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Visiting forbidden areas: MHA likely to relax restrictions for foreigners

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New Delhi, Mar 25: Foreign tourists, except those from Pakistan and China, may soon be allowed to visit some of the most pristine locations of the country, kept out of bound so far for them without a special permit.

The Union home ministry is examining whether to relax the six-decade-old Restricted Area Permit regime, under which foreigners must obtain a special permission to visit Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim and parts of Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan and Jammu and Kashmir among others.

“Discussions are on with the state governments to relax the Restricted Area Permit provisions for some areas for foreign tourists,” Union minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju told PTI.

 

Rijiju said the Ministry of Home Affairs will coordinate with other agencies and the state governments to identify the possible locations for which the Protected Area Permit and the Restricted Area Permit provisions may be relaxed.

An MHA official said the citizens from Pakistan and China, however, are unlikely to be given these relaxations.

The move is being initiated to promote tourism, create job opportunities for the locals and generate revenue for the state, he said.

Under the Foreigners (Protected Areas) Order, 1958, all areas falling between the Inner line and the International Border of some states have been declared as protected areas.

The protected areas currently include whole of Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Sikkim, besides parts of Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand and Jammu and Kashmir. Some parts of Sikkim fall under the protected area regime while others under the restricted area.

As per a December 30, 2010 circular of the MHA, Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland were excluded from the protected area regime initially for a period of one year from January 1, 2011, subject to some conditions.

As per the guidelines, a foreign national is not normally allowed to visit a protected or restricted area unless the government is satisfied that there are extra-ordinary reasons to justify his or her visit.

Every foreigner, except a citizen of Bhutan, who desires to enter and stay in a protected or restricted area, is required to obtain a special permit from a competent authority having the power to issue such permits to a foreigner, seeking it.

In cases, where the power to issue such permits has not been delegated to a subordinate authority by the Union government, the application for the special permit has to be referred to the Ministry of Home Affairs for prior approval, at least eight weeks before the date of the expected visit.

With an aim to promote tourism, the government, time to time by notification, exempts some of such restricted or protected areas from the need of special permission for foreigners to visit them.

Necessary powers have been delegated to various authorities to issue such special permits without the prior approval of the Union home ministry to facilitate foreign tourists subject to the certain exceptions.

In cases of foreign diplomats, including the members of the United Nations and international organisations holding diplomatic or official passports, the special permits to visit such protected or restricted areas are issued by the Ministry of External Affairs.

In cases of the citizens of Afghanistan, China and Pakistan and foreign nationals of Pakistani origin, no permit, however, can be issued without the prior approval of the Union home ministry.

 


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Pak ‘duty-bound’ to share info: Guv

Says militant infrastructure ‘disrupted’, remaining militants to be sternly dealt with

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Srinagar, Jun 19: Asserting that his administration has “disrupted” militant infrastructure in Jammu and Kashmir, Governor Satya Pal Malik on Wednesday said that Pakistan is “duty-bound” to share intelligence inputs about militant attacks with the Government of India.

However, in an apparent jibe, the Governor said “it needs to be seen how many attacks Pakistan is able to stop on its own soil.”

“Pakistan is duty-bound to share intelligence inputs with us. But it also needs to be seen how many attacks are they (Pakistan) able to stop on its own soil,’ Malik said at a police function in SKICC, Srinagar on Wednesday.

 

Asked about the recent increase in militant activities in the valley, the Governor said as his administration has disrupted the militant infrastructure in the state, the militants are doing “one-odd attacks to keep themselves relevant.

“No one has been able to stop one or two attacks, not even America, England or France. But we are working on it and will be able to find a solution to the problem. We will deal with them (militants) sternly and with precision,” he said.

He said that militant recruitment and stone pelting incidents across the Kashmir Valley have also come down.

“No stone pelting takes place anywhere now not even after Friday prayers. A number of youth have also joined their families back and are leaving the militant ranks. Yesterday only two more boys returned to their families,” Malik said.

Last week on Saturday, the Governor had made a similar briefing about the state while addressing the 5th Governing Council meeting of Niti Aayog.

He’d told the meeting that the militant activities have come down in J&K as the people of the state are “not giving shelter to militants.”

Malik had also said time had come to focus on development of the state while giving a PowerPoint presentation and figures about militant activities.

The Governor had claimed that the administration was getting information about militants and their “activities by locals and that they are not offering shelter to those involved in militant activities.”

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JK Bank case: ACB widens ambit, seeks admitted signatures of 13 officers including two past chairmen

Mudassir Kuloo

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Srinagar, Jun 19: Widening the ambit of the investigations, the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has sought the admitted signatures of 13 senior officials of Jammu and Kashmir Bank including its two former chairmen in connection with the case related to alleged backdoor appointments.

