Polled less than required votes, yet a winner
Shariq Majeed
Tribune News Service

Rajouri, January 16
Weird it may sound, but it is true. In the recently concluded elections in the Rajouri Assembly segment, even the winning candidate failed to get the votes required to save his security deposit.

The election to this seat saw many high-profile politicians, including former MPs and ministers, jumping into the fray. It also saw the highest number of rebel candidates of all main political parties trying their luck.

Interestingly, Shabir Ahmed Khan of the Congress won this seat by defeating his nearest rival Master Tassaduq Hussain of the PDP by a narrow margin of 333 votes. While Shabbir Khan got 10,013 votes of the total valid votes of 73,469, Tassaduq Hussain could secure 9,680 votes.

A political analyst said a candidate must secure one-sixth of the total valid votes polled to get back his security which he/she deposits at the time of filing of nomination. “In this case, even the winning candidate had secured 13.63 per cent of the total valid votes and as per the Election Commission of India guidelines the candidate did not secure the adequate number of votes to save his security deposit,” the analyst maintained.

Of the 1,04,783 declared numbers of voters in the Rajouri Assembly segment, 73,469 voters (70.12 per cent) exercised their franchise in the elections held for this segment on November 23, 2008.

Though in the beginning it was seen as a triangular contest between the Congress, PDP and the National Conference (NC), later BJP candidate Vibodh Gupta also joined the fray, seeking to cash in on the religious sentiments shaken by the Amarnath land row.

After the result for this Assembly segment was declared on December 28, it was a tight win for the Congress candidate. As expected, the candidates of main political parties and independent-cum-rebel candidates cut down the vote percentage and the margin of the winning candidate.

Chaudhary Talib Hussain, former MP and NC rebel-turned-Independent candidate, secured 8,763 votes, Vibodh Gupta of the BJP got 8,712, Muhammad Aslam Khan of the NC secured 7,706 votes, Choudhary Qamar (Congress rebel-turned-Independent candidate) got 7,035 votes and Muhammad Sharief Tariq (former minister and PDP rebel-turned-Independent) secured 5,299 votes.

Chief electoral officer BR Sharma said even as the winning candidate failed to get the desired number of votes, there was a provision by which his security deposit was not forfeited.



Frequent digging of roads causes resentment
Rajesh Bhat

The main road in Jammu’s Shastri Nagar blocked for a private function.
The main road in Jammu’s Shastri Nagar blocked for a private function. Tribune photo: Anand Sharma

Jammu, January 16
The “making and breaking” of roads and lanes seems to have become a routine affair in the region.

A typical instance of the lack of coordination among various public works agencies surfaced in the Bharat Nagar area of Bantalab near here when a road constructed only a fortnight ago was again dug by another agency on the pretext of laying water pipes.

The digging of the road created resentment, as it was after a series of meetings of deputations with officials that this 2-km road, adjacent to public health engineering department, Bantalab, was blacktopped after a long wait of five years.

“This is a sheer wastage of public money. The road which was constructed only in December has again been destroyed," remarks Sunil Kumar, a resident of the area.

The residents say they are not against the laying of water pipes in the area. "But the way work has been undertaken on this project speaks volumes about how roads are first constructed and then destroyed the next moment," says Nikku Ram, a shopkeeper.

He says local BJP councillor Manohar Lal was approached a number of times and it was only after a great persuasion that this road was constructed. “Now we are back to square one,” rues Nikku.

Ram Parkash, an official of Maharashtra-based Pratibha Private Industries Ltd, which has been assigned the job of laying the pipes, says, as per the agreement, our firm will reconstruct the road and take care of all the repair work. “But we are not responsible if tomorrow the telephone department starts laying underground cables,” he remarks.

Vijay Kumar, a former employee of the roads and buildings department recalls that during his service days, all agencies would work in unison. “The departments should follow the same process to avoid wastage of public money," says Vijay.

In fact, the digging of roads is not confined to the Bantalab area alone. Such scenes, where roads are haphazardly dug and culverts destroyed, are witnessed in other localities as well. At Chinore, one agency had recently constructed the road and another brought its machinery to dig it.

"It is not that there is a lack of coordination among various public agencies but such a situation is being created to drain out pubic exchequer in league with certain government officials who approve the projects,” remarks a contractor.



