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THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS

Every Wednesday & Saturday

Continuous shutdowns and curfews
Valley sees exodus of students
Srinagar, August 31
Many students have started leaving the valley to seek admission in other educational institutions of the country as an aftermath to the continuous shutdowns and curfews rocking the area one after another since June 11. Some institutions have even relocated students to other centres and institutions across the country.

Debris of a partly damaged house in a lane of Jain Bazaar in Jammu. Unsafe structures pose threat to residents
Jammu, August 31
A house damaged partly at Jain Bazaar because of heavy rain last week and other unsafe structures in the locality have been posing a threat to the life of residents.



Debris of a partly damaged house in a lane of Jain Bazaar in Jammu. Photo: Inderjeet Singh



EARLIER EDITIONS

Winter fear stalks Leh
August 28, 2010
Lashkar down but not out
August 25, 2010
Board for concessions to Valley students
August 21, 2010
Pak desperate to push ultras into Jammu region
August 17, 2010
Pak desperate to push ultras into Jammu region
August 14, 2010
Independence Day is ‘black day’ in Kashmir
August 11, 2010
Turmoil: Contractors, daily wagers, pensioners bear the brunt
August 7, 2010
MC digs up trouble in Jammu
August 4, 2010
Fertiliser shortage worries Jammu farmers
July 31, 2010

Tourism Dept cancels annual Ladakh fest
Leh, August 31
The annual Ladakh tourist promotional festival, which is held every year from September 1 to 15, has been cancelled this year due to the widespread devastation caused by cloudburst in Leh district.

Gastroenteritis outbreak
‘Systemic failure’ leads to epidemic in Budgam
Srinagar, August 31
A “systemic failure” in the supply of drinking water has led to the outbreak of gastroenteritis that claimed five lives in Budgam district of central Kashmir. The district has registered at least 2,233 cases since August 16.

Govt fails to check growth of parthenium
Jammu, August 31
With no single government department for controlling the growth of parthenium, this rainy season has witnessed massive growth of the obnoxious weed across the Jammu region. The weed has become an eyesore for farmers as well as common man as it is not consumed by cattle, whereas it is highly allergic and poses serious health hazard.

Gold-plated idols find buyers in temple town
Jammu, August 31
Gold-plated idols of Radha-Krishana and Bal Gopal are the main attractions for customers this Janmashtmi. Lakhdatta Bazaar is witnessing a brisk sale of such idols these days after doing good business in gold-plated “rakhies” on Raksha Bandhan.

A cow eats a sapling on the Jammu-Pathankot National Highway.
A cow eats a sapling on the Jammu-Pathankot National Highway. Photo: Inderjeet Singh

Oxytocin use
Farmers, dairy owners to face action
Jammu, August 31
Clandestine use of oxytoxin injections by farmers and dairy owners to increase their income at the cost of human health has terribly alarmed the Drug and Food Control Organisation here.

Amarnath cave shrine
Various initiatives mark this year’s yatra
Srinagar, August 31
Various initiatives were taken by the Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB) during this year’s annual yatra to the holy cave shrine, which concluded after 55 days beginning from July 1 in the upper reaches of Pahalgam in south Kashmir.

Flood of greetings after Ramadan moon sighting
Srinagar, August 31
The moment Ramadan moon was sighted, people exchanged greetings. Earlier, people depended on SMS facility to send greetings, but with a ban on SMS it didn’t happen this time.

MC plants 200 saplings
Jammu, August 31
As part of a plantation drive by the Jammu Municipal Corporation (JMC) during the monsoon to make the city greener, the horticulture wing of the corporation planted about 200 saplings of different varieties of plants at Bhagwati Nagar, Government Higher Secondary School, Nawabad, and the adjoining areas.

Smoking ban violators to face action
573 fined so far this year
Jammu, August 31
Now, smokers would be in trouble for flouting the ban on smoking at public places as they would be dealt with strictly by the state administration.

Jammu diary
Bajrang Dal strategy to dodge cops
Taking a lesson from police action against Youth Congress workers for taking out a march in the city without proper permission, activists of the Bajrang Dal have devised a strategy to protect themselves from police brutality.



