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J&K gets woman minister
Our Correspondent

Jammu, February 12
Mrs Suman Lata Bhagat became the first woman minister in the Council of Ministers, headed by Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, which was expanded here today.

Ten MLAs were administered the oath of office by the Governor, Lt-Gen S.K. Sinha (retd). Among them, Mrs Suman Bhagat, who represents the R.S. Pora constituency, was the lone woman to have been given a Cabinet post.

The remaining nine legislators were given the rank of Minister of State. They are Mr Raman Bhalla, Mr Yogesh Sawhney, Dr Romesh Chander Sharma (all from the Congress), Mr Sarfraza Khan, Mr Ghulam Hassan Khan, Dr Ghulam Nabi Lone (from the PDP), Mr Manjit Singh, Mr Usman Majid and Mr Jatinder Singh (from the People’s Democratic Forum).

With today’s expansion, the size of the ministry has increased to 39. The Congress has 14 ministers, the PDP 12, the PDF 9, the Panthers Party two and the Ladakh Buddhist Association two.

Since the state has a bicameral system, today’s expansion of the Council of Ministers makes it 32 per cent of the total number of MLAs and MLCs. The Lower House has a strength of 87 and the Upper House 36.

The last expansion in the 15-month-old Council of Ministers had taken place on January 14, 2003. With today’s expansion, there are now 18 ministers of Cabinet rank, including the Chief Minister, and 21 ministers of state.

The Panthers Party and the CPM, the former is a partner in the coalition government and the latter its supporter, have criticised the government for the ministry expansion.

Panthers Party leaders want the Chief Minister to have a Council of Ministers, which is 10 per cent of the total number of seats in the Assembly.

A CPM MLA, Mr M.Y. Tarigami, said while the government had no funds for ameliorating the lot of people, it was ready to bear huge expenses on salary and perks of the ministers.



12 die as bus falls into gorge

Jammu, February 12
Twelve persons were killed and 35 injured, seven of them critically, when the bus in which they were travelling fell into a deep gorge in Rajouri district of Jammu and Kashmir today, official sources said.

The bus was on its way from Parori village to Rajouri, the sources said. — PTI


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