Srinagar, Feb 28: Despite government claims Kashmir continuous to face shortage of essential commodities including petroleum products, especially petrol and LPG.
On Wednesday, Divisional Commissioner Baseer Ahmad Khan, while reviewing the availability of essential supplies, said that the prevailing shortage of essential supplies particularly petrol, diesel, LPG and kerosene oil has ended after the arrival of sufficient stocks.
Contrary to the government narrative, the situation looks totally different with people complaining about the non-availability of these essential items.
The petrol pumps across the Valley especially in Srinagar witnessed a huge rush of commuters on Thursday, queuing to get the fuel.
A large number of people outside all the petrol pumps were seen waiting to get the petrol after fuel crises from Friday evening here in view of the closure of Srinagar-Jammu highway.
“I went to two filling stations, but couldn’t get the petrol. Now I am here, for the last two hours, I am not sure, whether I will be able to get it or not, I fail to understand, why government is not making serious efforts to end the crisis,” said a motorist, Mohammad Sultan who was waiting in queue for the petrol.
People were seen carrying cans and bottles to get the petrol from refilling stations here.
About the shortage of petrol, consumers at Karan Nagar petrol pump said that the tall claims made by the government that 247 petrol tankers have reached valley are “false”.
Another motorist, Nisar Ahmad at Dalgate petrol pump showed dissatisfaction over the orders issued by the administration, asking petrol pumps to provide limited quantity of petrol.
“Giving petrol for Rs 500 only for a journey of 50 kms is useless. It is a worthless exercise to wait for hours for this little quantity of fuel, “he added.
Asking government to rethink over its orders, few autorickshaw drivers at the city Centre asked the government to ensure adequate supply of essential goods especially petrol.
“For the last two days, I am moving from pillar to post in search of petrol. I am not able to earn my livelihood. The supply should be restored at an earliest. It is not for the first time that National Highway (NH) has remained closed for so long,” said an autorickshaw driver, Mohammad Sultan.
Like petrol, consumers are complaining about the availability of LPG cylinders.
The shortage of LPG has been giving tough time to the people. I am not able to get a single cylinder for the last many days. I called the gas agency, several times despite assurances, no cylinder has been delivered,” said a consumer, Bashir Shah at Baghat.
Alleging black marketing, a consumer Shabir Ahmad at Parraypora asked the government to ensure the availability of LPG at an earliest.
“People are forced to purchase LPG cylinders from open market. Those selling should be taken to task without any delay,” he said.
“We are facing tremendous difficulties. We have no means to cook our food. The kerosene is costly moreover is not available as well,” said Mohammad Irfan.
Deputy Commissioner, Srinagar Shahid Iqbal Chaudhary maintained that adequate supply of essential commodities have reached the valley.
“As far as petrol is concerned, we have stocks for 18 days. One lakh fifty thousand LPG cylinders have reached the valley,” he said.
In four years:Kashmir loses 78K hectares of agri land to urbanisation
Srinagar, Nov 16: For the last four years, 78,700 hectares of cultivable land has been converted to non-agricultural purposes in Kashmir.
Thanks to rapid urbanization, Kashmir is fast losing its agricultural land to non-agricultural purposes.
Agriculture Department data accessed by The Kashmir Monitor reveal that the valley had 4, 67,700-hectares of agriculture land in 2015 which has shrunk to 3, 89,000 hectares in 2018.
This indicates Kashmir has lost 78,700 hectares of agricultural land to non-agricultural purpose since 2015.
Data shows that the land under paddy cultivation in Kashmir region shrank from 1, 48,000 hectares in 2015 to 1, 40,000 in 2018.
Similarly, maize cultivation shrank from 100,000 hectares to 76,000 hectares over these years.
Accordingly, cultivation of pulses has declined from 14,600 hectares to 12,767 hectares. Oilseed cultivation also plummeted from 86,000 hectares to 81,000.
Large scale conversion of agricultural land into horticulture, unplanned construction including residential colonies, factories, brick kilns, shopping complexes and other commercial infrastructure have come across as prime reasons for the damage of agricultural land, officials said.
Environment lawyer, Nadim Qadri said there are several laws that prohibit illegal conversion of agricultural land into non-agricultural purposes, but the implementation is “poor”.
“For instance, Section 133-A of the J&K Land Revenue Act says: ‘No land growing Shali crops, vegetables or saffron Lullis can be put to any use other than the purposes mentioned above, without obtaining prior permission of the revenue minister or an officer duly authorized by him in this behalf is required for conversion of agriculture land’,” he said.
Similarly, Qadir said, Section 13 of the J&K Agrarian Reforms Act, 1976 also prevents the conversion of agriculture land. A high court judgment of 2013 also banned the conversion of agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes, he added
A senior official at the Agricultural Department said the agricultural land is shrinking fast.
“People are also converting agricultural land into horticulture because it gives them good economic returns. To make matters worse, government seems keen on promoting horticulture sector only. However, there is no strong agricultural policy which can help save the agricultural land,” he said
Director of Agriculture, Kashmir, Altaf Aijaz Andrabi said: “The agriculture sector in Kashmir has huge export potential because the valley has seasonal advantage over Jammu region and parts of the country. Further, it will decrease dependency to some extent.”
