Drive to remove illegal beacon lights launched
Ravi Krishnan Khajuria
Tribune News Service

Jammu, January 27
Even though in a "better late than never act" the traffic police has started removing beacon lights from the vehicles of the "violators", yet several so-called "status conscious" people continue to wait for a latest government order in breach.

Even in the backdrop of the traffic police's crackdown, it appeared that every second person from the elite strata of winter capital had become a "VIP".

Talking to The Tribune, IG traffic Dr SP Vaid said, soon after the government order was issued, the traffic police launched a drive removing beacon lights from the vehicles of those, who were not entitled to have this privilege.

“We didn't even spare senior police officers, officials of civil administration, civil secretariat, Raj Bhawan, ministerial staff of Chief Minister and other ministers”, said the IGP. However, he candidly admitted that violation of the government order still continued but added that the drive would continue till the task was accomplished.

The state government has issued a fresh order that entitles red beacons to the Governor, Chief Minister, Deputy Chief Minister, Legislative Assembly Speaker, Legislative Council Chairman, leaders of Opposition in both the Houses, High Court Chief Justice, cabinet ministers, ministers of state, Jammu and Srinagar Mayors (within their municipal limits), chairman of LAHDC Leh and Kargil (within their jurisdiction) sitting MPs, members of state legislature, Chief Secretary, principal secretaries, DGP, ADGPs, high court judges and session judges, advocate general, district magistrates, divisional commissioners, IGPs of Jammu and Kashmir zones, DIG Range, district SPs of police and fire brigades.

Lower-rank officials, retired officials and office-bearers of different political parties have been violating the order with impunity, said a politician of a mainstream party.

A senior official of the GAD said though government issued such orders in the past as well but they had a little impact. Influential people, who want to brag their social status, continue to indulge in the unethical practice, he added. A senior police officer admitted that such vehicles could be easily misused in the turmoil-hit state. "These vehicles hardly undergo checking at different check posts in and around the winter capital and hence could be misutilised," he added.

It may be recalled here that during the previous PDP- led coalition government, son of a cabinet minister had allegedly tried to abduct a young girl from Janipur in an official vehicle of his father and eventually landed in the police custody.



Orphans nurture big dreams
Sunaina Kaul
Tribune News Service

A girl plays at the Bal and Balika Niketan in the Ambphalla area in Jammu
A girl plays at the Bal and Balika Niketan in the Ambphalla area in Jammu. Photo: Inderjeet Singh

Jammu, January 27
Having lost his father early in his childhood and mother to militants’ bullets, 12-year-old Sunil Kumar from the militancy-infested area of Kishtwar wants to study hard and grow up to become an Army officer so that he can serve the nation.

Sunil is one of the 91 children, many of whom have lost their parents to militancy, staying at the Bal and Balika Niketan in the Ambphalla area of Jammu.

Like Sunil, other inmates of the Niketan are also keen to put their past behind and work hard for a better tomorrow not only for them but also for their families.

Balwinder Singh, who hails from Doda district and studies in class VII, said, “I am pursuing my education from DBN School. My father was wounded by militants’ bullets. Though he survived bullet injuries, he has been rendered incapacitated to do any job.” He is a gold medallist in boxing in his school and he, too, desires to join the Army.

Suresh, another class VII student, whose father was killed by militants, aspires to be a doctor in the Army.

Seema (8), studying in class I, belongs to Gorakhpur (UP). Her parents were labourers at a brick-kiln in Kashmir. From there, she was picked up by some anti-social elements and was spotted at Nagrota in Jammu in July 2007. “I want to be a teacher when I grow up,” she avers with innocence in her eyes.

Kuldeep Kumar, another class VII student, said, “I have lost my parents to a deadly disease and I am living in the Niketan for the last seven years.” He said he would like to be an engineer.

The children at the Niketan are imparted education from class I to class X, along with education in art and music. Apart from it, job-oriented vocational training courses like electrician, hair dress, tailoring, knitting, etc., are imparted to them. They are also provided free of cost food, medical care and other necessities.

Among these children, father of 11 were killed by militants, while two lost their mother to militancy, said Captain Parshotam Sharma (retd), secretary of the Niketan.



Kashmir Administrative Service exams
DD provides counselling to aspirants
Ehsan Fazili
Tribune News Service

Srinagar, January 27
Not only professional courses like the MBBS or engineering, but also competitions in other professional, non-professional and administrative fields enthuse the student community in Kashmir.

Over the years, however, there have been many hurdles in their preparations for such competitive examinations.T he recent announcement of the Jammu and Kashmir government to fill 398 vacant posts of in the Kashmir Administrative Service (KAS), through the state Public Service Commission (PSC) has drawn the attention of hundreds of aspiring youth.

