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Supported PDP to‘save’ JK, won’t ally again: Omar

Mudassir Kuloo

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Srinagar, Nov 22: A day after the JK Assembly was dissolved, National Conference (NC) leader Omar Abdullah said on Thursday that his party backed its rival Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in government formation to save the state from “current mess and uncertainty”.

Addressing a press conference here, Omar said, “We categorically told Mehbooba Mufti that we will provide outside support to the government, but won’t be a part of it. I and Farooq Sahab (Farooq Abdullah) told her that NC doesn’t need the chief minister’s chair. We wanted to protect the special status of the state.”

He ruled out contesting elections in alliance with the PDP or Congress.

 

“We don’t want return of 1987 situation, when only fringe parties were left alone. We extended support to the PDP after the Assembly polls to keep the BJP at bay. Had they accepted our support, this situation would not have arisen.”

The NC and Congress decided to support PDP for forming a tri-party government in the state, where Assembly had been in suspended animation since PDP had lost BJP’s support in the summer.

Following the unexpected union, PDP President, Mehbooba Mufti, stacked claim about government formation with the support of 56 MLAs.

She tweeted in the evening that she had written an email to the Governor, after failing to reach him through fax or phone.

Soon after, the Governor, Satya Pal Malik, announced dissolution of the J&K Assembly, leaving no room for government formation in the state without fresh elections.

Malik sought to justify his decision by saying that he was forced to make it by “extensive horse-trading, possible exchange of money”, and the “impossibility” of forming a stable government by the parties with “opposing political ideologies”.

Omar demanded an investigation into the charges of horse-treading and money exchange levelled by the Governor.

“Governor has to produce evidence about who indulged in horse-trading and used the money. He has to present facts on whose behest money was exchanged,” he demanded.

Omar said they would not challenge the Governor’s dissolution of the Assembly.

“The PDP can challenge it and take a legal recourse. We don’t have any document on the basis of which we can challenge it,” he said.

He said the party has hired legal experts for protection of JK’s special status in the Supreme Court.

Over claims of Governor that it would have been an unstable government, he said, “If link-minded people come together, why Governor not asked the PDP-BJP when they formed the government despite having different ideologies. We (NC, Congress, and PDP) have less differences then PDP-BJP.”

He said that non-functioning of fax machine at Raj Bhawan was happening for the first time in the history of JK.

“It is a bizarre fax machine. Incoming fax doesn’t reach them, but an outgoing fax can be sent. We can joke about it, but this should be investigated,” he said.

Omar said that Assembly elections shall be held along with parliamentary polls in the state before May next year.

Omar also dared BJP National Secretary, Ram Madhav, to either prove his allegation that the National Conference boycotted the local body polls and also came together with PDP and Congress to form an alliance at the behest of Pakistan or “be man enough to apologise”.

“You cannot undermine the sacrifices made by National Conference workers in protecting the sovereignty of this country.  My 3000 workers have sacrificed their lives for the country more than Madhav’s party has given because they refused indications from Pakistan,” he said.

The six-month tenure of the governor’s rule ends on December 18 which will be followed by President’s Rule.

The state Assembly’s tenure was till October 2020. Governor’s rule was clamped in the state on June 19 for a 6-month period following the collapse of the PDP-BJP coalition government headed by Mehbooba Mufti after the saffron party withdrew support.


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JK’s liability swells

Mudassir Kuloo

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Srinagar, Jan 17: Similar to previous years, Jammu and Kashmir has accrued a liability of over Rs 7,000 crore in the ongoing fiscal even as experts blame state’s political leadership for not finding a solution to the issue.

Official documents of the finance department reveal that the state is running a liability of Rs 7,531 crore so far this fiscal, a figure close to the annual build-up J&K witnesses every year.

The total liabilities for the state have now swelled up to over Rs 68,000 crore.“The three fiscal parameters–revenue deficit, fiscal deficit and outstanding liability–indicate the extent of overall fiscal balance in the finances of the state government during the specified period. The nature of deficit is an indicator of the prudence of budgetary policy of the state government. Another useful measure of the deficit-base in a state’s fiscal policy is the State’s Own Deficit (SOD),” the documents reveal.