MC goes about quietly killing stray dogs
Kumar Rakesh
Tribune News Service

Srinagar, January 16
Deterred by the howls of animal rights activists, mostly from outside the state, over its plans to poison ever-swelling number of stray dogs, the municipal corporation authorities in Srinagar have hit upon an ingenious method to deal with the nuisance without raising eyebrows of the activists.

Bereft of modern non-violent resources to limit the canine 
population, they are indeed killing them by poison, but without 
giving it any publicity to keep activists from interfering in their quiet drives.

The MC was at the receiving end from many quarters during last summer when its officials went public with their impending poison-the-dogs exercise. The common masses, who routinely fall victims to dog bites in a city rife with stray dogs, welcomed the drive, but the plan invited ire of the authorities and activists of various organisations.

Even the local media whole-heartedly supported the MC, but the government caved in to allegations that its ways were grossly insensitive.

What is more important, public health or lives of canine population, asks an MC official, who has supervised small-scale operations of putting down dogs in many localities of the summer capital. "My conservative estimate is that stray dogs number over 50,000 and we have no modern means to control them. These activists shout that we should go for operations to stop them from breeding. It is ridiculous,” he says.

Scores of dogs were killed recently around the secretariat and judicial complex in Srinagar when public complaints of their nuisance poured in and the same exercise has been repeated in the areas like Rawalpora and downtown.

Dr Saleem Khan, a member of the Association for Prevention and Cure of Rabies in India, says it is high time to control the dog population as safety of human life was of paramount importance in any society.

Nine-year-old Rubina was mauled by dogs in Rajouri Kadal a week back when she ventured out of her home to purchase household goods from a neighbouring shop. Stories of dog bites are rather common in Kashmir as stray dog population fattens on tonnes of leftovers of non-vegetarian food every day.

Ajaj Ahmad, a journalist working with a local paper, says it gets scary in the night for those like him moving alone. "Dogs own streets in nights. Children in many localities are not allowed to go out alone even during the day. Animal rights activists do not see things in context and are one-sided,” he says.



Udhampur residents feel insecure as 
crime rate soars
Dinesh Manhotra
Tribune News Service

Udhampur, January 16
As mysterious killings have become a routine affair in Udhampur and adjoining localities, the police is finding it difficult to solve these sensational deaths which have created insecurity among residents of this town.

In the past one month alone, 16 persons were murdered in Udhampur and its outskirts. Notwithstanding claims of the police of solving a majority of these cases, killing of women under mysterious circumstances still remains unsolved.

The killing of a teenaged girl on Wednesday morning once again highlighted the failure of the police in controlling the rising crime in Udhampur. Already baffled with repeated murders in this belt, the police got more riddles after the mysterious death of the young girl.

Senior Superintendent of Police Surinder Gupta admits that some cases have remained unsolved. He, however, claims that the murders which took place during his tenure have been solved.

The failure of the police in solving murder cases can be gauged from the fact that a year back on January 15, 2008, a middle-aged coupled was brutally murdered in a remote village of Panchari block. Till date, the police has failed to get even a single clue in this sensational case which had created insecurity among residents of this peaceful belt of Udhampur district.

The SSP admits that the police has failed in solve this case. He, however, reiterates that a team headed by the Additional SP has been already constituted to investigate the matter. Ironically, the team was constituted soon after the couple was killed but till today this case remained unsolved.

In October 2008, the police recovered mutilated bodies of two girls who were killed by some unidentified persons. One of the girls was strangulated to death and thrown into the open fields. Till today, the police has failed to solve these cases as well. 



Weddings, parties irk city residents
Sunaina Kaul
Tribune News Service

Jammu, January 16
Come the marriage season and city residents are reduced to a harried lot, as people in the residential areas occupy main roads for erecting tents to hold wedding parties and other private functions.

Occupying the main road for organising wedding and other private parties has become a general phenomenon in various posh localities in the city, which not only hampers the flow of traffic, but also causes problems to pedestrians. People don’t even hesitate to put up tents in the narrow lanes and bylanes, making it difficult for commuters to move.

“What bothers me more is the fact that instead of taking action, the authorities concerned turn a blind eye to it, thereby encouraging others to follow suit,” said Kavita Sharma, a resident of Shastri Nagar.

