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Structured Indo-Pak engagement key to build edifice of durable peace: Pak envoy

Press Trust of India

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New Delhi, Apr 14: Pakistan has said it was hoping for “re-engagement” with India after the Lok Sabha polls, noting that structured dialogue would enable the two countries to understand mutual concerns, resolve outstanding disputes and build the edifice of durable peace and security in the region.

In an interview to PTI, Pakistan’s outgoing High Commissioner Sohail Mahmood said diplomacy and dialogue are indispensable to improve ties between the two neighbours.
“We hope for re-engagement after the elections in India. Diplomacy and dialogue are indispensable,” he said.

Tensions between the two countries worsened after the Pulwama terror attack and both the countries were almost on the brink of a war after India’s military planes struck a terrorist training camp in Pakistan’s Balakot on February 26 and Pakistan carried out a counter-offensive the next day.

 

Mahmood, who has been appointed as Pakistan’s next Foreign Secretary said dialogue between India and Pakistan was the only option to understand mutual concerns and ensure peace, prosperity and security in the region.

“Sustained engagement and structured dialogue would enable the two countries to understand mutual concerns and differences resolve outstanding disputes and build the edifice of durable peace, security and prosperity in the region,” Mahmood said.

He also said there was a need to review the narrative about Pakistan in India. “A narrative is needed that captures the reality in Pakistan objectively and more fully. A narrative that also helps recognise opportunities for peaceful, cooperative and good neighbourly relations,” he said.

“We must strive for stable peace, equal security and shared prosperity for ourselves and the region,” the envoy added.

In signs of easing tensions, Pakistan around two weeks ago announced that it was releasing 360 Indian prisoners, mostly fishermen as a “goodwill gesture”.

The initiative was followed by Pakistan High Commission here granting visas to 2,200 Sikh pilgrims from India to facilitate their participation in the annual Baisakhi celebrations in Pakistan.
Over two weeks after the Balakot strike, India and Pakistan held talks to finalise the modalities for setting up a corridor linking the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan’s Kartarpur with Gurdaspur district in Punjab.

Asked about the Kartarpur corridor project, the Pakistani High Commissioner said Islamabad was committed to completing the physical infrastructure on its side.
“The government of Pakistan is proceeding in full measures to complete the physical infrastructure on its side and it is hopeful that the modalities will be mutually agreed between the two sides in good time before November 2019,” he said.

Last November, both India and Pakistan agreed to set up the Kartarpur corridor to link the historic Gurdwara Darbar Sahib—the final resting place of Sikh faith’s founder Guru Nanak Dev—to Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur.

Kartarpur Sahib is located in Pakistan’s Narowal district across the river Ravi, about four kilometres from the Dera Baba Nanak shrine.
The relations between India and Pakistan remained tense since 2016. Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif had travelled to Delhi to attend Modi’s oath-taking ceremony and the Indian premier had in December 2015 made a stopover in Lahore to greet his counterpart on his birthday.

However, the ties nose-dived following a string of cross-border terror attacks in 2016 and India’s subsequent surgical strikes. The sentencing of alleged Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav to death by a military court in April 2017 further deteriorated bilateral ties.


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Guv launches ‘market intervention scheme’ for apples in J&K

Monitor News Bureau

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Srinagar: Governor Satya Pal Malik launched the ‘Market Intervention Scheme for Apples of J&K’ with the objective of providing optimum prices to the growers. This Scheme has been approved by the Department of Agriculture and Cooperation, Ministry of Agriculture, Govt. of India, under the aegis of Ministry of Home Affairs, for the current apple harvesting season.

This Scheme will be implemented in J&K by the Directorate of Planning and Marketing, supported by the Directorate of Horticulture (Kashmir) and Jammu and Kashmir Horticultural Produce, Marketing and Processing Corporation Ltd.

Vijay Kumar, K.K. Sharma and Farooq Khan, Advisors to Governor; B.V.R. Subrahmanyam, Chief Secretary; Baseer Khan, Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir; S.K. Singh, Additional M.D. National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Ltd. (NAFED) were present on the occasion.

