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Will ensure ‘peaceful’ atmosphere for JK polls: Army Chief

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New Delhi, Sep 23: Army Chief General Bipin Rawat on Sunday said the Army would ensure a “peaceful atmosphere” in the state so that people could cast their vote in free and forthright manner.

“The Army is required to provide security not by itself but along with all the security agencies. Our job is to ensure that the civil administration there and the Election Commission is able to carry out the task and people can come out in peace to cast their vote for the person whom they wish to elect as a Sarpanch and the other members of the committee. Our task is mainly to ensure a peaceful atmosphere and people can cast their vote in a free and forthright manner without fear and any kind of disruption,” General Rawat stated in an interview to news agency ANI.

He further said, “We are looking at the Panchayat elections; we want it to go through because with this, the power will devolve to the people and the people have been saying that there is a lack of governance. If they want proper governance, then, the Panchayat elections are a way for it. Why should anybody oppose Panchayat elections? Why anybody would try to disrupt the peaceful elections process which is one of the democratic processes in which our country is functioning.”

 

Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) of Jammu and Kashmir Shaleen Kabra on September 16 announced that Panchayat elections in the state would be held in nine phases, from November 17 to December 11, between 8 am and 2 pm. With the announcement of the Panchayat elections schedule, the Model Code of Conduct is already in place.

Days after the state Election Commission announced the dates for Panchayat polls in Jammu and Kashmir, miscreants attempted to set ablaze a Panchayat Ghars in several areas of the state.

Meanwhile, reacting on the Indian government’s decision to call off the Foreign Minister-level talks with Pakistan on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York, General Rawat said that “terrorism” and peace talks cannot take place together.

In a strong statement, General Rawat told reporters that the Indian government’s policy is very clear that Pakistan, with their actions, has to prove that they are not promoting “terrorism”.

“Talks are not being held, because our government’s policy is that talks and terrorism cannot take place together. We have given a clear message to Pakistan. Government’s policy is clear that Pakistan has to prove with their actions that they are not promoting terrorism,” he said.

Hailing the Indian government’s stand to cancel talks between the foreign ministers of the two countries later this month, the Army Chief said, “Only the government can decide if talks should be held in such an environment and I think the government has taken the right decision.”

He added, “This type of tension in the border has been continuing. They (Pakistan) keep saying that they would not let their soil be used for militant activities against other nations. But we can see that such activities are taking place and militants are coming from across the border.”

On September 21, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said that behind Pakistan’s proposal for talks to make a fresh beginning, its “evil agenda stands exposed and the true face of the new Pakistan Prime Minister has been revealed.”

India, on Friday, pulled out of the proposed meeting between External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi, hours after two Special Police Officers and one policeman in Jammu and Kashmir were kidnapped and killed by the militants.

Apart from this, the body of a Border Security Force (BSF) Head Constable Narender Singh was found with multiple bullet injuries on his torso and neck on September 18.


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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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