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The curious case of SMC’s ward no. 30

SMC Comm attaches, officer says ‘some confusion’

Nisar Dharma

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Srinagar, Jun 23: An acting Srinagar Municipality ward officer with a tainted past, who was recently attached for allowing at least a dozen illegal constructions in his area, is back in his ward because of his connections up in the official hierarchy.

Mehraj-ud-Din Buja, the incharge ward officer of ward 30, was attached after the SMC Commissioner Khurshid Ahmad Sanai visited the former’s area on June 19 and found at least a dozen illegal constructions going on.

A source in SMC said the Commissioner immediately ordered demolishing of the constructions and attached Buja along with the concerned building inspector.  

 

A few days later, Buja, however, managed to get back to the ward even as the corporation’s higher-ups have no explanation of his wrongdoings, the source said.

“On records, he may be a small-rung official but he has connections all the way up. How else can one who was caught ran-handed accepting bribe be able to become a ward officer of the most money generating areas in Srinagar,” the source said.

The ward which Buja is overseeing generates the highest revenue for SMC and includes Raj Bagh, Wazir Bagh, and Jawahar Nagar areas, the residential colonies that have lately been in news for mushroom growth of commercial constructions.

Buja is no ordinary guy outside his office as well. He is the chairman of Adhara Auqaf Gousia, the board that manages the shrine of Dastgeer Sahab here in Srinagar.

Buja, interestingly, has managed to stay in the ward for over a year-and-a-half, during which at least 30 other ward officers were transferred, the source added.

His rendezvous with higher-ups in the corporation, the source said, has made him sideline his tainted past with utmost ease.

In October 2014, when GN Qasba was Commissioner SMC, Buja was caught red-handed by Vigilance Organisaton Kashmir (VOK) accepting a bribe of Rs 65,000 for allotting a shop to one Srinagar resident.

VOK, on receiving a complaint from the shopkeeper Abdul Rehman Reshi, had placed a trap to catch Buja.

He, as per the official documents of the case, had demanded a bribe of Rs 2 lakh from the complainant and was caught by the VOK team receiving the first installment of Rs 65,000 in a restaurant right outside the SMC head-office in Karan Nagar here.

Interestingly, Buja, whose designation then was Junior Building Inspector, was working as a Head Assistant in the Revenue Section of the head office.

Two years later, in 2016, the Housing and Urban Development Department had ordered Buja’s prosecution for “commission of offences punishable under section 5(1) (d) r/w 5 (2) J&K P.C.Act Svt.2006 and Sections 109 & 161 RPC in case FIR No. 39/2014 P/S VOK.”

While the case was on, why and how was Buja promoted from a junior building inspector to an acting ward officer of vital ward 30 remains a question that no one in SMC has an answer for.

Meanwhile, a second source said that for allowing any deviation or illegal construction, the concerned SMC officials have designated rates.  

“For a plinth 15,000, for one storey residential construction anything between Rs 30,000 to 50,000 is charged. If it is a commercial construction, the prices go up according to the size of it,” the second source said.

Asked about him getting attached on June 19, Buja told The Kashmir Monitor “that the matter was sorted.”

“There was some confusion regarding the permission which has been cleared now,” he said, adding “I was about to be suspended but God saved me and the (suspension) order was not passed.”

SMC Commissioner, Khurshid Ahmad Sanai, referred this reporter to his private secretary Manzoor Ahmad.

Manzoor confirmed that Buja was attached, however, refused to comment when asked how he had resumed his work as the ward officer.

Asked how a tainted official was given the position, Manzoor said he “will speak with the Commissioner about the matter.”


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Rehab policy for KPs being formulated: Guv

Flags off electric buses in Sgr

Mudassir Kuloo

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Srinagar, Jul 19: Governor Satya Pal Malik Friday said that government is in the process of formulating a policy for rehabilitation of Kashmiri migrant Pandits in the valley.
“A policy is being formulated for rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits (KPs). You will get more details very soon,” Malik told reporters at the sidelines of a function to launch electric buses and release coffee table book on livestock breeding policy.
The return of the Kashmiri migrants to valley was a part of the 2008 Prime Minister financial package of Rs 1,618 crore.
Under this package Rs 7.5 lakh financial assistance was to be given to any family which will undertake renovation/reconstruction of their houses located in the valley. Besides other things, nearly 6,000 government jobs were to be provided to Kashmiri pandits in the valley.
Official figures reveal that around 41,117 migrant families from Kashmir are registered in Jammu and 21,000 others in Delhi and other states. Of the total migrant families living in Jammu, 37,128 are Hindus, 2,246 Muslims and 1,758 Sikhs.
Figures released by Kashmir Pandit Sangrash Simiti (KPSS), an apex body of non-migrant Pandits, reveal that there are 808 Kashmir Pandit families comprising 3464 people residing in the valley. Non-migrant Kashmiri Pandits are living in 292 locations and most of them are putting up in four districts of south Kashmir.
Minister of State for Home Affairs, G Kishan Reddy recently told the Parliament that Government is taking a number of steps for relief and rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits.
“Under the Prime Minister’s Development Package announced on November 7, 2015, the Government of India has approved creation of 3,000 additional State Government jobs for the Kashmiri migrants at a cost of Rs 1,080 crore and construction of 6,000 transit accommodations in the Kashmir Valley at a cost of Rs. 920 crore,” Reddy said.
ELECTRIC BUSES: Speaking on the occasion, Governor observed that the start of electric bus service is a step forward towards providing eco-friendly public transportation with modern facilities to the commuters in the region.
He emphasized on using E-Buses to abate pollution levels and urged people to largely utilise public transport for their daily travel in a bid to contribute towards environment preservation.
On Jammu & Kashmir Livestock Breeding Policy, 2019, Governor noted that the Policy is the first of its kind in the State that aims to increase both the production and productivity of livestock, fish and poultry in Jammu and Kashmir besides generating higher returns for the people engaged in this sector.
Governor congratulated the Department of Animal, Sheep Husbandry and Fisheries for bringing out the Livestock Breeding Policy and observed that J&K’s climate is ideal for the growth of livestock and poultry and if managed scientifically, these sectors have potential to increase the farmer’s income manifold.
Arvind Ganpat Sawant, Union Minister for Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises said that the fleet of E-Buses will contribute in reducing the pollution levels.
He said that the Central Government is taking several initiatives to meet the challenges of environmental threats by focussing on improving the quality of mass transportation.
Sawant appreciated the State Government for introducing a Livestock Breeding Policy to improve quality of livestock and promote the welfare of the farming community.