 

Noted economist, Professor Nisar Ali said the state’s expenditure and revenue system has been “mismanaged”.“The power purchase has been an important factor for swelling liabilities. The GST has further increased the mismanagement between expenditure and tax revenue,” he said.

Prof Ali also blamed J&K’s political leadership for increasing liabilities.“The annual liabilities increase due to power purchases despite the state having huge hydro resources. The state’s leadership has failed to fight for the return of power projects.

“It also depends upon the government of India how it wants to find a solution to this problem,” he added.

Endorsing Prof Ali’s views, a senior official of the finance department said that little or no use of revenue generation avenues, increasing power purchases and bulging expenditure on salaries are the main contributors to the escalating liabilities of the state.“There is a steep rise in salary and pension bills, power deficit, rising interest liabilities, loan repayments, and deficit on account of non-tax revenue,” the official said.

 

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Conducive atmosphere inevitable for dialogue: Farooq

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Srinagar, Jan 17: Former Chief Minister and National Conference (NC) president, Dr Farooq Abdullah on Thursday said that the favourable atmosphere is inevitable for dialogue, which is the only way out to settle the issues.
Addressing party workers in Jammu, Dr Farooq said that the dialogue is the only way out to resolve the issues but there is a need of conducive atmosphere which is inevitable. He added that “under the shades of gun, no dialogue process is possible. We have to stop bullet culture for lasting peace in the region.”
“NC has also given priority to the people. When I became Chief Minister in 1996, I fought with many things as the school were shut, no bridge was there, no office was functioning as the people were frightened by the turmoil then, but I stood up to fight against the forces who were inimical to peace.”
About 35 percent reservation in other states, Dr Farooq said that the incumbent Chief Minister of Odissa, Naveen Patnayak has written to him, suggesting there should be reservation of 35 percentfor women in Jammu and Kashmir also. “We will implement the law, which will ensure 35 percent reservation to women in the State once getting into the power,” he said.
However, he said that it is not easy to take such decisions as when his government took a decision to make 50 percent reservation for girls in Medical College then some people knocked the door of Supreme Court to put halt over the decision.
Dr Farooq also appealed the party workers to work hard and ensure the win of NC leaders who will be contesting the elections.

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Abundant snowfall in January makes Gulmarg the perfect winter-destination for tourists

Bisma Bhat

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Srinagar, Jan 17: Unlike last January, the abundant snowfall so far this month has attracted a lot of tourists to Gulmarg as the destination is brimming with over 90 per cent occupancy these days.

The valley has received at least four moderate to heavy snowfalls this year with an even stronger wet spell predicted from January 19 to 23.
Tourists from across the world are cherishing this and making their way to Gulmarg, whose slopes offer a perfect destination for skiing.

Speaking to The Kashmir Monitor, CEO Gulmarg Development Authority, Syed Hanief Balkhi said that most of the hotels are fully occupied as people are heading to Gulmarg to enjoy the charismatic scenery offered by the snow-covered hills.“Gulmarg is under 4-5 feet snow and is looking like a playground these days. Tourists from India and abroad enjoy skiing, snow cycling, ice skating, snow-sculptor activity, sledge-racing and other games here,” he said.

 

Apart from the hoteliers, the rush of the tourists, Balkhi said, has provided good workdays for sledge keepers, skating guides, local cab drivers and many others associated with tourism.

In 2018, as per the official figures, Gulmarg received 5.76 lakh tourists as compared to 5.69 lakh in the preceding year.

The tourism players also expressed satisfaction over the rush of tourists heading to the valley.

President Hotel and Restaurant Owners Federation, Wahid Malik said that snowfalls have pushed up the number of tourists visiting the valley.
“Gulmarg saw lesser arrival when winters begun, however, now the snow has ensured all the hotels and resorts are booked,” he said adding that Gulmarg hotels are running on 90 per cent occupancy so far this season.

Gulmarg is declared the ‘heartland of winter sports in India’ by the Winter Games Federation. This year too, Gulmarg Tourism Authority is going to organise winter sports carnival starting from the first week of February.

Additional Director Tourism Department, Nasir Khan said that Gulmarg is “rocking these days as it has received 34,712 and 35,022 tourists in the month of November and December”.

“We are going to organize the winter carnival from the next month to make the place more attractive,” he said.

He added that night market and cultural shows will also be arranged by the department.

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