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THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS

Every Wednesday & Saturday

Headless SIC ‘burden’ on exchequer
Jammu, December 24
An expensive cradle for yet-to-be-born baby, this is how noted RTI activist Ram Sharma describes the Jammu and Kashmir Information Commission, saying that as many as Rs 83 lakh have been spent on the headless commission since its inception in October last year.

The Year That Was
City witnessed diverse crimes in 2010
Jammu, December 24
Unlike previous years, the city of temples witnessed some heinous and diverse crimes in 2010. Incidents like mass copying during exams, impersonation in MBBS entrance exam, ransom killing of a teenager, a controversial encounter and recovery of some suspicious substance near the MLA hostel hit the headlines in the city this year.

Winter Chill
Kangri comes to the rescue
Srinagar, December 24
Even as various modern gadgets of heating, including gas and electric heaters, have become famous in Kashmir to escape the sub-zero temperatures of the Valley, the traditional Kashmiri kangri (a clay pot enclosed in wicker and filled with hot charcoal) is still famous among the people of Kashmir.




EARLIER EDITIONS

Winged visitors struggle as Valley wetlands freeze
December 22, 2010
Fewer flights, high fares ground Leh
December 18, 2010
Standing tall against injustice
December 15, 2010
Poor infrastructure hits tourism in Jammu region
December 11, 2010
GMCH emergency block raises stink
December 8, 2010
Advisory boards ‘packed with favourites’
December 4, 2010
Tourism projects for Jammu only on paper
November 27, 2010
Protests hit economy more than militancy
November 24, 2010
Damaged road makes life difficult for villagers
November 20, 2010

SMS restoration brings cheer
Srinagar, December 24
The revocation of the ban on the short message service (SMS) in post-paid cellphone connections in the state has cheered residents of the Kashmir valley, especially the youth.

CHRISTMAS FERVOUR ALL OVER

A vendor dressed as Santa Claus selling Christmas merchandise in a market in Jammu
A vendor dressed as Santa Claus selling Christmas merchandise in a market in Jammu. Photo: Inderjeet Singh

Reviving police helpline is Samba SSP’s priority
Jammu, December 24
The new district police chief of Samba will be having a tough time around. Policing in the district has not been so easy for his predecessors after the department dented its image during the Amarnath land agitation of 2008 in which many innocents had lost their lives in police firing. Coupled with it is Samba’s proximity with the border as incidents of smuggling and infiltration had been a routine phenomenon in the district.

Ladakh Floods
Shelters for victims handed over to hill council
Leh, December 24
Shashindar Reddy, Vice-Chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), who visited Leh yesterday, formally handed over the multi-purpose pre-fabricated shelters constructed for the cloudburst affected people of Leh district to the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC), Leh, at a function at Solar Colony, Choglamsar. The cloudburst victims from Leh town are being rehabilitated at Solar Colony.

No room for laxity in development works, says Minister
Srinagar, December 24
Asserting that people’s interests are supreme to the government, Minister for Finance and Ladakh Affairs Abdul Rahim Rather said those creating hurdles in solving problems of the people of the state would not be tolerated any more.

srinagar diary
Protest against winter schooling
In Kashmir, it seems that all know that in order to get their work done they have to resort to protests. First, it was violent protests for more than five months following which all educational institutions across the Valley remained shut; now the decision of the state government to cancel the winter vacation in schools has become a reason for it. Everyday, a large number of schoolchildren from various schools across Srinagar gather at Press Colony to hold protest demonstrations, asking the government to revoke the order of holding winter schools (see pic).



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Headless SIC ‘burden’ on exchequer
Ashutosh Sharma
Tribune News Service

Jammu, December 24
An expensive cradle for yet-to-be-born baby, this is how noted RTI activist Ram Sharma describes the Jammu and Kashmir Information Commission, saying that as many as Rs 83 lakh have been spent on the headless commission since its inception in October last year.

An RTI enquiry by the Jammu and Kashmir RTI Movement in association with another NGO, Sangarsh, revealed this. In the application, Raman, on behalf of the NGOs, had asked as many as 16 questions. “After going through the reply, one can conclude that the commission spent money on everything, except on creating awareness and holding training programmes,” he says.

