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In ‘scenic’ Srinagar, where are the green open spaces?

Five govt depts responsible but city still way below WHO, urban India standards

Monitor News Bureau

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Srinagar, Feb 25: Fast turning into a hotchpotch of constructions, Srinagar, the summer capital of J&K, has only around 50 per cent of accessible and organised green spaces compared to the standard set for urban India.
As per Urban and Regional Development Plans Formulation and Implementation (URDPFI), a set of guidelines passed by the Union Ministry of Urban Development, a city like Srinagar should have a minimum of 570 hectares (11,268 kanals) of land under organised parks and gardens.
The city, however, has just 287 hectares (5,673 kanals) of such space spread over 169 parks in it.
The information was revealed in a ‘Draft Action Plan for Augmentation of Organised Green Spaces in Srinagar’, a document recently formulated by Urban Development Department’s Chief Town Planner, Kashmir.
In a public notice issued Saturday, the Chief Town Planner, Fayaz Ahmad Khan, asked the public for feedback on the ‘Action Plan’ within six weeks.
“There is no denying the fact that Srinagar city is grossly deficient in organised green spaces (parks and gardens). As such, the city needs to have a long term Action Plan across departments/sectors to meet out the deficiency of green spaces in incremental manner over a period of time,” read the document.
“Rapid population growth and unplanned urbanization are fast resulting in depletion, deterioration and over-extraction of Srinagar’s ecological resources including green space…Even more precarious situation is seen in the core city which is comprehensively without green cover presenting a very desolate picture,” it added.
The picture gets even grimmer when one compares Srinagar with other seemingly-denser cities of India.
World Health Organisation (WHO) has set up a minimum scale of 9 square metres (SQM) of organised green space, which should be available to every inhabitant of a city.
While cities like Varanasi, Chandigarh, Jaipur, Bhopal, Allahabad, Noida and even New Delhi easily surpassing the standard, Srinagar stands at a disappointing 2.6 SQM.
The WHO also suggests designing green area networks, so that all residents live within a 15 minute walk to an open space.
Given the present scheme of things, however, it seems unattainable in Srinagar.
A look at the 2017 State Annual Action Plan (SAAP) under Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation scheme (AMRUT) reveals that J&K government plans to marginally increase the existing per capita green space cover to 4.5 SQM by 2020.
That is because the government plans to develop just four such spaces–the parks along the Jhelum Bank, Green Park at Harwan, Tulip Garden, and a park along Nishat Bund.
Besides, there seems a clear rift between the Srinagar Smart City plan, which is silent on increasing the green cover, and the Draft Master Plan, which foresees construction of 860 parks between 2015 and 2035.
Since the Mughals constructing a few gardens in Srinagar centuries ago, there has hardly been any addition to the city’s green space by the current or preceding governments.
Except Tulip Garden, no mentionable new parks have been created.
On the contrary, many such spaces that existed are now buried under tall concrete figures, which the state disdainfully allowed and still does.
The situation remains so even as there are five government establishments – Floriculture, Srinagar Municipal Corporation, Srinagar Development Authority, J&K Housing Board, Landscape Division (R&B)–directly responsible for the development and maintenance of public parks.
Last year, a letter sent to the government by State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) Chairperson Justice (Retd) Bilal Nazki castigated the successive regimes for concretising various parks.
The letter mentioned Usman Zanana Park, on which civil secretariat exists now; part of Badamwari turned into a government housing colony; part of Naseem Bagh paved way for Kashmir University’s various blocks; parts of Polo Ground turned into taxi stand and floricultural nursery; Lal Mandi Park encroached on all sides over the years; Iqbal Park’s size reduced considerably since 1981.
Fayaz, the Chief Town Planner, told The Kashmir Monitor that Srinagar badly lacked in green spaces accessible to a common person.
“Say for instance, the CM’s or the governor’s residence, or the Golf course has a lot of open space. But it does not qualify as green space for the common man, as he cannot freely access it,” he said.
Fayaz was wary to mention the 45,000 kanals of land under defense and paramilitary establishments in Srinagar alone.
He, however, agreed that the city has lost many historic gardens to “indifference and apathetic” attitude.
“Gardens like Dewan Bagh, Baghi Ali Mardan, Baghi Dilawar Khan have already been lost,” he said.
His Draft Action Plan recommends 15 per cent surface area of any development project to be earmarked for the development of organised green spaces.
It adds that Malkhah in the old city abutting Kalai can be developed into a “vital lung space” in this area.
“It is recommended that the state government shall ensure proper landscaping of historic graveyards and Eidgahs for enriching the biodiversity and ecology in these areas.
“All these spaces including the Polo Ground, Emporium Garden, TRC Park/TRC Ground, Golf Course, Chinar Bagh, and Sher-i-Kashmir Park will have to be integrated into a Central City Park providing multi-faceted experiences to the people,” it reads.


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Abrogation of Article 370 : Constitution bench to begin hearing from December 10

Agencies

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NEW DELHI: The Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court will begin hearing on a batch of petitions challenging the abrogation of Article 370 by the Centre and the reorganisation of the former state of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories from December 10.

The matter was listed for hearing on Thursday but the top court postponed the hearing in the case till December 10.

It may be recalled that a batch of petitions had been filed in the top court by leading Kashmiri politicians and activists challenging the Centre’s August 5 move to abrogate Article 370 that gave special status to the former state of Jammu and Kashmir.

 

In its October 24 order, the Supreme Court had said that the petitions challenging the validity of provisions of Article 370, which was abrogated by the Centre on August 5, and Article 35-A would be dealt with by its 5-judge Constitution bench which is hearing the Kashmir matter.

Some of the petitioners had then told the top court that they have filed pleas challenging the existence of provisions of Articles 370 and 35-A which granted special status to J&K before the Centre came out with the decision to abrogate them.

