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Saturday, October 31, 2009

For daily EARLY TIMES ( of November 1, 2009

Gross irregularities in commissioning of Kashir channel programmes

Farooq’s snub at Ambika’s SKICC function fails to chasten DD officials


SRINAGAR, Oct 31: Union Minister of New and Renewable Energy Dr Farooq Abdullah’s public reprimand at All India Editors Conference at SKICC here earlier this month has failed to bring about any accountability among Doordarshan authorities who seem to have crossed all limits of irregularities and unfair means in the current process of commissioning of programmes for DD Kashir. Even as DD has shamelessly closed the chapter of transparency and refused to post the list of the allotees and their credentials on its website, it has been discovered that most of the “hard and fast guidelines” have been brazenly violated and a large number of programmes have been secretly allotted to regular officials of Doordarshan Kendra Kendra (DDK) Srinagar through their relatives.

Slamming the DD officials for their loot and scoot of the programmes supposed to be allotted to eminent private producers, Farooq Abdullah had literally opened the eyes of the chief guest and Union Minister of Information & Broadcasting, Ambika Soni, by revealing at All India Editors Conference last fortnight that these regular government employees had always taken the lion’s share in all packages by getting the programmes clandestinely allotted to themselves and their kith and kin. According to him, almost every official at DD Kashir and DDK Srinagar was simultaneously operating as a private producer by putting his or her relatives in the front. “Even the eminent filmmakers like Subhash Ghai are now looking for other jobs as all Doordarshan officials have become private producers and directors”, Dr Abdullah had expressed, haplessly.

Making a mockery of the former Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister’s embarrassing observations made in presence of the Minister incharge I&B, Ms Ambika Soni, DD officials holding top positions at ‘Mandi House’ have allotted a number of Kashir Channel programmes to officials of DDK Srinagar in the names of their relatives. Guidelines widely circulated and posted on DD website with the notification for this process in 2007 had unambiguously made it clear that none of the close relatives and family members of the DD officials would be entitled to allotment of a commissioned programme.

Cameraman Amin Mehtab, now retired, was a regular employee of DDK Srinagar from the day DD Kashir entertained and processed his proposal in 2008-09 and finally approved it last month. He is among over a hundred Srinagar-based “private producers” who have received the letters of approval, asking them to submit script of the full series within 15 days. Allotment of commissioned programmes to DDK Srinagar Programme Executive Ghulam Mohiuddin’s son, Deputy Director Syed Zeeshan Fazil’s brother Reyan Fazil, Producer Bashir Qadiri’s brother and a family member of DD’s Producer Abdul Rashid Bhat alias Rashid Javed are other glaring examples of brazen violation of DD’s own guidelines. And they are not the exceptions---discrediting entire process of the commissioning of programmes for DD Kashir that came after a long pause of nearly seven years.

Informed sources revealed to Early Times that a coterie of the DDK Srinagar officials had secretly maintained liaison with New Delhi-based head of DD Kashir, Ms Ananya Banerjee, through Kashmiri DD official Gulab-ud-din Tahir who has allegedly played key role in arranging letters of allotment for more than 30 relatives and friends of the officials of DDK Srinagar. Like in the past---perhaps more than that---there are serious allegations of money having changed the hands. Tahir is currently on leave but found every day present at DDK Srinagar on the “mission of collection” assigned to him at Mandi House.

Eminent private producers like Tariq Javed and G M Wani, who have given their sweat and blood to DD for the last 35 years, believe that money has played key role in allotment of programmes to little known applicants having no credentials in the field of electronic media. Both, Javed and Wani, are among those who have been unceremoniously dropped. “I was told by DG Doordarshan and Director DD Kashir that I stood disqualified for my wife happens to be an employee at DDK Srinagar. When I pointed out to them programmes allotted to the family members of other DDK officials, they had no answers. It’s my good luck that I sent my son to Law Department of Kashmir University for a PG course. Had he gone to Journalism and Mass Communications, he would have been suffering for the fault of his mother’s working with DD”, Javed said.