The commission was constituted on October 19 last year and an IAS officer, Gazzanfer Hussein, was appointed as its first secretary. Wajahat Habibullah, Chief Central Information Commissioner, was officially appointed as the first CIC of the state on October 23.

“However, Habibullah had to withdraw within four months on February 12, 2010, because Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the then Leader of Opposition did not agree on his replacement,” Raman notes and adds, “Ten months on, the SIC remains headless and inoperative, turning the whole process of upkeep and maintenance into an exercise in futility”.

“It has been 14 months since the commission was constituted. During this period, the commission established offices at the Old Assembly Complex in Srinagar and also rented space in Trikuta Nagar, Jammu. Both offices have remained open since it has been assumed that the three-member commission will follow the High Court pattern wherein the CIC follows the Darbar while a commissioner remains in Jammu and another remains in Srinagar.”

“The commission has also established its website www.jksic.nic.in through NIC, and has established modalities for videoconferencing with NIC facilities in the districts once it begins hearings,” he adds.

“However, all along this, expenses amounting to nearly Rs 80 lakh have been incurred. In 2009-10, Rs 21.29 lakh were spent on salaries while Rs 53.62 lakh were spent in 2010-11 up to October,” he reveals.

He further discloses that since its formation, Rs 2.16 lakh have been spent on telephone and internet bills, Rs 2.50 lakh as Darbar expenses, Rs 2.53 lakh on fuel and Rs 1.09 lakh on computers, stationary and miscellaneous items.

“Other expenses have been borne directly by the Estates Department and Motor Garages and are not included in these figures. Overall, at least Rs 83.19 lakh has been spent from the public exchequer,” he says.

Expressing concern, he adds, “Despite so much expenditure, the commission has been almost non-functional. The RTI users have been left with no recourse as their applications have been ignored and some of them have faced threats and physical attacks”.

“It is a shame. The absence of information commissioners makes it difficult to ensure thorough implementation of the RTI Act,” he says and adds, “The Jammu and Kashmir RTI Act is a strong law. It seeks to empower people by making the administration accountable. Unfortunately, the authorities haven’t displayed the required sincerity in making it a reality”.

Corroborating his views, another RTI campaigner, Ayaz Mugal says: “The SIC is presently defunct and taxpayers’ money being spent on its upkeep is going down the drain”.

The commission has been spending money on everything, except on creating awareness and holding training programmes — Ram Sharma, RTI activist

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The Year That Was
City witnessed diverse crimes in 2010
Archit Watts
Tribune News Service

Jammu, December 24
Unlike previous years, the city of temples witnessed some heinous and diverse crimes in 2010. Incidents like mass copying during exams, impersonation in MBBS entrance exam, ransom killing of a teenager, a controversial encounter and recovery of some suspicious substance near the MLA hostel hit the headlines in the city this year.

The first major incident of the year happened on January 15 when Anchal Sharma, alias Amina Yousuf, wife of deceased Rajnish Sharma, fled from her in-laws’ house and reunited with her parents in Srinagar. It may be mentioned here that Rajnish had solemnised an interfaith marriage with the Kashmiri girl in 2009. He later died in police lock-up in Srinagar.

The incident, infamous as Rajnish custodial death case, had touched the feelings of commoners and some political, religious and student organisations carried out protest demonstrations in the city, demanding CBI probe into his death.

As the city was reeling under distress after Anchal reunited with her parents, another major incident took place on March 13 when 21 students wearing turbans were found using mobile phones during their examination of class XII at Miran Sahib here.

The mass copying scam, which not only exposed chinks in the working of the State Board of School Education (BoSE) but also exposed the poor education scenario in the state.

On April 6, a constable deployed at the railway station here was found dead on the bypass road near the Narwal area under mysterious circumstances. The killing of a constable put the Police Department in the dock since the case is still unsolved.

In another gruesome incident, a man killed his wife over some property dispute at Nanak Nagar on April 9. Another similar incident took place on May 25 when a resident of the Janipur area was arrested for allegedly killing and trying to cremate the body of his wife. Both couples had solemnised love marriage.

On May 11, a man allegedly running a fake regional transport office (RTO) and issuing registration documents to people was arrested. A number of fake seals of the RTO were also recovered from his possession.