Anita Sethi, another resident, said, “People like these are irresponsible towards society. In the guise of their joys, they forget that they are creating trouble for others.”

The residents blame the authorities for continuation of the practice. “I have never seen any official objecting to the erection of tents on the road in our locality,” said Vishal Jamwal, another resident of the area.

Another section that faces the problem is autorickshaw drivers. “Many a times, we have no other option but to change the route, which eats into our earnings, as we can’t charge anything extra for it from our customers,” said Ram Pal Sharma, an auto driver.

Municipal joint commissioner JS Tandon said, “Such activities are totally illegal. No one can install a tent on the lane, bylane or on the road for celebrating private functions.” However, he said they could initiate action only if the people informed them about such illegal activities.



Bat industry on verge of closure
Perneet Singh
Tribune News Service

Jammu, January 16
Cricket bat industry is battling for survival in the state. Jammu region, which boasted of 77 cricket bat manufacturing units a few years ago, now has mere 10 units, while the scenario in the Kashmir valley is no different.

Talking to The Tribune, Jammu Sports Goods Manufacturers Association president Bansi Lal Gupta attributed the slump in the trade to smuggling of willow, used for manufacturing bats, from the state and mushrooming of plywood units in the valley that are rampantly using willow for manufacturing plywood. “As per the norms, willow can only be used for making bats, but the plywood units are using it, throwing all norms to wind,” he added.

According to him, the shortage of willow has led to sharp increase in its prices. A truckload of willow that cost Rs 1.5 lakh a year back, today comes at Rs 3 lakh. He said the cricket bat units working legally were on the verge of closure while those operating illegally were thriving in the state.

Nazir Ahmed Salroo, president of the Cricket Bat Manufacturers Association, revealed out of a total of 300 cricket bat manufacturing units in the valley, half of them had shut their shop. He lamented that the plywood units were not even allowing willow trees to attain the size necessary for manufacture of cricket bats, while the government has failed to initiate any action against them. He said the plywood units should use popular wood for manufacturing purpose. He alleged that the government had no policy for the industry, adding that if corrective measures were not taken the remaining units would also meet the same fate.

Majid of the Association, too, blamed the rampant smuggling of willow and plywood factories for the plight of the industry. “We have no alternative to Kashmir willow, which is second only to the one found in England. However, the way willow is being plundered in the valley our trade would not survive for more than one or two years,” he added.

Majid said on one hand, the state government was making tall claims of promoting the industry, and on the other, it had no plantation programme. “Thousands of acres of forest land is lying vacant which can be utilised for plantation of willow,” he said. He rued that they had engaged their literate children in this trade, but their lives had been ruined. He said the people, who earlier used to grow willow on their land, were now opting for “safeda” (eucalyptus) as it takes only 7 to 8 years to grow as compared to willow’s 20 years.

He said the National Conference government under Farooq Abdullah had imposed a ban on export of willow from the state, but the ban remained effective only for a couple of months. Later, smuggling of willow undid all government’s effort to promote the industry. “There is nothing left for our next generation. There is nobody to listen to our woes,” he added.

While commissioner/secretary, Industries, Dr Pawan Kotwal, could not be contacted, as he was busy in a meeting. Industries and Commerce Minister Surjeet Singh Salathia said he had just assumed the charge of the ministry and it would not be possible for him to comment on the matter right now.



Karachi book fair
Kashmir varsity publications win accolades
Ehsan Fazili
Tribune News Service

Srinagar, January 16
Much to the expectations of vice-chancellor of the University of Kashmir Riyaz Punjabi, the university publications and works over the past six decades have been appreciated not only at the national level but also at the international level.

This came to the fore during a five-day international book fair organised by the National Book Foundation of Pakistan in collaboration with the Karachi Book Publishers Association held in Karachi recently. Over 600 titles of the published works of the university and 24 films were put on display during the festival. The vice-chancellor believes that the university despite the trouble over the past nearly two decades continued to be a “vibrant, functioning and active institute of learning” in Kashmir.

“We are not lagging in the academic excellence at the international level,” commented Riyaz Rufai, chief librarian of the university, who led the team at the book festival. This was for the first time that the university publications were displayed at an international festival, although these were displayed at the international book fairs held in Delhi.

It was the fourth international book fair held in Karachi, which included participants from different countries across the globe. “The motive was to sell the books and showcase the research output of the university,” the chief librarian said.