Others at DDK Srinagar insisted that some junior officials, including a particular women working on casual arrangement, had also visible hand in grabbing scores of commissioned programmes for regular DD officials and their favourites.

Violating their own guideline of allotting programmes to “not more than one member in a family”, DD authorities have also showered their blessings on retired DD official Bashir Budgami alongwith his son, Ansar Hussain, Shabir Hyder alongwith his son, Rafi Hyder, Farhat Gilani and two of his sons, including Riyaz Gilani, Bashir Marazi and his son Humayun Marazi, Irfan Marazi (Bashir Marazi’s brother), his sons Ashfaq Marazi, Tanvir Marazi and others in the family, Mushtaq Bala alongwith his son Haamid Bala, brother Sajjad Bala and two more family members as also to Kishen Langoo and one more from his family.

On the other hand, proposals of over a hundred of high profile private producers, including State Awardees of J&K Government, have been rejected by DD authorities without mentioning any reason thereto. Many of such proposals were reportedly on the themes of national integration and patriotism. This all, after they were subjected to shuttling between Srinagar/Jammu and New Delhi for making so-called presentations at ‘Mandi House’ which have not been finally assessed on their merits and demerits. One of the evaluation committee members, who had insisted on consideration of “only merit”, is understood to have been replaced in the thick of the process.

While telephone of Director, DDK Srinagar, Dr Rafeeq Masoodi, was “switched off” for the whole day, DD’s Director General, Ms Aruna Sharma, and Director incharge DD Kashmir, Ms Ananya Banerjee, did not respond to phone calls made for seeking their comments.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

For daily EARLY TIMES ( of October 30, 2009

Sonia’s Shikara ride on Dal lake, shopping on Boulevard


SRINAGAR, Oct 29: Breaking an ice in the autumn, UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi not only enjoyed a memorable shikara ride on the Dal Lake but also took a stroll with minimum possible security cover amid flowing civilian traffic on the fashionable Boulevard and did some shopping of the Kashmir handicrafts before returning to New Delhi at the end of her two-day visit to the Valley.

On 25th anniversary of her mother-in-law Indira Gandhi’s last visit to Kashmir, Sonia Gandhi today gave anxious moments to her SPG security cover as she deserted Raj Bhawan in the morning and went straight to a houseboat anchoring for her in Dal Lake, close to SKICC. After staying at the houseboat for about 90 minutes, Sonia took a Shikara ride from SKICC through Kabootarkhwana to Nehru Park where she interacted with a number of foreign and domestic tourists.

Thereafter, the country’s best protected person crossed over to Boulevard in the company of a few of her armed guards. Sources told Early Times that SPG and the state security agencies wanted to seal off the area which had otherwise remained out-of-bounds for all civilians yesterday but Sonia asked them to ensure that nobody was disturbed because of her movement.

As hundreds of private and commercial vehicles kept flowing on the Boulevard, Sonia strolled down to Landmark Handicrafts in the SICOP complex and did some shopping of handicrafts at two different shops. Those who accompanied her said that the shopkeepers sold her embroidered bags but did not accept the cost but she did not relent and left only after the payment was made in full.

Thereafter, Sonia boarded a car and began driving towards Royal Spring Golf Course for her last sight-seeing. However, she got stranded in a traffic jam near Zabarvan Park. Men from Traffic Police and Police Division Nehru Park rushed and cleared the way for Sonia. She later enjoyed some moments at the breathtaking lush green courses of Royal Spring before boarding a helicopter which was waiting for the VVIP at Nehru Helipad.

She joined Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the end of his press conference at Technical Airport and both flew back to New Delhi together in a special plane.

Sources said that Sonia had, in fact, expressed her desire to stay for the last night at a houseboat which was quickly decorated and anchored close to SKICC late last evening. On the last moment, her programme changed and she too stayed at Raj Bhawan. Some of the officials said it was because of security reasons but others insisted that there was not proper heating arrangement inside the houseboat.

