Cross-border trade a damp squib
Kumar Rakesh
Tribune News Service

Srinagar, February 3
Cross-border trade between two parts of the divided state has proved an economic dud for the Kashmir traders just 100 days after it was inaugurated with much fanfare on October 21 last year.

Due to a number of inhibitive factors, the trade has been reduced to an exchange of small quantity of vegetables and fruits between families who have relatives on both sides of the Line of Control rather than full-fledged business among traders.

The Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry's President Dr Mubeen Shah said the single truck that went into PoK from this side recently carried vegetables that very much sums up the state of the present trade. "We have lost our interest and no longer bother over what is coming from that side and going from ours. It is a cruel joke on us," he told The Tribune.

There is not much import of Kashmir's famous apples, dry fruits and handicrafts, whose traders were touted to be biggest beneficiaries of the trade before it began. Shah, whose organisation had taken a lead for the early opening of the trade, said the business has become symbolic in nature now. The cross-border trade has been strangled due to restrictions on the movement of traders across the LoC and complete absence of economic opportunities as the trade has been barter in nature and does not involve exchange of currencies. "A healthy trade requires businessmen from both sides to frequently meet each other to explore business potentials. It will also need setting up of banks on both sides through which traders could send money for the purchase of the goods," Shah said.

Traders blame both the governments for not doing enough to boost the business. They say they submitted proposals approved by trade bodies in Kashmir, Jammu and PoK to the government officials but nothing has come out of it.

The state officials said they were ready with several measures when the Mumbai terror attack occurred and deteriorating relations between both the countries derailed them.



Black bear, leopard census
Wildlife dept seeks NGOs’ help
Our Correspondent

Anantnag, February 3
The state wildlife department has sought the assistance of NGOs working in the country for wildlife protection to find out the exact population of black bears and leopards in the state.

Department officials here believe the number of animals might have increased but they are not sure about the exact number.

“Finding out the exact number of black bears and leopards in the state is a tedious job,” says Imtiyaz Lone, wildlife warden, South Kashmir division.

The warden says the department has approached NGOs like the Wildlife Trust of India and the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, in this regard.

“A proposal has already been drafted to find out the statistics of these animals in the state,” says Lone, adding “Definitely, the number of black bears and leopards has increased in the valley. It is due to restrictions imposed by the government that these animals are commonly found.”

The warden said as there had been no poaching in the Kashmir valley since the eruption of militancy, the population of wild animals had increased. He added that the government was seriously considering threats posed to wild animals due to human intervention in their habitations.

“Humans have encroached upon buffer zones and converted them into human habitations. Animals while moving out come in contact with human population, which results in a confrontation,” says Lone.

Mohammad Amin, a forest guard at the Achabal Wildlife Sanctuary in Anantnag district, said the population of wild animals had increased. “There are many black bears and leopards, but I don't have the figures. Definitely, it is on the rise,” says Amin.



Relocation hits Tibetan hosiery traders
Sunaina Kaul
Tribune News Service

Jammu, February 3
The woollen and hosiery market run by Tibetan women in Jammu has failed to attract customers due to its unsuitable location.

For past more than 25 years, Tibetan refugee women come to Jammu from Mcleodganj, Dharamsala, in Himachal Pradesh, during the period of October to February, for selling their products. A couple of year before, they were provided space beneath flyover at MLA’s Hostel crossing near the BC Road for setting up their shops.

A variety of hosiery and woollen items on cheap rate, which cater to the needs of middle class families, are available here but despite this, response is not so good perhaps due to the unsuitable location of the market, avers Sonum Lhamo, one of the vendor.

She says, “We have now got a proper shopping site but it does not catch the sight of customers because of its unsuitable location. The market remains open for 12 hours i.e. from 8 am to 8 pm”.

Another reason stated by Lhamo is that the market obscures the sight of customers most of the day, due to parking of buses by some drivers in front of this market.

Prior to the coming up of this refugee market, these women used to sell their products on the footpaths near Ghumat Bazaar which is a very busy crossing.

Sonum says, “We used to have brisk sales at Ghumat Bazaar, but carrying our business on footpaths caused problem to the pedestrians”.

“Though sales are not very good in this area, we have new customers who come with the Darbar Move. We are happy to get a proper space, but unsuitable location has dampened our business,” she says.

The number of these migrants is slowly dwindling down as this year only four out of 16 families have opened their shops in Jammu.



Gujjar Nagar sans streetlights for months
Ashutosh Sharma
Tribune News Service

Jammu, February 3
With the fall of dusk, the Sher-e-Kashmir bridge in Gujjar Nagar plunges into darkness, as the streetlights over the bridge are defunct. This has been making commuting difficult during evening hours.

On both sides of the bridge, the streetlights wink at commuters and need immediate replacement or repair. Besides this, nearly 108 emergency fluorescent tubes of the general bus stand are also out of order for the past over six-seven months.

“None of the bridge lights is functioning properly. In the name of light, only some lamps in the Gujjar Nagar bazaar are functioning thereby throwing the entire area into darkness," says a local resident, Shafiq Mohammad.