Andrabi noted that the rapid land conversion has to stop else it will prove catastrophic to the existence of the people in the valley.
Reviving tourism:Hopes pinned on snow, skiing, sculpture
Srinagar, Nov 17: To woo tourists back to the valley, the J&K Tourism Department is all set to announce its schedule for winter season with special packages being drafted to ensure full occupancy on Christmas and the New Year’s Eve.
After last week’s snowfall, the tourist flow to the valley has improved with fresh booking queries coming in for valley’s highest skiing resort, Gulmarg.
Director Tourism Nisar Ahmad Wani said the department is in the process to resume tourism activities in the valley by framing its schedule for winter adventure in Kashmir.
“Tourists are coming now especially after last week’s snowfall. We are planning our programmes for winter season, which will be filled with fun and adventure for tourists,” Wani told The Kashmir Monitor.
An official in the Tourism Department said the adventure sports schedule is being framed by them to cater to the high-end backpackers.
“Gulmarg, which received a good snowfall in November, has always been a winter attraction for tourists. So the department is framing the schedule for various programmes, which focuses on adventure sports,” he said.
“Skiing, snow skating and marathons will be organised, which will see participation by people from different states of India and foreign countries as well,” the official said.
He added a mega competition of snow sculpture and photo exhibition will be also organised by the department most likely in January.
“Snow sculpture has been witnessing a good participation by the artists from Kashmir and other states. We are getting good response worldwide for this competition every year,” the official said.
On Christmas and New Year’s Eve, the official said various cultural shows and music programmes will be held by the department in Gulmarg and Pahalgam.
To mention, Kashmir tourism received a heavy blow after government issued an advisory in August this year asking Yatris and tourists to leave Kashmir.
It was followed by the abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcation of the state into two union territories, a development that rattled Kashmir and continues to affect the normal life until now.
The advisory was eventually removed by the government on October 10 after which, as per official figures, as many as 10,000 tourists visited the valley. Over 7000 of these were domestic tourists.
The figure is 95% less compared to 1,85,057 tourists who visited the valley in the same period last year.
This year July witnessed the maximum flow of tourists when 1,52,000 backpackers from different countries and states of India visited the valley.
Rising cold or hotel Bill?All detainees shifted out from Centaur
Srinagar, Nov 17: The administration on Sunday shifted all 34 detained leaders and representatives of various political parties from Centaur to MLA hostel at MA Road here.
Sources told The Kashmir Monitor that the leaders were moved out after bills in Centaur – the hotel on the banks of Dal which was converted into a sub-jail – plummeted beyond Rs 3 crore even as the government and the hotel management had some disagreement on the tariff.
Prevailing cold weather was another reason for the decision to shift the leaders to a new location, sources added. The MLA hostel too has been declared as a sub-jail.
Those shifted out included: Peoples Conference Chairman Sajad Lone, NC leaders Ali Sagar, Mubarak Gul, Altaf Kaloo, IshfaqJabbar, Irfan Shah, Bashir Veeri; PDP leaders Nizamuddin Bhat, Naeem Akhter, Yasir Reshi, Khurshid Aalam, Waheed Parra, Ashraf Mir, Zahoor Mir, Ajaz Mir, and Mohammad Yousuf Bhat.
IAS officer-turned-politician Shah Faesal and Deputy Mayor of SMC Sheikh Imran too were among those shifted out to the new detention centre.
PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti’s daughter Iltija Mufti claimed that Sajad, Parra, and Shah Faesal were “roughed up” during the transfer.
“SKICC detainees shifted to MLA hostel, Srinagar today. Police manhandled them & roughed up Sajad Lone, Waheed Para & Shah Faesal. Is this how you treat elected representatives? Why humiliate them? J&K is under martial law & police seems be inebriated with power,” Iltija tweeted from Mehbooba’s handle.
“The same Waheed Para whose work for strengthening democracy in J&K was lauded by former Home Minister Shri Rajnath Singh.The very same Shah Faesal who was called Kashmir’s role model when he topped UPSC exam. Once appreciated & now humiliated. Why?” the Twitter thread added.
Police, however, denied all such reports.
“Apropos some twitter handle claiming manhandling of some people at MLA hostel Srinagar, it is hereby clarified that no such incident has taken place. Mandatory security drills were followed as required for lodgement,” senior J&K cop Imtiyaz Hussain wrote on Twitter.
The leaders were put under preventive detention in August when government of India abrogated Article 370 and bifurcated the J&K state into union territories.
In Centaur, the authorities had booked 42 rooms for the detained leaders. While the average one day tariff for a room in Centaur is around Rs 7000, the authorities, sources added, were ready to pay only Rs 800 a day.
The administration, sources said, had rejected the tariff and argued that the facility was converted into a subsidiary jail on August 5 and therefore, government rates would be paid.
The decision to shift the political leaders comes days after PDP leader and former J&K CM Mehbooba Mufti was shifted from Cheshmashahi to a government guest house at MA Road here.
The Abdullahs – Farooq and Omar – however, haven’t been shifted anywhere. While Farooq, who was slapped with Public Safety Act, has been put in his home, Omar is lodged at Hari Niwas guest house designated as sub jail.