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Continuous shutdowns and curfews
Valley sees exodus of students
Afsana Rashid

Srinagar, August 31
Many students have started leaving the valley to seek admission in other educational institutions of the country as an aftermath to the continuous shutdowns and curfews rocking the area one after another since June 11. Some institutions have even relocated students to other centres and institutions across the country.

“Many families have arranged for tuition of their children outside the valley”, Ishtiyaq Ahmad, a resident, said, adding that “though everyone can’t afford it is a feasible option for those who can”.

Some private professional colleges have already closed their operations here and have offered students to be relocated to other centres across the country. “We were given an option to move out of the valley as our college got closed here. As everyone couldn’t opt to move out, they offered on-line teaching for those who couldn’t migrate”, said a group of students at Wigan and Leigh College, Srinagar.

Shabina Mir, a student, said: “I never wanted to leave my parents and place but circumstances compelled me to move out as our college closed down its functions in the valley and I had no choice”.

Equally concerned are parents, who want to see their children well-settled and they feel moving out is a better option in the current scenario. There are others who feel that education should be accorded priority and steps should be taken to see that the academic calendar is not further interfered with.

“We’ve been hearing that many students are leaving the valley to make their careers. So we too are planning to send our wards outside as there seems to be bleak future for them if they stay back”, said Zahida Akther, a parent.

Imtiyaz Ahmad, another parent, says it is good if some students are moving out to make their careers “but what about the majority who are left behind”. He argued that additional classes or relaxation in syllabi to appear for the annual examinations to be held after a couple of months is no solution.

Over the past three months, students here attended just a few classes. Some educational institutions asked pupils to download syllabi and prepare accordingly for their examinations. Some are being guided by their parents but mostly students have joined tuitions to compensate the loss.

Even Syed Ali Shah Geelani, chairman of the hardline faction of the Hurriyat Conference, had said that people, mainly teachers and lecturers, should volunteer themselves for educating students in their respective localities.

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Unsafe structures pose threat to residents
Sunaina Kaul
Tribune News Service

Jammu, August 31
A house damaged partly at Jain Bazaar because of heavy rain last week and other unsafe structures in the locality have been posing a threat to the life of residents.

Residents said though the Municipal Corporation had engaged some labourers to demolish the damaged house, the work was going on at a slow pace.

“The damaged house is posing risk to our lives as it can collapse any time and cause a troublesome incident in the locality,” said Ashok Khajuria, a resident.

He added that Subash Chander Chauhan, a resident of the locality, had a narrow escape when a part of a broken wall of the damaged house fell on him. Khajuria said, “The MC should engage more labourers for demolishing the damaged house”.

The residents demanded that MC commissioner SC Sawhney should visit the area to assess the risks being faced by people in the locality.

The residents are also facing inconvenience as telephone and electricity overhead wires are buried under debris for the past 12 days.

Subash Chander, a resident, said, “We are facing a lot of problems in the absence of power and telephone service in the locality. Electricity poles and wires of telephones have been buried under debris for the past several days”.

The residents said for the time being they had got electricity connection from other locality. The main lane leading to the locality was still blocked with the debris due to which the movement of vehicles and pedestrians was restricted.

“The MC has not deputed anyone for lifting debris. The telephone and electricity wires cannot be restored until debris is removed,” said Ashok Khajuria.

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Tourism Dept cancels annual Ladakh fest
Our Correspondent

Leh, August 31
The annual Ladakh tourist promotional festival, which is held every year from September 1 to 15, has been cancelled this year due to the widespread devastation caused by cloudburst in Leh district.

The 15-day long festival is organised by the J&K Tourism, Leh, to extend tourist season in Ladakh by showcasing its tradition and culture.

Sonam Dorjay, assistant director, Leh tourism, said, “The festival has been cancelled to express solidarity with the people who lost their near and dear ones in the recent natural calamity, which claimed over 200 lives, besides injuring 500 people and making more than 2,000 homeless”.

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Gastroenteritis outbreak
‘Systemic failure’ leads to epidemic in Budgam
Tribune News Service

Srinagar, August 31
A “systemic failure” in the supply of drinking water has led to the outbreak of gastroenteritis that claimed five lives in Budgam district of central Kashmir. The district has registered at least 2,233 cases since August 16.