In this direction, Doordarshan Kendra, Srinagar, has started a series on providing counselling to the KAS aspirants during its phone-in programme, “Sitaron Se Aagey”, to encourage the youth to choose administrative services as a career option.

Entitled “Administrative Services as a Career Option”, it highlights the pros and cons of the competitive examinations with a major focus on the KAS-2009. “So far we have telecast four episodes of the series and the response of the viewers has been great. During the programmes we receive calls from all corners of the valley where the aspirants seek answers to their queries and suggestions from the panel of experts which comprises reputed KAS officers”, said a spokesman for the Kendra.

“The main aim of the series is to enhance the potential of the Kashmiri youth to compete in the competitive examinations which assures a promising career in administrative services and get rid of the fear psychosis among them towards such examinations which is responsible for least representation of our educated youth in the administrative set-up”, said producer-director of the programme, Nazir Nazar.

“It has also been disturbing to see that in most of the cases it is the parents and the pressure from peer groups which compels a student to prepare for BE and MBBS examinations and less attention is paid towards the IAS and the KAS”, he added.

“This had been proved during the calls that were received in the programmes where most of the callers complained of pressure from their parents to prepare only for MBBS and BE”, the officer said. He said keeping in view the demand of the viewers, the series would also include counselling sessions by former as well as present members of the PSC and guiding tips by female KAS officers also, as the participation of females in the KAS has been less over the years.



Fenced out of native place, residents seek relief
Shariq Majeed
Tribune News Service

Qasba-LoC (Poonch), January 27
Every morning, Muhammad Din, his brother, Muhammad Kareem, and their wives, Hasham Bi and Haneefa, leave their house in a colony here, for their native village of Kerni on the other side of fence near the Line of Control (LOC). They go to their native village for farming and rearing their cattle there in the day, and return in the evening, leaving their cattle and property to the mercy of God.

It has been 10 years now that they have been following this routine of changing home twice a day. They take lunch in one home (on the other side of the fence) and dinner in their dwellings here.

“We have adapted ourselves to this routine. After crossing over the fence we do farming in our native village even rear our cattle. In the evening, we have to return leaving our cattle to fend for themselves since the Army doesn't allow us to stay there,” said Muhammad Din, who along with his brother Kareem cultivates about 50 kanals of land on the other side of the fence and has about six head of cattle.

"We wish to stay there but unless the government takes the matter with the Army authorities they won't allow us. We don't wish to change our homes twice a day and want to live in our own native place. Now that the new government is in place, we are hoping that it will take some steps in this direction”.

This is not an isolated case, there are about 150 families who had to migrate from their native village of Kerni to the colony in Qasba, and have the same story of sufferings and agony to share.

The villagers, who were natives of Kerni village on the other side of the fence just close to the Line Of Control (LoC), had to move to this side of the fence after 1998, due to shelling along the LoC.

The villagers, comprising around 150 families, were reportedly given financial aid by the government for constructing houses in this village. Ironically, these villagers, who are putting up in a colony in this area, have their houses in Kerni village.

A senior Army officer posted in the area admitted that these villagers were not allowed to stay in Kerni village due to security reasons. Defence sources, too, claimed that the safety of these villagers was the prime concern of the Army.



Solar energy lights up their lives
Dinesh Manhotra
Tribune News Service

Kishtwar, January 27
With the state authorities disbursing solar lights on subsidised rates to residents of Inchan and Nawapachi, the remotest hamlets of Kishtwar; the Dacchan, Marwah and Wardwan belts of the district are now covered under solar energy.

As there is no electrification in the inaccessible areas, the inhabitants still use kerosene oil or wood for light at night. Apart from kerosene oil, residents of the areas generally use age-old smeared chimneys which are hazardous for health. Although residents of the belt had already deposited the payment well in advance, yet the authorities took more than a year to ultimately distribute solar lights to them.

Due to delay in the distribution of solar lights, people were losing their patience and had warned to launch a stir against this inordinate delay.

Actually, it was in 2006 when the Science and Technology Department had formulated a plan for providing solar lights to the inhabitants of the Marwah, Dacchan and Wardwan areas. The department had provided solar lights to the Rural Development Department to distribute the same to the residents on subsidised rates, but the department was creating hurdles.

Even more than 60 years after Independence, the belts of Kishtwar district lack basic amenities. For centuries, people of these scenic areas have been adhering to a primitive lifestyle owing to the geographic compulsions which the state government could not overcome.

According to official sources, the government has sanctioned more than 5000 solar lights on subsidised rates. The solar lantern with its panel currently costs about Rs 3,200-3,600. Inhabitants of these areas were charged Rs 750 for each light and remaining amount is provided by different departments. The solar lantern is a portable lighting device that uses CFL which has its own rechargeable battery inside that can be charged every day using an 8 to 10 watt solar panel. This is an ideal device to light up homes in those areas where electrification is still a distant dream.