One of heinous and first-of-its-kind incident took place on June 12 when a teenager, Shalin Gupta, a resident of Nai Basti, was killed by two of his neighbours who had kidnapped the boy for ransom of Rs 10 lakh.

After killing Shalin, who was the lone son of his parents, the city also started boiling, as all major organisations came on the roads and blocked the highway, demanding death sentence for the accused. In this case, an SP and a DSP were also transferred.

On June 28, a teacher was found dead, who was allegedly killed by his students in the

Jouriyan area in Akhnoor sector. During the year, police also captured a cheat who was posing as political adviser to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The accused had not only dodged the local police but also befooled their counterparts in Delhi and Punjab. On July 13, the police arrested Manmohan Singh (50) of Delhi while he was allegedly being accorded the status of a state guest at Katra in Reasi district during his visit to Vaishno Devi shrine.

On July 30, the infamous Chopra Murder Case again hit the headlines as the state police got the transit remand of Sangram Singh, the alleged kingpin in this sensational as well as blind murder case, from the Madhya Pradesh police, and he was brought to the city for further investigations.

In the case, five persons, including three members of a family Rajinder Chopra, alias Raju, his wife, his daughter, and their driver and a servant, were brutally killed at their house in Trikuta Nagar here.

Now the state police has reopened the case after forming a Special Investigation Team (SIT), headed by Farooq Khan, DIG Jammu. On October 24, the Chopra family had again to witness a theft incident in which their domestic help ran away with Rs 1 lakh from their Trikuta Nagar residence.

On August 19, a father was killed by his sons over a property dispute in Nagrota while on September 3, a taxi driver coming from Srinagar to Jammu was found dead in his vehicle in Nagrota.

Although the city by and large remained peaceful so far as militant related incidents are concerned, on October 8, the recovery of 10 apple boxes containing some suspicious substance, near the MLA hostel created panic in the city. Though the police arrested some persons in this incident, it is still a mystery whether the boxes contained explosives or not.

On October 19, firecrackers worth lakhs were seized from the house of a famous firecracker dealer in the Domana area. As the incident took political turn, Domana police station SHO was transferred a few days after he conducted the raid and seized illegal firecrackers.

A daylight robbery took place in the house of a businessman in Gandhi Nagar on October 21. Some dacoits posing as electricians ran away with valuables worth lakhs. However, the accused were arrested a few days later from Punjab and the missing items were also recovered.

On October 23, six members, including the chairperson of an NGO, Youth Movement for Peace, were arrested on the charges of kidnapping and forcibly converting the religion of 28 children from Leh. The NGO had adopted the children after Leh flashflood incident.

On November 21, the police killed a gangster in a shootout near Satyam Resorts in Trikuta Nagar in which one person was injured and another managed to flee. The police claimed that the criminals fired upon them and while retaliating they killed one of the criminals, who were on way to kill some witnesses in the Amandeep murder case.

On the other hand, the family of slain criminal had filed an application in the court, demanding CBI probe into the incident. However, the police is yet to arrest more accused involved in this incident.

On November 26, a grenade exploded at a BSF constable’s house in Kotli Charkan village in the Bishnah area. The incident occurred when the constable was fiddling with the grenade. The explosion took three lives of the family.

Besides, the police got success in its campaign against narcotics and seized a large number of intoxicants. Some petty crime also took place and a large number of unidentified bodies were also recovered from city roads.

Even some flesh trade incidents, road accidents, poison cases, burn incidents, suicides, thefts and chain snatchings were also reported throughout the year.

As the year came to an end, Ashok Kumar Gupta, IG, Jammu zone, was also transferred following a major reshuffling of the department during the cabinet meeting on December 21.

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Winter Chill
Kangri comes to the rescue
Tejinder Singh Sodhi
Tribune News Service

Srinagar, December 24
Even as various modern gadgets of heating, including gas and electric heaters, have become famous in Kashmir to escape the sub-zero temperatures of the Valley, the traditional Kashmiri kangri (a clay pot enclosed in wicker and filled with hot charcoal) is still famous among the people of Kashmir.

Kangri is more like a cultural and traditional symbol of Kashmir rather than just being a heating instrument. People of all age and different religious background use kangri in the Valley to warm themselves during the harsh winter months.