 

Highlighting the vital importance of Horticulture Sector in Jammu and Kashmir’s economy, Governor observed  that with a turnover of Rs 8000 crore per year in this sector and close to 7 lakh families directly and indirectly associated with it, this Sector needs focused attention on  providing every possible support to the growers right from their orchards to the market.

Governor noted that with the launch of this scheme many of the issues relating to the grading of apples, procurement, storage and marketing will be taken care of by the Government. He said that the NAFED will procure and market the apple produce and the apple  growers will be getting many times more remuneration for various Grades of apple.

Governor expressed that this Scheme will help the growers to save their crop from distress sale.He also stressed the need for the farming community to become aware of their rights and strengthen themselves so as not to get exploited by the market forces which are causing farmers to suffer losses.

Governor expressed gratitude to the Union Home Minister for swiftly getting done the whole exercise to launch this initiative in support of farmers of Jammu and Kashmir within two weekss time and sought every stakeholders cooperation in making it a success.

Farooq Khan described it as a momentous occasion for the apple growers whereby they have been assured for a Minimum Support Price for their crop. He described it as a significant initiative to save the growers from the market exploitation and distress sale. He said that this step will also help in making apple from Kashmir a ‘Brand’ thus adding to its value manifold.

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‘Kashmir incurs Rs 3900 Cr loss in 39 days of lockdown’

Firdous Hassan

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Srinagar: It was after years of hard work that 32- year -old Mushtaq Ahmad, who worked as a chef in Srinagar’s prominent hotel, started his own eatery in the city outskirts.

Inspired by valley based food entrepreneurs, he borrowed money from bank and his acquaintances with a promise to repay it before January 2020.

However, his dreams came crashing down when uncertainty gripped Kashmir after Centre abrogated Article 370. For the last one month, Ahmed is at wits end how to repay monthly instalment to the bank to avoid default.

 

“Starting business in Kashmir has become a risky job. One doesn’t know when situation will turn bad. I am a small businessman and one can only wonder about the losses faced by hoteliers and transporters,” he said.

Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries (KCCI) put the business losses at whopping Rs 3900 crores in the last 39 days of lockdown.

“On an average daily, Kashmir loses at least Rs 100-120 crores due to the lockdown. Tourism industry, which is worth Rs 4000-5000 crores and handicrafts that yields Rs 1500-2000 crores annually, are the worst hit.  It is not just this year but the aftershocks of this situation will be felt in coming years as well,” Sheikh Ashiq Ahmad, President KCCI, told The Kashmir Monitor.

What complicated the situation is the snapping of cellular communication and internet, which determined functioning of most of the businesses particularly Information Technology, courier services, tourism and some of the traditional businesses in the valley. 

Prior to August 2 government advisory, more than 5.21 lakh tourists and 3.40 lakh pilgrims had visited Kashmir. July witnessed the maximum arrivals when 1, 70,000 tourists visited the valley. Following government advisory, more than 20,000 tourists left the valley in just 24 hours.

Tanveer Ahmad, who owns SNS travel agency in Sonawar, said that losses of tour operators, hoteliers and houseboat owners could increase as gag on internet continues within the valley.

“Our business is completely dependent on internet. If this internet gag continues, our losses may go up. For instance if I incurred Rs 20 lakh loss this month, it may cross Rs 50 lakh in another month,” he said.

Empty shikaras, vacant houseboats and deserted hotels presents a grim picture of the tourism sector.

Hundreds of the youth have lost their jobs so far as majority of the hotels in the valley have downed their shutters in absence of tourists.

Shikaras, which would witness a hustle bustle in autumn, now ferry vegetables from the inner parts of Dal to Boulevard.

“Just some 40 days before I was earning Rs 2000 to 4000 daily. Now I am earning just Rs 200. Nobody was prepared for this situation,” said Shakeel Ahmad, a shikarawala.