Bikers and motorists complain that the road along crematorium is under construction and several manholes are left open. “Driving has been exposed to fatal risk on this stretch while the authorities are sleeping over the issue,” says Lucky, a commuter.

“This is the height of negligence on part of the authorities that the areas reels under darkness in spite of the fact that there is a police post on the bridge and CM’s house in the vicinity," says Rakesh Singh, adding that it's a serious security lapse and unscrupulous elements can spoil the peace in the area.

Similarly, at the general bus stand all fluorescent tubes connected with the emergency supply line are out of order while kiosks have connected tungsten bulbs on their own. The two mast lights were, however, repaired after several months recently.

“Passengers have to put up with darkness on the platform. Any terrorist can exploit the situation to plant some explosive device. The authorities must understand the gravity of the matter and take requisite steps before some tragedy rocks the city," say shopkeepers of the area.

They further demand that there should not be any scheduled and unscheduled cuts at the general bus stand.

The superintendent engineer, power development department, Ajay Gupta, says, “The lights at the bus stand have to be maintained by the Jammu Development Authority (JDA) while the PWD has to maintain lights over the bridge”.



Kashmiri model set to rock music lovers
Seema Sharma
Tribune News Service

Barkha Kaul Jammu, February 3
It is not an easy task to create a niche in the competitive fashion industry, especially for a small town entrant. Most of the dreamers in this category get lost in the oblivion sooner than later. But Barkha Kaul, a Kashmiri girl, who is a top model, TV anchor, DJ and musician, has proved her mettle in the fashion industry with determination and hard work.

Now, she is all set to release her maiden remix music album soon.

She was in town recently for a fashion show. Enumerating the factors needed to be successful in this field for a new comer, she said, "You need to know to carry yourself with grace and attitude. Secondly, be street smart and worldly wise. Thirdly, update your PR and networking skill. And lastly, excellent communication skills is necessary”.

Although born and brought up in Agra, Barkha is essentially a Kashmiri girl and adheres to the customs of Kashmir. "I love Kashmiri food and traditions," she said.

Luck, too, has been favouring this talented girl from the very beginning, when she wore the crown of Miss Agra in 1999. The achievement spurred her to move further into the bastion of glamour. She went on to do a course in acting school in Noida. Later, when she sent her portfolio to various agencies, she was flooded with assignments of print shoots and TV anchoring on entertainment channel Zoom and Zee TV.

“I started anchoring for TV shows such as Maxim and Aashiana, but before that I had done lot of ramp shows and felt anchoring will be difficult. After anchoring, I found the work of DJ more challenging as I was always interested in music, and diversified towards it," she said.

"It is quite difficult to make hundreds of people dance on music for three hours and that too to their satisfaction. I keep myself update with the latest in music to be able to serve people well.”

Despite her myriad vocations, she has not lost touch with her first love i.e. ramp shows and, thus walks on ramps off and on.

Her two remix songs from films, “Bachana Ae Hasino” and “Golmaal” are already available on the internet. Ready to take up newer challenges in life and take them to perfection, Barkha is eyeing on her next ambition of composing film music. "I have a couple of exciting offers, but I am bound not to talk about them at this stage. But soon, the news will be shared with the media,” she concluded.



Noted writer recalls pre-Independence events
Ashutosh Sharma
Tribune News Service

Jammu, February 3
Recipient of Padam Bhushan, Balraj Puri, started his public career as editor of an Urdu weekly in J&K in 1942 and is still active through his writings and work in social and political fields. He has been a regular contributor to major national dailies and academic journals. He is an author and a co-author of 40 books.

In a conversation with The Tribune, the octogenarian recalled several historical events, his role in the anti-autocratic movement in pre-Independence days, in the Quit India movement in 1942 and peacekeeping during and after the Partition riots.

Though critical of Sheikh Abdullah's rule from 1948 to 1953, he initiated a protest movement against his dismissal and arrest in 1953, which, he says, was done in an undemocratic way and alienated the people of Kashmir.

He raised two main issues with Jawahar Lal Nehru since he started meeting him in 1948, lack of democracy in the state and need for regional harmony. According to Puri, he had succeeded in persuading Nehru and Abdullah to announce at a joint press conference on July 24, 1952 that " the Constitution of the state when framed would provide for regional autonomy."

He believes that if the formula had been implemented, there would never have been any Kashmir issue. But the strong agitation against it by Praja Parishad created many complications. Many international powers also tried to fish in the troubled waters of the state that culminated in the arrest of Abdullah in 1953, he said.

Abdullah visited Pakistan with Nehru’s consent but he had to cut short his visit there due to Nehru's sudden death. Puri recalls that when he had gone to receive Abdullah at the airport, he insisted on first going straight to Nehru's Samadhi. En route, he told Puri, "Had I known that Panditji was to die so soon, I would have finally settled the Kashmir issue with Nehru in Delhi itself."

Balraj Puri headed a Regional Autonomy Committee set up by the Farooq Abdullah government in 1996, which recommend a federal and decentralised set-up for the state.