Waterborne diseases like gastroenteritis, cholera and jaundice were reported in the area following heavy rains and cloudbursts leading to flash floods which contaminated water resources. Official sources also confirmed that “systemic failure” was effected due to minimum curative measures taken by the Public Health Engineering (PHE) for providing drinking water to the populace during the past few decades. “The contamination of water has been due to the systemic failure over decades,” a senior officer of the PHE Department has conveyed to the government, sources said.

While the two-pronged healthcare delivery system comprising curative and preventive measures are in place, the focus is on curative system only and the preventive measures have been relegated to the wall, a senior officer in Budgam told The Tribune.

Budgam district, carved out of Srinagar district in 1979, comprising a population of 7.78 lakh, has been divided into eight medical blocks and has 237 health centres ranging from one district hospital to the dispensaries at the village level.

To combat the outbreak of gastroenteritis, jaundice and cholera reported from certain parts of the district, 23 health institutions have been made functional round the clock and five mobile medical teams have been fanned out.

The health education and extension mechanism has been geared up for a specific thrust on the preventive healthcare as an important component of the health delivery system, said Budgam deputy commissioner on the conclusion of an extensive tour of effected villages like Sholipora, Nasrullahpora, Bandgam, Karewa Hareun, Punchas, Soibugh, Ohangam, Chaewdara and Beeru. The deputy commissioner was accompanied by a team of doctors and experts, including CMO and DTO, Budgamb, besides, PHE engineers. The district health society of Budgam has also embarked on a massive public outreach campaign involving print and electronic media, door to door contact by health educators and 20 composite health camps in all eight medical blocks.

But, the major contributor to the contamination of drinking water is the presence of a large number of brick kilns in the district, which alone has 204 out of the total 370 brick-kilns in Kashmir. “This district has the highest number of brick-kilns that have an adverse effect on various sectors like health by way of environmental pollution and eating upon the agricultural land,” said deputy commissioner Mohammad Rafi.

“It should better be known as ‘bathagam’ instead of Budgam,” he commented adding that during the past two years, he had been advocating a check on the spread of kilns in the area.

He held that the large number of labourers in the kilns, mostly from outside the valley, continue to use the open space for defecation in the open and that too closer to the water bodies.

This leads to the contamination of drinking water even before it is collected for treatment and distribution for drinking purposes.

In its public information notice published in the locals here, the PHE Department, however, has clarified that adequate measures were being taken to provide safe drinking water to prevent the further outbreak.

“Heavy rainfall has washed away animal carcasses and accumulated decayed organic matter, garbage and fecal matter to flow into water resources,” it stated and warned against using water from nullahs and springs.

It states, “Due to the ongoing turmoil in the Valley wherein garbage and other wastes remain accumulated at un-savory places for days together and precipitation causes the decayed organic matter with hazardous microbial content to get mixed with water sources which can become a source of such outbreak”.

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Govt fails to check growth of parthenium
Ashutosh Sharma
Tribune News Service

Jammu, August 31
With no single government department for controlling the growth of parthenium, this rainy season has witnessed massive growth of the obnoxious weed across the Jammu region.

The weed has become an eyesore for farmers as well as common man as it is not consumed by cattle, whereas it is highly allergic and poses serious health hazard.

While the weed has covered grasslands, forest areas, bunds along farmlands, extra land along roads and other wasteland, it seems that the administration is comfortable with the allergic weed, which has become a huge challenge over the years.

Officially, more than 12 government departments, including the Department of Rural Development, the Roads and Buildings Department, local municipalities, the Agricultural Department and the Forest Department, are supposed to check the growth of the weed.

However, the ground reality is starkly different as nothing was being done to check the growth of allergic weed. It never allows the growth of grass or any other vegetation.

Popularly called as Congress Grass, it causes air-borne dermatitis or inflammation of skin due to its pollens in air or direct contact. The weed also affects respiratory system causing asthma, besides inflammation of eyes.

It is believed that parthenium hysterophorus has a foreign origin and it came into country through import of wheat and other cereals from the US in 1950.

Sensing the enormity of the problem, a weeklong programme about the parthenium menace was held at the Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology, Jammu, recently.

“There is a strong need for making people as well as farmers aware about the weed. However, it is sad that the government has still not woken to the issue,” stressed a professor at the university, and added that, “There are chemical and biological methods for checking the spread of the weed besides its uprooting. Since the first two factors involve cost, people do not use them, whereas the third option is used in a limited way”.

