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Shocker! Govt pays Rs 2000 as compensation to debt-ridden fruit growers

Firdous Hassan

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Srinagar, Feb 14: It was hard-earned savings of 15 years that 58-years-old Ghulam Mohammad invested to buy a small apple orchard in Baramulla.
For the last five years, the orchard was giving him enough returns that he thought of buying another one to diversify his horticulture business. His excitement, however, was short-lived when his entire orchard got damaged in November 7 snowfall.
What hurt him the most was the payment of 1500 as compensation for the losses he incurred. “For the last two months, I have been trying hard to rebuild what I have lost. My expenditure has crossed Rs two lakh. And then came a shocker when government released Rs 1500. Is it a kind of joke?” he asked.
This is just a trailer of `insensitivity’ that government has shown towards the farmers who lost everything in the devastating snowfall last year. Under National Disaster Relief Fund (NDRF) norms, Jammu and Kashmir government has started distributing Rs 2000 to farmers as compensation for their losses.
Officials of the Horticulture Department said an affected farmer is entitled to Rs 2000 compensation for each kanal of land. “Under the NDRF norms, a minimum Rs 2000 should be paid to the affected family,” they said.
Fruit growers, however reacted sharply saying the horticulture industry provides employment to 70 per cent of the Kashmir’s population and yet government is doing nothing to uplift it. “They (horticulture department) made assessment but did nothing to compensate growers,” said Fayaz Ahmad Malik, President, North Kashmir Fruit Growers and Dealers Association.
Malik said Rs 2000 is not even enough to repair the broken fruit tree. “We have to buy iron bolts, nails and ropes for every damaged tree. It costs us Rs 2000 per tree. Can Rs 2000 be a compensation for growers who suffered huge damages?” he asked.
President, North Kashmir Fruit Growers and Dealers Association noted that the government should have been sensitive enough to pay at least Rs 5,000 per broken tree. “A tree which yields fruits for Rupees one lakh for 15 years should at least be given Rs 10,000 as compensation,” Malik said.
According to Kashmir Valley Fruit Growers cum Dealers Union (KVFG), an umbrella body of all fruit growers associations, 80 percent of apple trees were uprooted due to the untimely heavy snowfall.
“Fruit orchards have suffered 90 percent damages. It would take at least 15 years for growers to find replacement for uprooted trees,” KVFG President Bashir Ahmad Basheer said.
Preliminary assessment conducted by the horticulture department revealed that 30 per cent of orchards suffered damages due to the snowfall.
Deputy Director of Horticulture department Javed Ahmad Bhat said Rs 2000 was not a compensation “but a kind of relief for growers.” “The department is currently in a process to ensure compensation to the affected farmers. We have appealed government for sanctioning various projects under which we can compensate the affected farmers,” he said.

 
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Resettlement of Kashmiri Pandits utmost priority: Shah

Agencies

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New Delhi, Feb 18: Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Tuesday said the rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits was the utmost priority of the government and assured them on their phased resettlement amid adequate security in the Valley, from where they were forced to flee in late 1989 and early 1990.

The Minister gave the assurance to a seven-member Kashmiri Pandit delegation that met him for an hour at his residence around 12.30 p.m.

The delegation included Surinder Kaul, International Coordinator of Global Kashmiri Pandit Diaspora (GKPD); Utpal Kaul, GKPD India Coordinator; Anil Kachroo, GKPD USA; Taj Tikoo, President of the All India Kashmiri Samaj (AIKS); Dileep Mattoo, President Jammu Kashmir Vichar Manch (JKVM); and AJKVM members Sanjay Ganjoo and Parikshit Kaul.

 

“The Minister promised to resettle all Kashmiri Pandits in their respective districts. He also assured that the resettlement process will be done in phases amid tight security,” Utpal Kaul told IANS.

Kaul said that the Home Minister also assured the delegation that the age limit for government jobs vis-a-vis Kashmiri Pandits will be increased up to 50 years and the government will help reclaim and reparation of their encroached properties in the Valley.

“All temples in the Valley will also be renovated,” Kaul said quoting Shah.

The delegation handed over a memorandum to him to thank the Union government for abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A of the Constitution relating to the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.

“The delegation members expressed heartfelt thanks to the Minister for maintaining a consistent position on its promise to rehabilitate the displaced Kashmiri Pandits in the Kashmir valley.

“The delegation also thanked the minister for abrogating Article 370 and 35A whose pernicious impact has destroyed the Kashmiri society, culture, civilization, economic progress and the ability to lead a peaceful life in the valley,” the memorandum read.

The delegation demanded the formation of an advisory council of Kashmiri Pandits to work under the aegis of the Ministry of Home Affairs to come up with a plan for full restorative justice for the Kashmiri Pandits.

“The advisory council will have representation from mainstream community bodies, youth, women, eminent community think tank members, Jagati, rural and urban residents from the community and even overseas representation,” the memorandum added.

The delegation requested Shah to accept the community’s demand for a single concentrated rehabilitation plan, including employment and other rights, enshrined in the Constitution as well as restoration and rebuilding of temples, shrines and community assets, including crematoriums.