“Kangri is related to Kashmir. As compared to other heating instruments, it is mobile and can be taken along, be it work or a stroll in the market. You can see a large number of people on the roads in the Valley carrying a kangri under ‘pheran’ (a long woollen gown),” said Bashir Ahmed, an expert on Kashmiri culture.

Some people trace the origin of kangri from the Central Asia, but some say it is an indigenous innovation of the people of Kashmir.

“Some people in Kashmir developed it as a small-scale industry and kangri manufacturing in various parts of the Valley provides seasonal employment to a large number of people who are trained in this art of making kangri,” said Ahmed.

There are different types of kangri which are associated with the place where they are made. A common kangri is sold at Rs 100 to Rs 200, whereas a good kangri can be bought at as much as Rs 500.

“Apart from using as a heating appliance, there is a type of kangri known as “chrar kangri” which traditionally is given with the dowry to the bride. Kangri also plays an important role in various other cultural and religious rituals of Kashmir,” said Ahmed. People in Kashmir say as during winter season the Valley is marred with erratic power supply, kangri provides them the option to keep them warm when all other electric appliances stop functioning.

“You can buy sophisticated electrical appliances to keep yourself warm, but when there is no electricity everything fails and then you have to turn to kangri to keep yourself warm,” said Asiya Amin, a college lecturer.

Though doctors in the Valley associate various skin-related ailments to the excessive use of kangri, they say extra caution should be taken while using kangri. “Some people have the habit of keeping kangri close to their belly which is dangerous and can be responsible for various skin-related ailments. Extra caution should be taken as we had several cases when many toddlers suffered severe burns as kangri kept near them fell on them,” said Showkat, a physician.

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SMS restoration brings cheer
Tejinder Singh Sodhi
Tribune News Service

Srinagar, December 24
The revocation of the ban on the short message service (SMS) in post-paid cellphone connections in the state has cheered residents of the Kashmir valley, especially the youth.

“Now, we can send and receive messages to our friends to wish them on festivals and New Year.In the past six months, we could not send messages to our friends on many festivals”, said Manzoor Ahmed, a college student.

The state government initially imposed the ban in the Valley following the unrest in the wake of the death of teenager Toufail Ahmed Mattoo on June 11,saying anti-social elements were using the service to spread rumours and instigate violent protests. After a few days, the ban was extended to other parts of the state, including the Jammu and Ladakh regions.

Speaking to The Tribune, R.K Kaul,Chief General Manager, BSNL ( J&K) circle, said: “We have received the orders to restore the service and it will be done soon”.

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Reviving police helpline is Samba SSP’s priority
Rajesh Bhat

A signboard, depicting police helpline numbers, erected near the police post, Jatwal
A signboard, depicting police helpline numbers, erected near the police post, Jatwal.

Jammu, December 24
The new district police chief of Samba will be having a tough time around. Policing in the district has not been so easy for his predecessors after the department dented its image during the Amarnath land agitation of 2008 in which many innocents had lost their lives in police firing. Coupled with it is Samba’s proximity with the border as incidents of smuggling and infiltration had been a routine phenomenon in the district.

Frequent acts of blocking the Jammu-Pathankote National Highway, which passes through Samba, by agitators have always been troubling the police while restoring traffic on this vital road linking the state with the rest of the country.

But Asrar Ahmad Khan, the newly posted Samba SSP hopes to overcome all such hurdles with the support of his colleagues and cooperation from the public. Unveiling his priorities, the new district police chief said he wanted to maintain more police-people relations so that fair, impartial and clean image of the police was restored.

“I have done it while functioning as a nodal officer at the CID Headquarters. I want to continue the same practise at a new assignment as well,” he said.

Asrar said he had proposed to revive on priority the police helpline so that people living in the far-off and rural areas could have a direct access round the clock with the men in uniform.

“Such kind of an experiment had efficiently worked at the CID Headquarters where people were approaching me daily for disposing of their passports and other sorts of police verifications,” he said.

The SSP said the police helpline should not be just on papers. “I want to make it practical so that it works more as a helping hand,” he said.

Asrar said he plans to have such helpline at every police station and police post. “SHOs and police post in charges will be duty bound to attend to such calls without any laxity. Every input from the public will be of paramount for us,” he said.