“The weed not only suppresses the growth of other plants, but also is a serious threat to the health,” he stated.

“We keep educating farmers regarding ill effects of the weed,” said Ajay Khajuria, director, agriculture, and added that, “Moreover, fields are tilled after consecutive six months, the weed finds ground for its growth in the remaining areas”.

“Collaborative effort of different departments are needed for the check of its growth,” he added.

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Gold-plated idols find buyers in temple town
Sunaina Kaul
Tribune News Service

Jammu, August 31
Gold-plated idols of Radha-Krishana and Bal Gopal are the main attractions for customers this Janmashtmi. Lakhdatta Bazaar is witnessing a brisk sale of such idols these days after doing good business in gold-plated “rakhies” on Raksha Bandhan.

The idols hit the market a few days ago. These idols are available in two variants, one is 24-karat gold-plated foil and the other is a swiss-made variant.

The 24-karat gold-plated idol is available at a price of Rs 550 and the swiss-made variant is available for Rs 425 and Rs 975. Besides, jewellers are also offering key chains made of 24-karat gold foil available at Rs 350 each.

Pawan Talla, proprietor of Pawan Jewellers, said, “We have launched the idols under ‘aastha’ collection on the occasion of Janmashtmi.”

Sahil Mahajan, another jeweler, said the response was good as the sale of idols was going on as per expectations.

Vishal Talla, another jeweler, said he had sold around 13 per cent pieces of gold-plated idols so far. “We are expecting that the sale of idols will go up in the last two days before Janmashtmi”, he said.

Veena Sharma, a customer, said, “These idols are attractive and are available at reasonable prices.”

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Oxytocin use
Farmers, dairy owners to face action
Rajesh Bhat

Jammu, August 31
Clandestine use of oxytoxin injections by farmers and dairy owners to increase their income at the cost of human health has terribly alarmed the Drug and Food Control Organisation here.

The organisation, while issuing advisory for strict implementation of drugs and cosmetic rules in respect of manufacture and sale of oxytocin, has sought help from public to identify all those elements who have been misusing the drug for their petty interests.

“We have set up a helpline for general public to share information related to misuse of oxytocin injections by dairy owners and farmers,” said drug controller Satish Gupta.

He said the information could be shared on telephone numbers: 2538527, 2538626, 2597445 and 9419180734. “Complainants can also mail their complaints at: [email protected],” he said.

Gupta admitted that some farmers in the region have been illegally using the drug to increase the size of vegetables and other produce. “The drug is clandestinely supplied from the neighbouring states even to dairy owners here for extracting milk from cows and buffaloes,” he said.

Gupta recalled that his organisation had recently seized 10,000 ampoules of oxytocin injections from a premises not authorised to store the drug in bulk. “That forced us to initiate administrative action against offenders indulging in misuse of injections,” he said.

The controller warned all pharmacists against the misuse of sale and purchase of oxytocin injections. “Besides legal action, we will cancel their licences, if found guilty,” he declared.

He informed that oxytocin injections were required to be packed in a single-unit blister pack only for sale and were needed to be dispensed on the prescription of a registered medical practitioner only.

Gupta clarified that oxytocin is not a banned drug at all. It is basically required by doctors, especially gynaecologists to control post-parturient bleeding and to increase uterine hypo-toning activity. Unfortunately, some elements have been misusing it for their vested interests.

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Amarnath cave shrine
Various initiatives mark this year’s yatra
Ehsan Fazili
Tribune News Service

Srinagar, August 31
Various initiatives were taken by the Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB) during this year’s annual yatra to the holy cave shrine, which concluded after 55 days beginning from July 1 in the upper reaches of Pahalgam in south Kashmir.

More than 4.56 lakh pilgrims paid obeisance at the holy cave till the yatra concluded on August 24 on the occasion of Shravan Purnima coinciding with Raksha Bandhan.

According to chief executive officer (CEO) of the board, RK Goyal, principal secretary to the Governor, and chairman of the SASB, the board had been according high priority to the implementation of sanitation and related measures for the preservation of environment at the base camps and at all locations en route the cave shrine along both yatra routes.