For daily EARLY TIMES ( of October 30, 2009

‘India never supported Taliban terror, Balochistan insurgency’

PM calls India victim of terror coming in from Pakistan

‘Don’t read too much in Mirwaiz’s pro-militancy statement made in anger’


SRINAGAR, Oct 29: While slamming the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) for having appointed an observer on Kashmir, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today asserted that India would never accept any kind of pressure from anybody in the world. Calling India “a victims of the terror coming in from Pakistan”, Prime Minister asserted that New Delhi had never its hand behind anti-Pakistan insurgency, be that Taliban terrorism or the armed insurgency in Balochistan.

Addressing a news conference before returning to New Delhi at the end of his two-day visit to Kashmir valley, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh sounded optimistic of Pakistan’s and the Kashmiri separatist leadership’s response to his offer of dialogue on all “internal and external dimensions” of the Kashmir problem. He said that he had offered a dialogue process with all shades of political opinion in Jammu & Kashmir and Government of Pakistan was expected to cooperate and create a congenial atmosphere.

Asked to make it clear whether his demand of dismantling the infrastructure of terror by Pakistan was, like in the past, a pre-condition to the dialogue process or different from that, Dr Singh said: “This is not a condition. But, I have made it clear time and again that the dialogue process and terrorism (coming in from Pakistan) are interlinked. If we have to really make some progress, we have to curb terrorism. We are a democratic nation. An incident of terror has the potential of derailing the process. It’s not a condition but we have got to realize that talks can not progress in such an atmosphere”.

Prime Minister ridiculed a Pakistani Minister’s recent statement and asserted that New Delhi had never supported any kind of anti-Pakistan terrorism be that of Taliban or the insurgency in Balochistan. He dismissed the Pakistani Minister’s allegation as “completely baseless and far from truth”. “India, in fact, is the victim of the terror coming in from Pakistan”, he added.

When it was pointed out to Prime Minister that OIC had, of late, assailed India’s role in the disturbed state and even appointed an observer on Kashmir, Dr Singh said: “We regret that OIC has got into this business. We have already registered our protest with the OIC headquarters and made it clear that OIC has no business to interfere in such matters. We are committed to resolve all problems and address all of their internal and external dimensions. But, let it be clear that we are not going to work under anybody’s pressure”.

When journalists sought Prime Minister’s reaction to the Kashmiri separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq’s justification of armed insurgency at a conference in London last week, Dr Singh quipped: “One should not read too much in the statements made in anger”. He said that his government was ready to talk to anybody “provided he shuns violence”. He said he was hopeful that the separatist leadership would favourably respond to his offer of engagement in talks.

"I believe a new chapter is opening in the peace process in the state and Jammu and Kashmir is turning the corner," the Prime Minister said. Referring to his "appeal" for dialogue with separatists in the state, he said "I hope it will be reciprocated in the spirit it was made”. He said the government will have to carry all stake-holders in the state to achieve "permanent peace in Jammu & Kashmir so that we can concentrate on the ambitious agenda of development and full economic revival and create lot more jobs for the young people."

Dr Singh said that after a series of meetings with representatives and leaders of different political parties he was returning to the union capital with “full satisfaction”. He said that Government of India had provided substantial financial support to Jammu & Kashmir for rebuilding its economy and addressing the problems of development and employment in the last over five years but more required to be done to ensure that benefits reach down to the grass-root level.

Dr Singh said that the Centre had sanctioned major urban development projects for different townships including Srinagar, Baramulla, Sopore, Ganderbal and Anantnag. He said that the ambitious Rs 640 Crore road communication project linking Shopian with Rajouri and Poonch in Jammu division would not suffer for want of resources as his government was committed to provide additional funds. He announced that Government of India would soon introduce a major scheme to replace all 40,000 handlooms in Jammu & Kashmir by metallic looms---exactly what Prime Minister’s Minister incharge Commerce in the previous regime, Jairam Ramesh had announced here these days last year.

