New Delhi, Jan 28: Time has not come for any rethink on AFSPA or making some of its provisions milder, Army Chief Gen. Bipin Rawat has said, asserting that the Army has been taking adequate precautions in protecting human rights while operating in disturbed areas like Jammu and Kashmir.
Rawat’s remarks assume significance as they come against the backdrop of reports that several rounds of high-level discussions have taken place between the defence and home ministries on the “need to remove or dilute at least some provisions” of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).
The act gives the security forces special rights and immunity in carrying out various operations in disturbed areas. There has been a long-standing demand from various quarters in J-K and the Northeast to withdraw it.
“I do not think time has come to even rethink on AFSPA at the moment,” Gen Rawat told PTI in a recent interview when asked about reports that government was re-examining the demand for a milder version of AFSPA in these states.
The Army chief said though AFSPA has certain strong provisions, the Army is concerned about collateral damages and ensuring that its operations under the law do not inconvenience the local people.
“We have never been strong in applying the force the way it could be applied (under AFSPA). We are very concerned about human rights. We are absolutely concerned about collateral damage.
So do not get too much concerned because we are taking adequate measures and precautions,” he said.
Gen Rawat said the Army has rules of engagements for various operations at every level to ensure that no inconvenience is caused to the people while it is operating under AFSPA.
“The AFSPA is an enabling provision which allows the Army in particular to operate in such difficult areas and let me assure you that the Army has got quite a good human rights record,” he said.
Asked whether time has come to adopt a combined approach involving all three services to deal with militancy in J-K, the Army Chief did not give a direct reply but added that the armed forces have “options available” to conduct various kinds of operations.
“Yes, we have options available to conduct various kind of operations but these cannot be divulged because of the nature of the operations we have to conduct will only alert the other side,” he said.
Gen. Rawat added that “when you do operational planning, these are best left to the armed forces in the manner in which they have to conduct their operations. And the manner in which the operations are conducted and the way they are planned and the way they are executed are never put in open domain.”
To question on whether there was room for synergy among external and internal intelligence gathering to effectively contain militancy in Jammu and Kashmir, he said the armed forces and all other agencies have been operating in unison.
“At this juncture, the kind of cooperation we are having among the intelligence agencies is of a very high order. Today all the intelligence agencies and the security forces are operating in unison. There is an excellent synergy among all of us and I do not think we can take it to the next higher level from what is happening at the moment. I think this is the best way and right way,” the Army chief said.
Grassroots democracy:It is raining sops for Panches and Sarpanches in J&K
Srinagar, Jan 17: From insurance cover to paid holiday, Jammu and Kashmir government has gone all out to open purse strings for Panchayat representatives in the Union Territory.
At least 35 Sarpanches from the Union Territory are on a 10 day tour of Maharashtra and Gujarat since January 10.
“We (Sarpanches) are being taken to various cities. We will also get to know how the Panchayati Raj system works there,” said one of the Sarpanches, who is part of the tour.
An official of Rural Development Department said the second leg of tour for Sarpanches would start from January 23. “Centre has directed J&K administration to strengthen the Panchayati Raj system in the Union Territory. Organizing tours is part of providing additional incentives to Sarpanches,” he said.
Similarly, over 40,000 Panchayat members are being brought under the insurance cover in Jammu and Kashmir at par with government employees.
“The demand was raised by a group of Sarpanches and Panches who met Union Home Minister Amit Shah in September last year. Following which, Centre told J&K administration to take all measures in this regard,” the official said.
Sources said J&K administration is finalizing modalities for providing life insurance cover to the Panchayat Raj representatives. “Chief Secretary BVR Subrahmanyam has held several meetings with Financial Commissioner Finance Department and authorities of Rural Development Department. Discussion is going over amount of risk cover and the premium,” sources said.
Sources said once the process is finalized, government would float tenders for engaging insurance company. “Centre believes that insurance cover would provide a sense of security to Panchayat members,” they said.
Filling the political gap, government has also decided to treat Panchayat members and councilors as ‘VIPs’ on Republic Day celebrations in Kashmir. As per official documents, district development commissioner Srinagar has been directed to prepare a list of invitees.
“Invitees shall include VVIP and VIPs. They include chairperson of BDCs, Panches, Sarpanches and councilors,” the document reads.
Earlier, leaders of political parties were being invited as VIPs. Centre, as part of its initiative to empower around 40,000 elected local representatives in J&K, had earlier enhanced the financial powers of Panchayats 10-fold from Rs 10,000 to Rs 1 lakh, and that of block councils from Rs 25,000 to Rs 2.5 lakh.
