences to the Christian community.

They have urged that all culprits be brought to book.

Seven suicide bombers were involved in eight blasts that targeted St Anthony’s Church in Colombo, St Sebastian’s Church in Negombo and Zeon Church in Batticaloa when the Easter Sunday mass were in progress. The explosions also struck three five-star hotels in Colombo – the Shangri-La, the Cinnamon Grand and the Kingsbury.

No group has claimed responsibility for Sunday’s attacks, but police have so far arrested 24 people.

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