Prime Minister said that J&K would get additional allocation of 500 megawatts of power from the Central pool during winter. He, however, did not mention whether it would come as grant or the state government would be charged for it.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

For daily EARLY TIMES ( of October 29, 2009

Condition of ‘dismantling of terror infrastructure’ mellowed down to a friendly advice

Omar Govt upset as PM has no package shackage for J&K

An olive branch covered in thorns and thistles offered to ‘pro-peace’ Kashmiris


ANANTNAG, Oct 28: Conducting their umpteenth visit to the strife-torn Valley in the backdrop of a shutdown sponsored by Kashmiri separatists and militants, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and Chairperson of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA), Mrs Sonia Gandhi, today attended the grand finale of Qazigund-Baramulla train service but, much to the disappointment of Omar Abdullah’s coalition government in the state, they did not unfold any economic package for Jammu & Kashmir. Mellowing down his typical condition to resuming of composite dialogue between New Delhi and Islamabad, Prime Minister yet again advised the Pakistani leadership to dismantle the “infrastructure of terrorism” in that country and also expressed his willingness to engage the Kashmiris in a dialogue process but made it clear that his government would talk to only those who were in favour of “peace and development” in the state.

Notwithstanding razzamatazz, that included a cultural programme by schoolchildren and waving of the Indian national flags by hundreds of Congress and National Conference (NC) activists, flagging off the train to Qazigund by Prime Minister and the UPA Chairperson ended up as a lackluster show for an enthusiastic gathering of more than 8,000 people at Wanpoh, in outskirts of the south Kashmir district headquarters of Anantnag. Much to the disappointment of Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah, and his Council of Ministers, Dr Singh did not unfold any fresh economic and developmental package for the strife-torn state.

Prime Minister declared that his Government intended to engage the Kashmiris in a dialogue process but made it clear---again to the chagrin of his hosts---that the offer would remain restricted to only those “nourishing the aspirations of peace and development” in the state. PM’s lukewarm assertion came in sharp contrast to the tone and tenor of Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s speech on the occasion. Almost explicitly demanding engagement of the separatist leaders in the UPA government’s fresh dialogue process, Omar had laid significant emphasis on his belief that Kashmir was essentially a “political problem” and it essentially required a “political solution”.

“Kashmir is not fundamentally an economic problem. It’s no matter of money and development. It was never one when militancy erupted 20 years ago. If we have to really come out of the quagmire of the gun culture, we need to get a political resolution of this crisis. It was, of late, highly reassuring when Prime Minister and Home Minister declared to resolve it politically”, Omar had said in his speech.

“I am aware of the disappointment afflicting the youth in Jammu & Kashmir. I make an appeal to them all to come forward and contribute to the state’s development. There is a lot of pessimism but I assure them that the situation is changing fast. This is my request to them that they should think how best they could subscribe to betterment of their future”, Prime Minister said and continued to address the Kashmiri youth: “This is my promise to you that the Central government would do its best to engage you in developmental works”.

“We are ready to engage all those in a dialogue process who nourish the aspirations of peace and development in this state. We realize the need to carry along all sections of the society for addressing socio-economic and political problems. We are also ready to talk to Pakistan on all issues but Islamabad shall have to gain control over terrorism. It will have to gain control over all those elements who are behind terrorism in India. Even if they are supposedly non-state actors, the state can not abdicate the responsibility of dismantling their hideouts and infrastructure”, Dr Singh said. He asked Islamabad to support New Delhi with “sincere intentions” in eliminating terror and building up an atmosphere of trust and friendship between the two neighbours.

In the last over two weeks, a number of the coalition leaders, state Ministers and senior government functionaries had created a media hype that Prime Minister Singh would not only unfold a fresh economic and developmental package but could also announce thousands of jobs for the J&K unemployed youth in different departments of the Central government, particularly in Railway. Many in Omar Abdullah’s government had been impatiently waiting for a major announcement as they believed that Prime Minister would hand over a number of the Centrally operated hydroelectric power projects to the state.