He recalled that in 2009, several measures were initiated, including the setting up of two sewerage treatment plants, based on eco-friendly technology/biological treatment, at the Baltal and Nunwan base camps, both of which were technologically upgraded this year. Goyal said as part of several initiatives taken by the board this year, all registered pilgrims were provided free of cost accident insurance cover of Rs 1 lakh.

In 2009, a pilgrim seeking an accident insurance cover was required to pay Rs 24 at the time of registration for the yatra. He said the insurance cover was also provided with the support from the state government to all registered labourers deployed during the yatra as well as for pony owners in case their horse/pony was involved in an accidental death.

This scheme was aimed at benefiting about 20,000 labourers and 7,000 pony owners, who belonged to economically weaker sections of society. He disclosed that more than 30 cases of insurance claims have been received from concerned pony owners. An amount of Rs 20,000 is paid to the concerned pony owners in all cases in which the claim is accepted, he added.

Dwelling on other initiatives taken this year, the CEO stated that helicopter services were made available on both Baltal-Panjtarni and Pahalgam-Panjtarni routes at substantially lower rates as compared to the last year’s yatra.

He added that at the instance of the Governor, several steps were taken for the promotion of tourism industry in the state through equitable distribution of helicopter seats among the registered tour and travel agents and their associations (based in Srinagar and Jammu), Hotel Associations of Kashmir and Jammu Divisions, House Boat Owners Association, Pahalgam Hotel Association and J&K TDC. These collaborative arrangements were widely appreciated by all stakeholders.

Goyal added that cellphone connectivity for real-time communication became available through BSNL for the first time at the initiative of the Governor.

Besides, the board also installed digital satellite phones at crucial camps at Sheshnag, Panjtarni and the holy cave, which proved to be extremely useful in regard to coordination for monitoring the yatra arrangements and also the movement of pilgrims.

Goyal informed that a round-the-clock control room was established in the CEO’s office to monitor all movements and to particularly watch weather reports. Because of bad weather, the yatra was suspended on six occasions on both routes.

Despite repeated advisories and issue of dos and don’ts to the pilgrims, the CEO regretted that as many as 61 pilgrims lost their lives due to medical reasons. In all, 11 pilgrims died in accidents on the way to and on return from the yatra.

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Flood of greetings after Ramadan moon sighting
Our Correspondent

Srinagar, August 31
The moment Ramadan moon was sighted, people exchanged greetings. Earlier, people depended on SMS facility to send greetings, but with a ban on SMS it didn’t happen this time.

“We exchanged telephonic greetings with our friends and relatives but through SMS we could have reached more people”, says Abrar Ahmad, a local resident.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Muslim calendar (Hijri), when people observe a complete fast from dawn to dusk without even taking any liquids, including water.

Muslims take a pre-fast meal to set them up for the rest of the day, almost 15 hours before they break their fast. In most homes, people use alarm clocks for a wake-up call. In some areas, especially in old city, the traditional form of waking up people continues.

Sahar Khan, a person designated for the purpose, while beating the drum asks people to get up for taking ‘sehri’. He moves from house to house in a specific area or locality.

Special dishes are prepared for ‘sehri’ (pre-dawn meals) and ‘Iftar’ (time to break fast) in almost every household here.

As daylight begins to fade, Muslims await Muezzin’s call to perform the Maghrib (evening) prayers. Once the call is heard, people break fast (Iftar). People generally break their fast with dates, water and ‘firni’ (sweet dish) followed by thirst-quenching drink. This varies not only by individual preferences, but with status of family as well.

Few minutes before ‘Iftar’ children outside various mosques here hold dates or juices on trays and offer that to every passer by so that people, who are on their way home could break their fast. These things together with ‘halwa’ or ‘firni’ are made available within mosques for worshippers to break their fast.

Almost similar scenes exist within houses. Preparations for ‘Iftar’ start almost couple of hours before the time to break fast. Women are busy preparing dishes with other members of family lending a helping hand. Some prepare juice, others make fruit chat and still others prepare sweet dishes. Dates, fruits, juices and sweet dishes are quite common in every household at ‘Iftar’.