Horticulture sector, the biggest economy and employment generating sector of Kashmir, too is in the red. “We have no contact with growers and outside state dealers for almost a month now. A box of Babgosha variety of Pears, which last year cost Rs 700 to Rs 800, is sold at Rs 150 to Rs 400. The growers are unable to negotiate the rates with prospective buyers as there is no phone connectivity. We are suffering huge losses,”said Fayaz Ahmad, an apple grower.

Harvest of Delicious variety of apples will begin from September 10 and the communication blockade is already making things worse for the farmers who are unable to contact dealers in Delhi and other states. “No trucker is ready to ferry the produce to other markets of Mumbai, Kolkatta, Chennai and Goa,” he said.

As per the growers, the transportation charges per apple ox from Srinagar to Azadpur fruit Mandi in Delhi has increased by Rs 53.

 “Before the current situation unfolded we had fixed Rs 27.40 as transportation charges for each fruit box from Srinagar to Delhi and Rs 65 per box from Srinagar to Mumbai. This time, however, rates have gone through the roof with truckers charging Rs 80 per box from Srinagar to Delhi and Rs 110 from Srinagar to Mumbai. Plus”, said a dealer at Parimpora Fruit Mandi.

The commercial transport services equally report huge losses since August 5.

An official from the Transport Department said that at least 6000 commercial vehicles have not plied on roads for the last 37 days.   “Not a single commercial vehicle has plied since last 39 days in Srinagar and other districts. Majority of these transporters bought vehicles after lending heavy amount from banks. This sector is reporting heavy losses,” he said.

Traditional handicrafts including pashmina and carpet are also witnessing slump with no fresh orders coming from outside dealers in view of the communication gag.

“I have almost seven carpets ready but there are no buyers because internet and mobile phones services are shut. We lost contact with our dealers and in turn suffer heavy losses,” said Basheer Ahmad, a carpet dealers from Pattan.

There are reports of lay-offs in courier and other e-commerce companies in Kashmir as well. “There are around 3000 youth working as courier boys in the city alone. Most of them have lost their jobs,” said Adil Ahmad, a courier boy.  

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Back to Village programme: It is raining cash for Panchayats in JK

Mudassir Kuloo

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SRINAGAR:   Taking a big leap in empowering Panchayats, Jammu and Kashmir government has authorized Panches and Sarpanches to use funds for developmental works under ‘Back to Village’ programme.

Under this programme, finance department has sanctioned Rs 121 crore for different developmental projects across the state. Each district would be receiving Rs five crore to kick start the works.

The first of its kind, ‘Back to Village’ programme was held from June 21 to 27. During this period, government officers panned out across the state to receive feedback from Panches and Sarpanchs about the developmental needs in different Panchayats.

 

Sources said the exercise was primarily aimed at energizing the 4483 Panchayats.  This follows Centre’s directive to J&K government to ensure empowerment of Panchayats in the state.

“The funds for developmental works will be used by Sarpanches and Panches. District development commissioners will only monitor the funds. They (DCs) have been directed to prioritize the developmental works. Repairing of roads, transformers, high tension lines and schools are some of the works which would be taken up initially under this programme,” sources said. 

Earlier, Centre had enhanced financial powers of Panchayats from Rs 10,000 to Rs 1 lakh. Besides, financial powers of block councils were enhanced from Rs 25,000 to Rs 2.5 lakh. This was part of the initiative to empower around 40,000 Panchayat representatives in the state.

However, there were complaints in the past that funds meant for Panchayats were not reaching to the grassroots.

Waking up to the complaints, Director Rural Development Department Kashmir shot off a letter to the concerned officials asking them to ensure transparency of funds meant for Panchayats in the valley.

“It is mandatory to ensure that the funds in the account of the Halqa Panchayat are properly used. And that the funds balance available in these Halqa Panchayat account prior to the notification of constituted Panchayats or appointment of administers, are in order and every transaction in the said Halqa Panchayat account is as per the financial rules,” reads an order issued by Rural Development Department, in July.

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