Even as Union Home Minister, P Chidambaram, has maintained in some of his recent statements that the Centre would hold the fresh dialogue process with “all shades of political opinion” in J&K secretly, many in the ruling National Conference were expecting Prime Minister to publicly invite the separatist leadership, if not to seek meetings with them in Srinagar. Eager to claim credit for such an initiative and score a point over the pseudo-separatist PDP, the NC leaders had been perceptibly optimistic after New Delhi’s recent decision of releasing separatist hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s passport.

“We are not completely disappointed”, said a senior Minister of Omar Abdullah’s Cabinet who hoped Prime Minister to announce a substantial employment and economic package at a news conference on his departure for the Union capital on Thursday.

Interestingly, Prime Minister paid little attention to senior Congress leader and Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad’s plea that 2,000 to 3,000 of those families in J&K could be easily accommodated in Indian Railways---the biggest employer in the world---whose land had been fully acquired for laying of the railway track and raising of other infrastructure. Azad had a concern for such families as Ministry of Railways has not kept its word and, till date, no special recruitment package has been announced exclusively for the youth belonging to Jammu & Kashmir.

Dr Singh, instead, sounded critical of the delivery system in J&K as he had no hesitation to say that benefits of the huge flow of Central funding had not reached the grass-root level. He said that his Government had sanctioned an amount of Rs 356 Crore for development and conservation of Dal Lake but insisted that a Task Force would be constituted to monitor the spending. He asserted that his Government had brought about a revolution of infrastructural development in J&K and said that with the full Central assistance of Rs 385 Crore, Mughal Road would in near future link Shopian area of Kashmir valley with the border districts of Poonch and Rajouri in Jammu division.

Prime Minister later presided over an economic reconstruction meeting at SKICC in Srinagar but much more than unfolding any fresh economic package, he concentrated on the projects approved and undertaken in the last 6 years or currently underway in Jammu & Kashmir.

In addition to Prime Minister, UPA Chairperson and J&K Chief Minister, Union Minister for New and Renewable Energy, Dr Farooq Abdullah, Union Minister of Health, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Union Minister of Railways, Mamata Banerjee, also addressed the gathering at Wanpoh---officially named as Anantnag Railway Station. Governor N N Vohra, a number of Omar Abdullah’s cabinet colleagues, NC’s Members of Parliament, MLAs and MLCs besides PDP Patron Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and some of his party’s MLAs were also present on the occasion.

With today’s flagging off, train service, that had been launched in the Valley nearly a year ago, will now operate between Baramulla in north Kashmir and Qazigund in south Kashmir. While Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda had laid the foundation stone of Udhampur-Baramulla railway track at Baramulla in 1996, Prime Minister I K Gujral had laid it at Qazigund in 1997.


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

For Early Times ( of October 27, 2009

After 3 Directors in Kashmir, Dir Jammu in soup now
Governor’s promotee Bashir Dar no different from Hyder Bhat, Manzoor Shah


SRINAGAR, Oct 27: Even as State Vigilance Organisation (SVO) today produced challan against two Directors of Agriculture, namely Ghulam Hyder Bhat and Bashir Ahmed Dar, in an anti-corruption court and another Director, Manzoor Ahmed Shah, is tainted with similar involvement in a different case of embezzlement, incharge Director Agriculture Jammu, Vinod Balla, has been lately referred to Commissioner of Inquiries by Minister of Agriculture, Ghulam Hassan Mir, for having drawn the salary of a substantive post of Director for over two years. With this development, both provincial heads of Mir’s sensitive department---one of them promoted during Governor’s rule last year---will be using more of their time to defend themselves in prosecution and investigation than addressing the problems of farmers in Jammu & Kashmir.

When Director Agriculture Kashmir, Manzoor Ahmed Shah, was unceremoniously removed from the top provincial position of his department in Valley these days last year, his junior Bashir Ahmed Dar had managed to grab the top slot while enjoying bureaucratic clout in Governor N N Vohra’s rule. Holding the post of a Joint Director (JD), Dar had been promoted and appointed as HOD in Kashmir inspite of his nearly established involvement in a criminal matter of embezzlement. Surfacing as an embarrassment for both, Governor’s regime that had promoted him and now Omar Abdullah’s government that is retaining him as Director, Dar is among the three senior officials of the state Agriculture Department against whom SVO today produced challan in the Court of Special Judge Anti Corruption Kashmir.