A top source in the Anti-Corruption Bureau told The Kashmir Monitor that Senior Superintendent of ACB recently wrote a letter to the incumbent chairman of the J&K Bank to provide details of 10 admitted signatures, handwriting, and initials of 13 officers of the bank.

Among the13 officers, the source said, two are former J&K Bank chairmen. “Most officials have either served in the Human Resource Department or are still posted there,” the source said.

 

The ACB had registered a case under the Prevention of Corruption Act on the basis of a complaint about the alleged illegal and fraudulent appointments made in the bank.

The allegations reflected in the complaint disclose commission of criminal misconduct by J&K Bank officers.

“This constitutes offence under section 5(1)(d) of Prevention of Corruption Act Samvat 2006 and punishable under section 5(2) of the Act. A case FIR No 10/2019 was registered in Police Station Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) Central Kashmir in Srinagar. Investigation of the case has also been taken up,” a spokesman of ACB had said.

The ACB officials refused to share the details saying: “The case is under investigation”.

However, a senior official, who wished not to be quoted, said: “Once we receive the admitted signatures, handwriting, and initials, the same will be forwarded to Forensic Scientific Laboratory to ascertain whether they match with the records we have seized during raids.”

The ACB is currently investigating 1,200 appointments, made allegedly at the behest of some political leaders of the previous PDP-BJP dispensation.

The government recently removed Parvez Ahmad as JK Bank Chairman. There are also allegations of large-scale irregularities in matters related to loans, finances and appointments.

The ACB sleuths on Wednesday raided the official residence of deposed chairman of JK Bank Parvez Ahmad near Polo View Lal Chowk. The ACB team also raided the house of Ahmad’s brother at Natipora area.

The union home ministry and the state government have decided to split the post of chairman-cum managing director of the bank in accordance with Reserve Bank of India (RBI) guidelines.

RK Chhibber, who was the bank’s executive president, has been named as the interim CMD.

Jammu and Kashmir government has 59.3 percent stakes in the bank, which has been established in 1938.

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Modi chairs all-party meet; Cong, TMC give it a miss

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Farooq Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti attending the all-party meet called on 'one nation, one election' by PM Narendra Modi in New Delhi on Wednesday (Photo: KM/Shanker Chakravarty)

New Delhi, Jun 19: “Most parties gave their support to ‘One Nation, One Election‘, CPI(M) and CPI had a difference of opinion but they didn’t oppose the idea, just the implementation of it,” Defence minister Rajnath Singh declared on Wednesday after the all-party meet on the same concluded.

He added, “Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his address, said that a committee will be constituted to give its suggestions on the subject (One Nation, One Election) in a time-bound manner.”

One of the affirmative voices came from Biju Janata Dal (BJD) chief Naveen Patnaik, who on Wednesday said, “Our party is supporting the idea of One Nation, One Election.”

 

The Modi government-led meeting of the heads of political parties to discuss the proposal of ‘One Nation One Election’, among other issues was held in the Parliament even as several party patriarchs skipped the meet.

Out of those who opted to sit out this ‘crucial meet’ were Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam President M K Stalin, Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee and Telugu Desam Party chief N Chandrababu Naidu. Bahujan Samajwadi Party chief Mayawati and her former ally Samajwadi Party too decided to skip the meeting. Aam Aadmi Party national convener Arvind Kejriwal too did not attend the meeting but the party sent Raghav Chaddha as its representative.

Attacking the moot point of the meet today, BSP chief Mayawati said that holding simultaneous national and state elections “appears to be an undemocratic and unconstitutional” idea for a vast country like India. She added that elections in any democracy can never be a problem “nor elections should be weighed from the point of view of expenditure and extravagance”.

‘One nation, one election’ is not an issue before the country, she said. Elections through ballot papers are actually the national issue and our party will continue its struggle for it,” Mayawati declared.

On the other hand, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee also claimed that she would have joined the meeting had it been on EVMs. She had declined the invitation to attend and had asked the Centre to instead prepare a white paper on the “one nation, one election” issue for consultations.

Sources said that Opposition parties are wary of the meeting convened by the prime minister as they feel this might be a “trap” set by the BJP and needs proper discussion before going ahead.

The agenda for the meeting also includes the celebration of 75 years of Independence in 2022 and the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi this year. It will be followed by a dinner meeting with all the MPs on Thursday.

Meanwhile, JD(U)’s chief Nitish Kumar, National Conference’s Farooq Abdullah, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) chief Sukhbir Singh Badal, BJD’s Naveen Patnaik, PDP’s Mehbooba Mufti and YSRCP’s Jaganmohan Reddy are among those who attended the meeting.

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