Banda Singh Bahadur
A forgotten warrior
Tejinder Singh Sodhi
Tribune News Service

Jammu, January 27
One of the greatest Sikh warriors, Banda Singh Bahadur, remains a forgotten hero in the state from where he actually belongs.

Banda Singh Bahadur, who is believed to have laid the foundation stone of the first-ever Sikh kingdom of Punjab after confronting the Mughal army, does not have a single memorial in the state of his birth.

Born in 1670 in a Hindu family in a small village in Rajouri district, Lachman Dev was later rechristened as Banda Singh Bahadur after he was baptised by the Guru Gobind Singh.

Nobody has bothered to remember the sacrifices that he made for the community and the country. Very little has been recorded in the history about the early childhood of Banda Singh Bahadur.

According to historians, Lachman Das while hunting killed a pregnant deer and was shocked to find two unborn deer dying in pain after he ripped the belly of the killed dear.

"This incident transformed his life. He left hunting and became an ascetic. Later, impressed by the visiting saints, he decided to become a sadhu himself," said Paramjeet Singh, a Sikh historian.

At the age of 21 , Lachman Das became Madho Das and was believed to have attained miraculous powers. He reached Nanded in Maharashtra to set up an ashram. Later, when Madho Das came in contact with Guru Gobind Singh, he was so much impressed by him that he offered his services to the Guru.

"Guru Gobind Singh baptized him and renamed him Banda Singh Bahadur (brave man). He was ordered to abolish the Mughal rule in Punjab," Paramjeet Singh said. Banda Singh Bahadur managed to organise an army and toppled the Mughal rule in Sirhind.

According to historians, Banda Singh Bahadur was arrested in 1715, along with 740 of his comrades and was executed. After his death, the Sikhs continued the revolt. Later, Ranjit Singh united the Sikhs, captured Lahore and established the Sikh kingdom in Punjab.

"Every year his birth and death anniversary go unnoticed in the state where he was born. This year also, his death anniversary went unnoticed," said Manjeet Singh, a local Sikh leader.



Drug de-addiction centre grapples with staff shortage
Sunaina Kaul
Tribune News Service

Jammu, January 27
Mashwara Kendra, the only drug de-addiction centre in the entire Jammu division, is grappling with space and staff constraints.

Situated in Purkhoo Domana, the 15-bedded centre is being run by a Delhi-based NGO called Society for the Promotion of Youth & Masses.

The kendra is involved in creating awareness in schools and other educational institutions about the ill-effects of drug abuse and HIV/AIDS with the help of volunteers and staff members.

“In collaboration with the United Nations Organisation for Drug Control, the kendra is involved in the prevention of HIV among drug users. The project is mainly based in the city. We have roped in a number of former addicts in the project so that they can lead a sober life and can help other addicts live a healthy life,” said Pallavi Singh, project in-charge of the kendra.

She said, “Our centre has only 15 beds whereas the inflow of patients is huge. At times, we have to refuse them admission due to space shortage.”

“The ministry of social justice and empowerment provides us Rs 7 lakh every year for running the centre. We are providing free of cost treatment to the patients. The state government should extend a helping hand in running it,” she averred.

“We have less staff as compared to the strength of patients. We need more staff to look after them,” she said.

The kendra carries out various programmes to eradicate the menace of drug abuse, STD and HIV/AIDS. It caters primarily to young and adolescents, marginalised and weaker sections of the society.

The kendra provides a comprehensive treatment facility covering both medical and psychological help. Psychological therapy comprises educational sessions, group therapy, individual counselling, family counselling and marital counselling.

“Follow-up forms an important part of the treatment and the patients are encouraged to meet doctor and their counsellor at regular interval to seek medical advice and their progress report,” she added.




Jammu in grip of drug abuse

The menace of drugs has hit the country hard and youngsters of Jammu are badly affected by this menace. With each passing day drugs abuse is spreading its tentacles deep into society. It was disheartening to read a recent story in The Tribune that read that drug abuse had not only engulfed illiterate youths but also the educated youths, who were, in fact, the most affected lot and a recent study conducted by an NGO found that students of the two main universities of the state were being dragged into this mess. The new government has to show its resolve to eradicate the menace from the region. Being young and energetic, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has a lot at stake and he needs to take stringent measures to check the widespread use of drugs.

Sheetal Sharma

Readers are invited to write to us. Send your mail, in not more than 200 words, at or write in at: Letters, J&K Plus, The Tribune, Sector 29, Chandigarh-160030.



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