Highly placed official sources revealed to Early Times that incharge Director Agriculture Jammu, Vinod Balla, is also in the dock for having drawn the salary of a substantive post of Director inspite of having been simply a JD for the last over two years. Sources said that her excess drawal was pointed out in an annual administrative inspection of Agriculture Department in August 2009 following which Minister of Agriculture referred the matter against her to the Commissioner of Inquiries last week.

Interestingly, Mrs Balla has remitted entire excess amount of over Rs 80,000 and thereby established her own fraud but she has failed to convince the government as to how she had drawn the salary against a substantive post of Director when she was just confirmed as a JD. Her counterpart in Kashmir, Bashir Ahmed Dar, has begun to pull all strings to retain the top slot after the case of embezzlement against him was challaned and he was in person produced in the court of Special Judge Anti-Corruption, Kashmir, Mrs Gausun-Nissa Jeelani.

In January 2007, Vigilance Organisation Kashmir (VOK) had taken cognizance of a deluge of complaints against then Director of Agriculture Kashmir, Ghulam Hyder Bhat, and then JD (Inputs) Kashmir, Bashir Ahmed Dar, besides then Store Purchase Officer Noor Mohammad Bhat and conducted a preliminary investigation in two particular matters of the purchase of irrigation pump sets and hybrid seed of tomato and chilly. VOK subsequently registered case FIR No: 2 of 2007 under section 5(1) (d) r/w section 5(2) J&K Prevention of Corruption Act Svt. 2006 and sections 120B, 201,204 RPC against the trio.

After nearly two years of investigation, VOK got the sanction to prosecution against the accused in September this year from the Government. Even as Hyder Bhat and Noor Mohammad have retired from service, Government has retained his tainted successor, Bashir Ahmed Dar, as Director Agriculture Kashmir. Those mentioned as accused in the two criminal matters include Ghulam Hyder Bhat S/O Assadullah Bhat R/O Arbal Shalimar, Bashir Ahmad Dar S/O Abdul Rahim Dar R/O Chandpora Harwan, then Joint Director now Director Agriculture Kashmir and Noor Mohmmad Bhat S/O Ghulam Rasool Bhat R/O Nawakadal Srinagar, then Store Purchase Officer in Agriculture Department now retired.

Official sources said that during the course of investigation, VOK has found that the above mentioned accused officers of Agriculture Department in league with each other had purchased 1394 Honda WBK 30 FF and 400 Vijay C-31 Irrigation Pump Sets @ Rs 18,900/- and Rs 17,524/- respectively in the year 2005-06 which were available in the market @ Rs17,120/- and Rs 15,535/- only . In this way the accused officers had put the state exchequer to a loss of Rs 32,76,920/-.

In the same year, they had also purchased hybrid seed of Tomato and Chilly worth Rs 9,01,184/- in the off-season and the whole quantity of the seed was seized by VOK from the Divisional Store of Agriculture Department Kashmir. The seized seed was found to have expired as per the date of expiry printed on the packs and as such the whole purchase of Rs 9,01,184/- was a wasteful expenditure. All the three accused persons were produced in custody in the court which later released them on bail and fixed Dec.08, 2009 as next date of hearing.

All three senior officers---Manzoor Ahmed Shah (presently Director of Enforcement J&K), Vinod Balla and Bashir Ahmed Dar, are confirmed JDs but working against the posts of Director. All three are tainted in corruption related matters.


Monday, October 26, 2009

3 militants killed in Shopian gunbattle
Yasin’s Maisuma back in stone pelting mode after Geelani’s release


SRINAGAR, Oct 26: While Police and security forces today claimed to have killed three of the top wanted commanders of Hizbul Mujahideen in a fierce gunbattle in Shopian area of South Kashmir, JKLF Chairman Yasin Malik’s residential locality of Maisuma in the capital city has returned to the stone pelting mode in days of the release of some prominent separatist leaders, including Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Shabir Ahmed Shah, from months of detention. Geelani has, meanwhile, called a shutdown of two days on occasion of the anniversary of the Indian troops’ first arrival in the state in 1947 on October 27th and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s scheduled visit to Kashmir valley on October 28th.