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Guv to hoteliers, houseboat owners: Install STPs or your licenses will be cancelled

Mudassir Kuloo

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Dying Dal - A Kashmiri woman carries forage as she rows her boat through weed-filled Dal Lake in Srinagar – Photo: KM/Umar Ganie

Srinagar, Jul 19: Blaming hotel and houseboat owners for polluting Dal Lake, Governor Satya Pal Malik Friday asked them to install Sewerage Treatment Plants (STPs) otherwise their licences would be cancelled.

Expressing concern over deteriorating condition of Dal Lake, Malik said that untreated sewage coming from hotels and houseboats was directly flowing into the famed lake.

“See the condition of Dal Lake. We are going to cancel licences of those who fail to install STPs. We will restore its lost glory within 18 months. People living in the lake will also be rehabilitated,” the Governor said.

 

Malik was addressing people at the launch of electric buses and releasing of coffee table book on livestock breeding policy, at SKICC.
He also expressed concern over the condition of old Srinagar city.“Down Town Srinagar has not been on the priority list of town planners. They are oblivious to the condition of lanes and by-lanes. People live in poverty in down town,” the Governor said.

Apparently backtracking from government’s recent announcement that Srinagar and Jammu would get metro rails in four years, he said: “We have to start transport which is viable and benefit the city. Are metro rails possible? There has to be a proper transport planning first.”

Malik also stressed on plying of pollution free vehicles. “There is zero-percent pollution at Dachigam. There was a proposal for allowing trekking, picnic and marriage functions at Dachigam which I did not allow,” he said
He also called for promotion of live-stock sector in the Valley.

Union Minister for Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises Arvind Ganpat Sawant said electric buses would considerably reduce the pollution levels. “The Centre will provide all possible help to the state. These electric buses will also provide employment to the youth who will run the charging points,” he said.

Advisors to Governor S Skandan, KK Sharma Principal Secretary Animal/Sheep Husbandry, Fisheries and Transport Department Dr Asgar Hassan Samoon also spoke on the occasion.

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Second-hand smoke exposure highest in JK, says new study

Hirra Azmat

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Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir has earned the dubious distinction of having the highest second hand smoke exposure in the country.

Secondhand smoke (or passive smoking) is the tobacco smoke that is exhaled by smokers or is given off by burning tobacco and is inhaled by persons nearby.

Quoting ‘Global Adult Tobacco Survey’, Senior Technical Advisor, Tobacco Control Union, South-East Asia Office, Ashish Kumar Pandey said: “The second hand smoke exposure has been found highest in J&K.”

 

Quoting the findings of the study at a workshop titled “State level inception cum sensitization under National Tobacco Control Programme”, he said: “More than 70 percent of non-smokers are exposed to tobacco smoking at home. Almost 55 percent are exposed to second-hand smoking at their workplaces.”

Explaining about the harmful effects of second hand smoke, he said: “This kind of smoke is dangerous to anyone who breathes it in. It involves carcinogens and other toxic components. It can stay in the air for several hours after somebody smokes.”

“From hair to toe nail, none of the body part remains unaffected because of the tobacco use. Besides, exposure to secondhand smoke during pregnancy increases the risk of still birth, congenital malformations, low birth-weight and respiratory illnesses.”

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), smoking tobacco is globally the second leading cause of heart diseases after high blood pressure. Nearly 12 per cent of cardiovascular deaths worldwide occur due to tobacco abuse and second-hand smoking.

The global health body states that of the seven million lives that tobacco claims worldwide each year, almost 900,000 are passive-smokers
On this occasion, Principal Secretary, Health and Medical Education Atul Dulloo said: “Figures show that in the recent years, the state has witnessed 2-3 per cent decline in the tobacco use. This percentage is not satisfactory.”

“The implementation of Cigarette and other Tobacco Act, 2003 in letter and spirit still remains a challenge. Also the National Tobacco Control Programmes need to be extended to all the districts of J&K. Tobacco kills, should be ingrained in the mind of every person,” he said.

The workshop was also attended by Director Health Services Dr Kunzes Dolma, Commissioner Food Safety J&K Vinod Sharma, Dr Rehana Kausar officer-in-charge (NTCP) Department of Health Services, Srinagar and several stake holders from Health Services.

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