He admitted that being a newly carved district and that too close to the border, the people of Samba have more expectations from the police. “All efforts will be made to restore their confidence so that the people repose more faith in our functioning,” Asrar added.

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Ladakh Floods
Shelters for victims handed over to hill council
Yangchan Dolma

Leh, December 24
Shashindar Reddy, Vice-Chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), who visited Leh yesterday, formally handed over the multi-purpose pre-fabricated shelters constructed for the cloudburst affected people of Leh district to the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC), Leh, at a function at Solar Colony, Choglamsar. The cloudburst victims from Leh town are being rehabilitated at Solar Colony.

Addressing the function, Reddy said, as NDMA volunteers could not reach the area at the time of the cloudburst due to the collapse of all communication links to Leh district, the NDMA would train local people in handling the situation during any disaster in the region.

He said the NDMA would also conduct a study about how losses could be avoided during calamities.

Earlier, the Chief Executive Councillor of the LAHDC, Leh Rigzin Spalbar, urged Reddy to establish a centre for disaster management at Leh to conduct research and study the ecological changes in the region.

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No room for laxity in development works, says Minister
Tribune News Service

Srinagar, December 24
Asserting that people’s interests are supreme to the government, Minister for Finance and Ladakh Affairs Abdul Rahim Rather said those creating hurdles in solving problems of the people of the state would not be tolerated any more.

He asked the administration to be proactive and more responsive to meet the demands of the people of the state who have suffered immensely due to the neglect and enemies of the peace.

Addressing a public gathering after laying foundation of Rs 2.15-crore steel-decked bridge over Nullah Tulbren at Kakawring and road project from Kakawring to Chrawni near Chrar-i-Sharief in Budgam district, the Minister said the people of the state want peace and prosperity, adding that the time has now come to provide healing touch to the suffering masses and fulfil their urges and aspiration.

He said unfortunately precious period of the working season in the Valley got wasted, adding that men and machinery had been geared up to make up for this loss by infusing a new vigour in the administration and executing agencies.

“Given the situation, there is no room for any laxity or excuse in executing various developments works expeditiously,” Rather said.

Rather also called upon the people to lend their hand of cooperation to supplement the government efforts in bringing effective socio-economic transformation in the state. “In fact, people are the real fountain head of power and the present dispensation under the dynamic leadership of Omar Abdullah was keen to empower them in decision making and plan implementation through devolution of power,” Rather added.

He said the state was on the threshold of marvellous developmental revolution asserting that coming years would be a golden phase of the state’s history with regard to politico-developmental emancipation. He asked the people to be closely associated with various developmental and social welfare programmes launched by the government for their benefit.

Enumerating various developmental initiatives in the Chrar-i-Sharief constituency, Rather said besides several multi-crore roads and bridge projects, famous tourist resort of Yusmarg is being developed as an adventure tourism hub by exposing its virgin alpine peaks for trekking to showcase it in the world tourism market. In addition, the revered shrine of Hazrat Sheikh Noor-ud-Din Noorani, Chrar-i-Sharief and shrine of Hazrat Sultan Ali Aali Bulkhi, Pakerpora, are also being developed in a big way as the major pilgrim tourism destinations.

Rather also announced to revive Arzan Garzan and Malapora Dam for which projects worth Rs 23 crore and Rs 45 crore, respectively, have been formulated to would provide sufficient irrigation facilities to bring a new green revolution in the area.

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srinagar diary
Protest against winter schooling

In Kashmir, it seems that all know that in order to get their work done they have to resort to protests. First, it was violent protests for more than five months following which all educational institutions across the Valley remained shut; now the decision of the state government to cancel the winter vacation in schools has become a reason for it.

Everyday, a large number of schoolchildren from various schools across Srinagar gather at Press Colony to hold protest demonstrations, asking the government to revoke the order of holding winter schools (see pic).

Academicians here are of the view that when the children who want winter vacations say they shiver in their classes, why don’t they shiver when they come out to hold protests.

Another theory propounded by some academicians is that children are being made to hold protests against winter schooling by some of their teachers who do not want to work in winter months and get salary for the entire year, first for holidays due to unrest and then the regular winter vacation.

(Contributed by Tejinder Singh Sodhi)

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