Uptown locality of Maisuma has begun to reverberate with secessionist slogans and clashes between youngsters and Police after weeks of calm that witnessed some wedding rituals of the JKLF Chief Yasin Malik and his return from Islamabad with his Pakistani bride Mashaal Mullick. Even as the number of demonstrators is not legion, their “peaceful violence” has begun to shatter peace in the nearby business hubs of Budshah Chowk, Lalchowk and Hari Singh High Street. In days of the release of some prominent separatist leaders like Geelani and Shah from months of detention, youngsters in Maisuma have resorted to sustained stone pelting from yesterday.

Over a dozen civilians, demonstrators and Police personnel had sustained minor injuries in these clashes on Sunday. Even as the demonstrators had got a reason handy---killing of a youth by troops in Baramulla district and Malik’s temporary detention on way to north Kashmir by Police---they did not cite any fresh ‘cause of action’.

Rumour mongers today had a field day as they spread “news” that a 14-year-old boy, Arif of Zaindar Mohalla, had succumbed to yesterday’s injuries at a hospital. Within minutes, groups of youngsters converged on the bustling business streets in Maisuma-Lalchowk area. They characteristically shouted anti-India and pro-Azadi slogans and resorted to stone pelting not only on the Police and CRPF men prepared for the challenge but also on shopkeepers and scores of private vehicles and commercial buses carrying the commuters in the forenoon.

The shopkeepers haplessly downed their shutters and made desperate attempts to hide themselves from the crossfiring of stones and tearsmoke canisters being traded between the unruly crowds and Police. Police succeeded to disperse small groups of stone pelting youth with retaliation of tearsmoke and baton charge which unusually encouraged the shopkeepers to resume business. However, intermittent clashes in narrow alleys prevented many of the shopkeepers from returning to their job. Police as well as independent sources said that nearly 20 persons, including few Police personnel, sustained injuries and over a dozen of vehicles and shops were damaged in the clashes today.

Back from three-hour-long temporary detention at Police Station Humhama last night, hardliner separatist Geelani today repeated his call of two-day shutdown in the Valley on October 27th and 28th. Addressing a hurriedly organized news conference at his Hyderpora residence, Geelani asked the Kashmiris to observe total shutdown in protest against the maiden landing of the “Indian occupational forces” in Kashmir on Tuesday and in protest of the Prime Minister’s visit on Wednesday. Kashmir valley has been observing shutdown on October 27th since 1989 initially spontaneously but subsequently over a host of calls from militants and separatist leaders.

First plane-load of Indian Army had landed in Srinagar on this day to combat platoons of armed Pakistani tribesmen in 1947. Prime Minister is scheduled to inaugurate extension of limited train service on Anantnag-Qazigund patch of the Udhampur-Baramulla railway track on October 28th. Kashmir’s separatist leaders have been invariably enforcing shutdown in the Valley on occasion of the Indian Prime Minister’s and President’s visit since 1990.

Geelani said at the news conference that he had launched his demilitarization campaign with his visit to Shopian and addressing a gathering there on Friday last. He announced to hold a similar rally at Baramulla in north Kashmir on October 30th and disclosed that his public meetings at different district headquarters in the Valley would be followed by a Valley-wide shutdown and protest programme. He said that he would not relent until the last Indian soldier was withdrawn from the “disputed state”.

Meanwhile, on the eve of 62nd anniversary of their arrival in Jammu & Kashmir, armed forces today claimed to have killed three of the top wanted commanders of Hizbul Mujahideen in a day-long gunbattle in Shopian-Pulwama belt in south Kashmir.