The 600 titles displayed at the fair included journals and publications of various departments of the university ranging from Iqbal Institute, postgraduate departments of Urdu and Kashmiri, science faculty departments, Centre of Central Asian Studies (CCAS) and annual reports. The screening of 24 films produced by the university’s Educational Multimedia Research Centre (EMMRC) also attracted academicians and students at the fair, Riyaz Rufai said. “These were all educational films on different fields like Kashmiri handicrafts, saffron, Gulmarg, Hazratbal and Dal Lake. People in large numbers thronged our stall and requested for the copies of the films. We allowed them to copy them on pen drives without any charge,” he added.

“On seeing the publications, many faculty members described Kashmir University ahead of the Karachi University in the persuasion of knowledge and facilities for the students”, Rufai said.

The five-day fair was inaugurated by Rauf Siddiqui, minister for industries and commerce, and Karachi University vice-chancellor at Karachi Expo Centre.



Shiv Khori shrine attracts lakhs
Dinesh Manhotra
Tribune News Service

Pouni (Reasi), January 16
As the Shiv Khori cave shrine attracted a record 5.21 lakh pilgrims this year, the authorities are geared up to provide every possible facility to devotees to divert as many as pilgrims of Vaishno Devi towards other places of pilgrimages in the newly carved Reasi district.

Earlier, devotees visited the cave during Maha Shivratri, but now pilgrims throng this holy place every day in large numbers.

Reasi,which was earlier part of Udhampur district, is now emerging as a tourist district of Jammu and Kashmir as the Vaishno Devi shrine and the Shiv Khori cave shrine are situated in the district.

"We have developed a religious tourist circuit from Katra to Ransoo where the Shiv Khori shrine is situated", Deputy Commissioner, Reasi, Sanjeev Verma, who is also deputy chairman of the Shiv Khori Shrine Board told the Tribune. Aghar Jitto, Noaun Pandian, Baba Dhansar, Deera Baba Banda Bahudur and Shiv Khori are the holy shrines which have been developed to divert the maximum number of the pilgrims of Vaishno Devi towards the interior of Reasi district.

After Vaishno Devi, Shiv Khori is the only religious place which has been attracting devotees from all over the country. According to official data, a record number of over 5, 21,306 pilgrims visited the cave situated in Sanger village near Ransoo of the Pouni block of Reasi district during 2008.

During the year 2007, over 4, 54,465 pilgrims had ‘darshan’ of the holy Shiv Lingam and other deities in the cave, thus registering an increase of about 66841 pilgrims during 2008.

The pilgrimage would have crossed the 7- lakh mark during the year 2008, but the yatra to the Shiv Khori shrine was badly affected during the Amarnath land agitation. "The yatra would touch the 10 lakh mark by the end of 2010", Verma said, adding, " at present, 2500 to 3000 devotees are visiting the cave shrine daily to pay obeisance and their numbers are increasing".

Keeping in view the natural beauty, topography and significance of the area, the board is also making allout efforts to develop the place as a popular tourist resort with infrastructure for the visiting pilgrims. A number of development works have been taken up by the Shiv Khori Shrine Board to provide facilities to the pilgrims. "The work on a five-storeyed waiting hall near the cave at an estimated cost of Rs 2.50 crore is under progress, besides conservation of Doodh Ganga nullah", Verma said, adding " the construction of a serai at Ransoo at a cost of Rs 39 lakh, development of parks and gardens, chak dams at Ransoo Nullah for the recreation of visiting pilgrims, plantation of medicinal plants all along the way, adequate electrification and 
drinking water arrangements and other development works are already under way". 



Poor traffic management

Every year with the Durbar Move come added traffic woes for city residents. Already, the city has a huge number of vehicles apart from thousands of trucks that cross the city either for the Kashmir valley or neighbouring states. There is no traffic regulation at any point in the city and the commuters are left to fend for themselves. Only two-three traffic policemen are spotted at some of the city's busiest points and they, too, seem ill-equipped to regulate the flow of traffic. Surprisingly, the winter capital has not even a single traffic light point that helps to a great extent in reducing traffic snarls. The government should wake up from its deep slumber and provide adequate manpower to the traffic police and also set up light points at the busy areas of the city.

Jasveen Kaur, Jammu





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