The Kashmiri Pandits also demanded setting up of a commission to investigate the cause of the genocide and ethnic cleansing faced by them in the Valley, with proactive steps to initiate legal proceedings and secure conviction of those responsible.

“The Minister gave a patient hearing to our demands and conveyed that rehabilitation of our community is an utmost priority with the government. He sought help from our community to compile a database of all the properties that have been either occupied or encroached upon so that the government can initiate redressal mechanisms to restore the property to the rightful owner,” the delegation said.

He assured the delegation that the temples, shrines and all other community assets will be restored and made operational at the earliest, it said.

Shah informed the delegation that a massive drive is underway to generate employment and ensure heavy investment in various sectors of the new union territory’s economy. (IANS)

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Student trio sedition case: Transfer case from Hubli to Bengaluru city: 24 lawyers approach Karnataka HC

Bisma Bhat

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Srinagar, Feb 18:  A day after lawyers thrashed three Kashmiri students, a group of 24 advocates filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Karnataka High Court seeking quashing the resolution of Hubli Bar Association prohibiting its members from appearing for accused, and prayed for transferring the sedition case from Hubli to Bengaluru city for free and fair trial.

 “That the ruckus caused in the Court premises and the resolution passed by the Bar Association effectively denies the accused their right to a free trial. These turbulent conditions put the physical safety of the accused at risk and may jettison public justice hence it is just and necessary for transfer of the case from that place. The transfer of the criminal case outside of Hubli to Bengaluru city will secure a free and fair trial”, reads the petition filed by B T Venkatesh and others.

The petitioners said the resolution passed by the Hubli Bar Association is illegal, without the force of law and violates the fundamental right of the accused under Article 22(1) of the Constitution of India.

 

“The petitioners are all advocates practicing within the State of Karnataka. They are filing this petition as PIL, as the issues involved in this petition affect the right of legal representation of accused and the dignity of the legal profession. The issues raised herein affect the larger public interest and the fundamental right to all persons to legal representation,” reads the petition

The petitioners said the Hubli Bar resolution has resulted in the creation of an atmosphere of fear and intimidation due to which none of the advocates feel safe and secure to appear before the court. This has had a chilling effect on advocates coming forward to represent the accused, they said.

Three Kashmiri students studying Civil Engineering at KLE Institute of Technology in Karnataka on Monday were re-arrested on sedition charges and sent to judicial custody till March 2. They were first arrested on Saturday immediately after the college filed a complaint about a video in which they allegedly were chanting pro Pakistan slogans.

Earlier on Sunday, Karnataka police had released the students after they executed a bond under Section 169 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Under Section 169 of the CrPc, an accused is let off when the investigating officer is of the view that there was no sufficient evidence to produce him before a court for remand.

 “There are quite a few lawyers ready to fight legal battle for the accused. But the condition in the court is not good. So we have filed a petition seeking for protection and the case is posted on Thursday,” said advocate Maitreyi Krishnan, one of the petitioners. 

Ahmad, brother of one of the accused students admitted they have committed a mistake but prayed for leniency. “We appeal to the government not to take any harsh step against them. Their career is at stake,” he said.

Nasir Kheuhami, spokesperson of J&K Students Association said they condemn their statement in the harshest of words. “We urge Kashmiri students to focus on their education. We appeal all students not to write provocative things on social media which could add fuel to the fire,” he said.

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All party meeting: NC, PDP, Cong say no to Panchayat polls till leaders are released

Firdous Hassan

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Srinagar, Feb 18:  Efforts to convince political parties to participate in the Panchayat polls suffered a major setback on Tuesday when Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) National Conference (NC) and Congress reiterated their decision to stay away from the election citing prolonged detention of its leaders.

Chief Election Officer (CEO) Shailendra Kumar held an all party meeting on Tuesday to discuss the upcoming election for vacant Panchayat seats in the Union Territory.

However, the representatives of National Conference, Congress and PDP told the CEO to release the mainstream leaders in order to their participation in the election.

 

PDP’s Surinder Chaudhary, who was flanked by Narinder Singh Raina, walked out of the meeting claiming that they are not allowed to conduct political activities freely in J&K.

“I walked out of the meeting, when we realized that Chief Election Officer was bereft of any agenda. I clearly told him that the meeting was called very late as two phases of Panchayat elections were already over. We demanded release of our president,” he said.

Chaudhary said they told the CEO that democracy is nowhere seen on the ground in Jammu and Kashmir. “Our leaders are detained under Public Safety Act. Only BJP is being allowed to carry out activities while security and vehicles of rest of the political leaders have been withdrawn,” he said.

National conference leader Ratan Lal Gupta said the party is of the view that the situation is not conducive for holding elections. “The meeting should have been called much earlier to know the view of political parties about holding the polls,” Gupta said.

Congress vice-president Ghulam Nabi Monga, who was accompanied by Party Chief Spokesperson Ravinder Sharma, said they raised issues of freeing detained leaders and allowing parties to conduct political activities.

“We asked CEO to ensure releasing detained leaders, their free movement and lifting of restrictions on political leaders, if they want us to participate. Otherwise the government should defer or postpone elections,” Monga said.

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