Students, faculty beautify school, surroundings
Ashutosh Sharma
Tribune News Service

Akhnoor, February 3
Government Higher Secondary School, Narrari Bala in Akhnoor is proud of its lush green environs in a sprawling campus. The students, teachers and villagers of the area have one thing in common, concern for the environment.

Though, the area is a Kandi or dry land, yet trees give it a different look. The school that was high school then, created this awareness in 1988 on the occasion of National Integration Day. The then headmaster of the school, OP Gupta, took the initiative with the help of some local government departments coupled with the active involvement of staff, students and their parents.

"Students were asked to plant trees in their work experience period. Since they were from the rural areas, they voluntarily used to bring with them manure for the plant saplings," said OP Gupta. He said it inculcated a sense of hard work in the students.

"If schools evince interest in the upgradation of environment, the problem of pollution will automatically get settled," he suggested.

"Tree plantation not only replenishes the lost greenery but also provides fruit and ornamental saplings to the villagers and improves their economic condition," he said.

Maintaining that this is the only way to check deforestation and educating people, Gupta said, "Schools can seek help from the several departments like forest, agriculture, rural development, environment, horticulture etc."

Narrari Bala is not the lone case. Gupta took up such initiatives in different schools during his services. These schools include the Higher Secondary School, Sial Sui in Rajouri, the Government High School, Sohal and Government High School, Chowki Choura.

Vice-principal of the school Santokh Ram and environmental science teacher Jagdev Singh said, "We lost some trees to construction, but in the ensuing rainy season we will plant more trees in association with the Department of Social Forestry."

"We are also going to rope in local people to make them plant more and more trees in the area," they said, but rued that there has been acute shortage of water in the area.

Gupta has recently submitted a proposal to the government, seeking period of work experience a must in schools. "This project that does not involve any cost gets implemented, the funds allocated and land available with schools could be better utilised. Besides, the objective of overall development of the student will also be fulfilled," he remarked.



Super cop on track to wipe out terrorism
Dinesh Manhotra
Tribune News Service

Batote, February 3
Awarded with the President's Police Medal on this Republic Day, the Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police, Doda-Ramban range, Hemant Kumar Lohia, is the brain behind devising a comprehensive anti-militancy policy that has yielded encouraging results in this mountainous belt, earlier considered as the stronghold of terrorists.

During his one-year tenure as DIG of this range, more than 80 militants, including some dreaded self-styled commanders, have been eliminated. “I used my past experience to wipe out terrorism from this mountainous belt,” affirmed the DIG, who has earlier served at Anantnag and Srinagar on the same post.

The topography and demography of Doda belt is entirely different from Anantnag and Srinagar so he devised a new strategy to deal with militants active in this area and adopted an offensive posture. Instead of launching operations in different areas, he formulated a target-oriented policy to specifically target and track down self-styled militant commanders.

"We have constituted special teams and a specific target has been given to each team," he told the Tribune and observed that it was all due to this policy a good number of commanders have been eliminated by the forces during the past one year. These included Saifullah of Lashker-e-Toiba (LeT), Mohammad Shafi, alias Hashim Khan, of Hizbul Mujahiden (HM), Abu Umair of LeT, and Tauhid Ahmed of LeT. And most important of all was the killing of Abu Umar, who was LeT’s country coordinator.

"Our policy has yielded positive results as we have achieved spectacular success in our fight against militancy,” the DIG claimed and added that now only a few militants were active in this belt and the cops were on the job to chase and track them down as well.

During his tenure as Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) in the border district of Rajouri, Lohia has already proved his capability to deal with militancy, which was at its peak in this area. On the one hand, infiltration and ex-filtration were going unabated while on the other militants had also intensified selective killings of minorities to force migration. Lohia had constituted border posts to check the movement along the Line of Control (LoC) and also constituted village defence committees (VDCs) to provide security to minorities of the district. "The concept of mixed VDCs and border posts proved successful in dealing with militants in Rajouri," Lohia recalled and pointed out that keeping in the view the local situation cops have to change strategies to take on militants.




Jammu junkyard of vehicles

Even though Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has plan up his sleeves to streamline the chaotic traffic movement in the winter capital, the traffic police bother little about the rising menace of vehicles being parked within congested localities, which cause problems to locals. Though the city in the past over 20 years witnessed steep rise in the number of vehicles, the road length almost remain the same. And to aggravate the problem, people with no civic sense have converted roads into permanent parking lots for their vehicles that lead to densely populated localities.

Upper Lakshmi Nagar in Sarwal locality of the thickly populated Jammu west Assembly constituency is one such glaring example. A narrow road leads to this locality but some people park their vehicles on both sides of the stretch, completely choking the movement of other vehicles. Not only this, repeated pleas to convince these people failed to have any positive impact. Even the traffic police and the municipal corporation have turned a blind eye to this nagging problem. It is high time that the authorities wake up to this problem and at least remove the vehicles parked on both sides of roads within the localities, especially in Jammu West and Jammu east where the menace has crossed the limit.

Uday Bhaskar

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