The five-judge constitution bench had on October 1 given four weeks to the Centre and Jammu and Kashmir administration to file counter-affidavits on the petitions and also put an embargo on the filing of any fresh writ petition challenging the constitutional validity on abrogation of Article 370.

In 2014, an NGO ‘We The Citizens’ had filed a petition in the apex court challenging the constitutional validity of Article 35A. Later, six other pleas were also filed in the top court on the issue.

The top court had then dismissed the pleas and directed the petitioners to approach the high court.

Article 35A, which was incorporated in the Constitution by a 1954 Presidential Order, accorded 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.

It denied property rights to a woman who marries a person from outside the state. The provision, which leads to such women from the state forfeiting their right over property, also applied to their heirs.

However, after the Centre’s move to scrap the Article 370, the provisions of Article 35A became null and void and all central rules became applicable in J&K after it was formally split in two Union Territories on the night of October 31.

Article 370 was included in the Constitution as a “temporary provision”. Courtesy this section, the residents of J&K lived under a separate set of laws dealing with property ownership and citizenship. Article 370 also fanned separatist emotions and enabled terrorism, the ruling BJP had contended while introducing the bill.

The two new UTs came into existence on the 144th birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, who played a crucial role in integrating 560 princely states into India.

After the bifurcation of J&K, the number of states in India stands at 28, and UTs at nine.

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LG reviews school edu, languishing projects

Monitor News Bureau

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Jammu, Nov 13: Lt. Governor Girish Chandra Murmu reviewed the progress of languishing projects being funded by the Jammu and Kashmir Infrastructure Development Finance Corporation Ltd. He also reviewed the status of Prisons department and School Education sector in separate meetings held at the Civil Secretariat, here on Wednesday.

BVR Subrahmanyam, Chief Secretary; Arun Kumar Mehta, Financial Commissioner, Finance; Bipul Pathak, Principal Secretary to Lt. Governor were among the officers present on the occasion.

Mehta informed Lt. Governor that JKIDFC has taken up 2,274 languishing projects with an investment of Rs. 9111.25 crore.

 

Lt. Governor directed Mehta to give preference to local labour and oversee that the labour laws are being adhered to by the agencies responsible for engaging workforce and check whether insurance cover is available to all of them.

He stressed keeping provision for maintenance of all the assets and creation of amenities like overhead water tanks, library, common field in all the residential projects. He emphasised strict quality control, use of anti corrosion building material, compressive strength test for roads and suggested avoiding cost and time overruns in infrastructure projects.

Lt. Governor advised wide publicity of the completed projects with dissemination of information regarding date of sanctioning and completion of the project so that people become aware of the facilities created for their convenience.

In another meeting of the Department of Home attended by Shaleen Kabra, Principal Secretary Home and V.K. Singh, DGP Prisons, a detailed presentation was given by Kabra on the status of available infrastructure, occupancy of jails and present capacity. He informed about the initiatives of the Department of Prisons for welfare of prisoners.

Lt. Governor discussed in detail the status of under trials, convicts, condemned and detenues under the common law and militancy related laws. He directed fast track recruitment of staff on vacant positions and completion of all the under construction infrastructure projects of the Department at the earliest.

During the review of School Education department which was attended by Sarita Chouhan, Commissioner Secretary School Education and Directors of Education, Lt. Governor advised regular health check-ups of students at least twice a year and generation of their health cards. Lt. Governor suggested check-ups in presence of parents so that they could be made aware of their children’s health issues. He directed for creating health check up calendars in consultation with Health Department.

Lt. Governor suggested regular training for improving quality of teaching, survey of facilities available in science and computer laboratories, check availability of drinking water and toilet facilities in schools, identify vacancies of lecturers and teachers for the next 5 years.

The Secretary School Education was directed to organise first health check up in the month of December in  summer zone and in the month of March in schools falling under winter zone. She was asked to ensure 100 % availability of drinking water supply in all the schools by 31st December 2019 and complete survey of science and computer laboratories within the next 15 days.

Lt. Governor directed for filling up vacant positions in the department at the earliest and stressed enhanced focus on schools having Gross Enrolment Ratio of less than 25 %.

Accords sanction to contingency fund

Jammu, Nov 13: Lieutenant Governor, Girish Chandra Murmu under section 69 of J&K Reorganization Act, 2019 Wednesday accorded sanction for the establishment of “Contingency Fund” for the Union Territory of the Jammu and Kashmir.

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Journos protest against 100 days of internet blackout

Press Trust of India

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Srinagar, Nov 12: Journalists in the Valley took out a protest march here against the continued suspension of internet services which completed 100 days on Tuesday since the abrogation of the Jammu and Kashmir’s special status on August 5.

Scores of journalists working with different media organisations assembled at the Kashmir Press Club here and took out a protest march against the snapping of internet services in the Valley on the night of August 4, hours before the Centre revoked the state’s special status under Article 370 and abrogated it into two Union Territories.

The journalists demanded immediate restoration of the services to facilitate the media persons to discharge their professional duties.

 

“We took out the protest against the suspension of internet services for 100 days now. Internet is a basic took for journalists to discharge their professional duties and we demand its immediate restoration,” senior journalist Pervez Bukhari told reporters after the protest.

The Centre’s August 5 decision led to an unannounced shutdown in the valley even as authorities imposed severe restrictions, including on communication, which were later gradually eased out.

Postpaid mobile services on all networks were restored in the Valley on October 14, 72 days after they were snapped. However, pre-paid mobile phones and all internet services continue to remain suspended since August 5.

The government has set up a ‘Media Facilitation Centre’ at a conference hall of a local hotel here for journalists to discharge their professional duties. But the media persons complain that it has not enough computers and they have to wait for hours for their turn.

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