There are 21 departments including Rural Development, Social Welfare, Health, Education, Power, Horticulture, Fisheries and Agriculture, which come under the administrative control of Panchayat members, the official said.
Polls to nearly 13,000 gram panchayats likely in Feb
New Delhi, Jan 17: The elections to the nearly 13,000 vacant posts of panch and sarpanch in gram panchayats in Jammu and Kashmir is likely to be held next month and a notification is this regard is expected to be issued on January 25, officials said on Friday.
If the polls take place, it will be the first elections in Jammu and Kashmir after the abrogation of provisions of Article 370 and bifurcation of the state into union territories in August last year.
The elections to about 13,000 vacant posts of panch and sarpanch in gram panchayats is likely to be held next month and a notification is expected to be issued on January 25, a Home Ministry official said.
The entire election process is expected to be over by February end.
The posts were lying vacant since November last year when the elections to the local bodies were held.
Out of Kashmir”s 20,093 panch and sarpanch seats, more than 12,500 seats have remained vacant since then.
The announcement to the polls is likely to come amidst the visit of 36 union ministers to Jammu and Kashmir beginning Saturday.
The 2018 polls to the local bodies had witnessed poor participation with two major regional political parties — the National Conference (NC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) — boycotting it.
LG reviews Jammu lake project, says admin will expedite works
Jammu, Jan 17: Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Girish Chandra Murmu reviewed the progress of a number of projects in the winter capital of the Union territory on Friday and said the administration will expedite the works.
He visited the market place and tourism reception centre to assess the facilities there. During a visit to the Tawi river bank the L-G was briefed by Ajeet Sahu, the principal secretary of the Irrigation and Flood Control Department, about the progress of its beautification project and the Jammu lake project.
During his visits, Murmu was accompanied by top divisional-level officials and heads of departments.
Asserting that the administration was trying to expedite the projects, the L-G said, “We don”t know what had happened in the past, but we will carry it from here and see to it that these are completed.”
In June last year, the Jammu and Kashmir government had cancelled GR Infra Projects Limited”s contract for developing the artificial Tawi lake. The administration is set to release fresh tenders to resume work.
A revised detailed project report was framed, according to which Rs 51.57 crore shall be required to complete the project and Rs 4.97 crore to undo the damage caused due to floods till date, officials said.
The project, launched in 2009 by the Congress-NC government, was marred by delays and missed six deadlines before work came to a standstill in 2018.
As per the project plan, an auto-mechanical barrage would be constructed on the river Tawi, one kilometre downstream of main Tawi bridge. This will help create an artificial lake at Belicharana. The 1,500-metre-long and 600-metre-wide artificial lake, a first-of-its-kind here, will give a new dimension to tourism in Jammu city, officials said.
In phase-II of the project, beautification and embankment works are to be taken up under Tawi River Front Development Project for which an MoU has already been signed by Jammu Development Authority (JDA) with the Sabarmati River Front Development Corporation.
Before beginning the tour Murmu paid obeisance at the famous Raghunath temple in the morning.
SSF guarding LG strengthened with intake of 19 more cops
Press Trust of India
Jammu, Jan 17: The special security force (SSF) guarding Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Girish Chandra Murmu has been strengthened with induction of 19 more police personnel and support staff, officials said.
As per the order issued by Special Secretary, Home Department, Shakeel-Ur-Rehman, 13 personnel including three officers and six police staff have been sent on deputation with the SSF with immediate effect on Thursday.
This step has been done to strengthen the security cover around the L-G, they said adding that the force will now have a total of 80 well-trained officers.
In 2018, the then State Administrative Council (SAC) of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir had approved a bill for setting up the force for providing proximate security to the governor.
The bill, which was later given approval, contains provisions related to the constitution and regulation of a separate security force in the state for providing proximate security to the governor, members of his immediate family and matters connected therewith.
Those posted with the SSF, like their counterparts in the SSG, have commando training.
The legal framework related to constitution and regulation of a separate security force in Jammu and Kashmir for providing proximate security to the chief minister, members of his immediate family and other connected matters is contained in the Jammu and Kashmir Special Security Group (SSG) Act, 2000.
The SSG, which was set up in 1996 after the National Conference president Farooq Abdullah came to power, will continue to provide security to the chief minister and the former CMs.
The SSG at present provides security to four former CMs including Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah of the National Conference, Mehbooba Mufti of the PDP and Ghulam Nabi Azad of the Congress.