The moment there is announcement in mosques asking people to break fast; there is a lot of excitement around. “It gives us a great feeling as we break the fast. During the day we realise the condition of have-nots. This month conveys a message of love, mutual respect, sharing and forgiveness”, said Zahid Ahmad, a resident.

It is common for most families to have their evening meal at home straight after breaking fast. Few choose to go to bed slightly later than usual and take a meal and drink before they sleep.

Iftar parties too have become quite popular among masses here. A get-together, Iftar parties offer great time for people - friends, colleagues and relatives, to enjoy, chat and discuss.

In this month of fasting, people generously offer donations for the needy and underprivileged and are very particular about their prayers.

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MC plants 200 saplings
Tribune News Service

Jammu, August 31
As part of a plantation drive by the Jammu Municipal Corporation (JMC) during the monsoon to make the city greener, the horticulture wing of the corporation planted about 200 saplings of different varieties of plants at Bhagwati Nagar, Government Higher Secondary School, Nawabad, and the adjoining areas.

Speaking on the occasion, the JMC Assistant Commissioner (R), said: “God has gifted us with most valuable things in nature and we must perform our duty with utmost care to maintain the ecological balance.”

Making the students aware of the importance of forests, he said the need of the hour was to plant more and more plants that are so essential for the survival of humanity.

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Smoking ban violators to face action
573 fined so far this year
Sunaina Kaul
Tribune News Service

Jammu, August 31
Now, smokers would be in trouble for flouting the ban on smoking at public places as they would be dealt with strictly by the state administration.

The Drugs and Food Control Organisation (DFCO) has decided to improve its working and enforce the ban in letter and spirit.

Satish Gupta, controller, DFCO, said, “We have been organising awareness camps to educate people about the ill-effects of smoking. Now, we have started taking strict action against those found smoking at public places”.

According to official records, the department inspected around 9,906 public places in 2009-10 under the Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA), 2003.

During this period, the department booked around 992 defaulters and collected Rs 45,855 as fine from them under section 4 of the Act, which deals with the prohibition of smoking at public places.

Under section 6-A of the Act, which says that no person shall sell cigarette or any other tobacco product to any person who is under 18 years of age, the department booked 56 violators and charged Rs 2,565 from them.

Under section 6-B, which puts a ban of the sale of cigarette and other tobacco products in an area within a radius of 100 yards of any educational institution, the department had booked/challaned 93 defaulters and charged Rs 4,860 as fine from defaulters.

In 2010 up to July, the department has inspected 4,513 public places in which 518 violators were booked under section-4. A fine of Rs 24,325 was charged from them.

Under section 6-A, the department has booked 15 defaulters and has charged Rs 850 as fine from violators. Under section 6-B, the department booked 40 defaulters and collected Rs 2,240 from them.

Satish Gupta said besides their department, the ban was also being implemented by other departments.

“The state government had framed district and divisional level committees to monitor the ban,” said Gupta.

He added that the district-level committees were looked after by district development commissioner/officer whereas the divisional committees were monitored by chief medical officers.

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Jammu diary
Bajrang Dal strategy to dodge cops

Taking a lesson from police action against Youth Congress workers for taking out a march in the city without proper permission, activists of the Bajrang Dal have devised a strategy to protect themselves from police brutality.

Instead of taking out a full-fledged rally, workers of this saffron organisation usually take out a march in parts to dodge the police. To lodge protest against the “saffron terrorism” remark of Union Home Minister P Chidambaram, the Bajrang Dal had planned a protest march.

Fearing police action, they took out a protest march in parts. As soon as cops would reached, all workers jumped into vehicles and started moving peacefully like commoners. When cops dispersed from the spot, Bajrang Dal activists would resume their protest march.

Haphazard parking of vehicles

Haphazard parking of vehicles on the main road, encroachment upon footpaths by shopkeepers and encroachment upon the main road by rehariwallas at Kanak Mandi exposes the efficacy of the Jammu Municipal Corporation’s anti-encroachment drive.

In this ever-busy market, most people park their vehicles on the road (See photo), which hinders frequent movement of vehicular traffic as well as pedestrians there.

Besides, shopkeepers display their products on footpaths, forcing the commuters to walk on the main road putting their lives to great risk.

Rehariwallas further add to the problem by encroaching upon the main road for selling their products.

(Contributed by Dinesh Manhotra and Sunaina Kaul)

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