Official sources told Early Times that men from Special Operations Group (SOG) of District Police Shopian alongwith CRPF 14th Bn and troops from Rashtriya Rifles 44 Bn and Para 1 launched a cordon-and-search operation at village Shalidar Nassarpora in Kellar belt between Shopian and Pulwama districts in south Kashmir in the morning today. Sources said that the operation was planned and executed after Police and armed forces learned through source information that three of the top wanted militants of Hizbul Mujahideen were present at a hideout.

As soon as Army and SOG parties zeroed in on the identified hideout, all three of the holed up militants opened fire and made desperate attempts to escape. Troops maintained their firing and succeeded in killing all the three militants in a seven-hour-long fierce gunbattle. Officials claimed that none from Police, CRPF or Army was killed or injured in the gunbattle.

Those killed in the encounter were later identified as Hizbul Mujahideen’s most wanted “Divisional Commander” Saquib and “District Commander” Riyaz Paswal, both hailing from Doda district of Jammu division. Officials said that identification of the third militant killed in the gunbattle was underway. They said that 3 AK rifles, one pistol, one satellite phone, 3 mobile phone sets, one wireless set and 278 rounds of ammunition were recovered from the site of encounter. Officials said that killing of three militants, including two of the most wanted commanders, days after troops had eliminated the leadership of Hizbul Mujahideen’s Pir Panjal Regiment in Kulgam-Gool area, was a deadly jolt for the guerrilla organization.


Sunday, October 25, 2009 For Oct 26, 2009

J&K getting 2 air ambulances, courtesy Azad
50 critical care ambulances being procured for District Hospitals, National Highway


SRINAGAR, Oct 25: Thanks to former Chief Minister and Union Minister of Health, Ghulam Nabi Azad, an extremely ill-equipped Jammu & Kashmir state is getting two critical care air ambulances within current financial year, even as Omar Abdullah-led coalition government has already begun process for procurement of 50 fresh ambulance vans for all the 22 District Hospitals and Srinagar-Jammu National Highway.

Highly placed authoritative sources revealed to Early Times that Ghulam Nabi Azad was currently clearing the decks in the Union Health Ministry for sanctioning an extra-ordinary financial grant of Rs 36 Crore for procurement of two critical care air ambulances for Jammu & Kashmir. Omar Abdullah’s government had earlier this year submitted the proposal to the Centre as no such facility existed in the state which was increasingly growing infamous for road accidents, particularly in Mr Azad’s home districts of Doda and Kishtwar.

Taking advantage of their monopoly, three New Delhi-based private hospitals have been charging hefty amounts of Rs 4.50 Lakh and Rs 3.50 Lakh for each of Srinagar-Delhi and Jammu-Delhi flights respectively. As few private individuals, mostly affluent businessmen, have afforded to charter such flights from Srinagar and Jammu in the last seven years, only senior most government functionaries are supposed to be entitled to this expensive privilege.

Posting of medium rung officials like a former Secretary to then Chief Minister (Naeem Akhtar) and a former SP Raj Bhawan (Ramesh Jalla) has also saved few lives as Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and Lt Gen (Reted) S K Sinha, respectively, had personally ordered shifting of such officials from Srinagar to New Delhi by air ambulances of a private hospital based in New Delhi. Both, Akhtar and Jalla, had fallen to multiple artery blockages in Srinagar and got their second life because of their posting in CM’s Secretariat and Raj Bhawan.

Helicopters and aircraft of Army, BSF and Air Force are occasionally being employed for ferrying influential government officials and soldiers suffering serious cardiac ailments or critical injuries either from different places in the state to Srinagar and Jammu or from J&K to New Delhi. However, most of such flying machines, according to informed sources, are not equipped with life saving machinery and staff. One thousand and five hundred kilometer long highway from Lakhanpur to Leh, Jammu to Poonch, Batote to Kishtwar, Udhampur to Katra, Srinagar to Gulmarg and Sangrama to Uri has remained the worst affected in terms of road accidents and people succumbing to injuries.

Minister of Health, Sham Lal Sharma, confirmed that the process of procurement of two highly sophisticated and well-equipped critical care air ambulances was in its final stage as Union Minister of Health, Ghulam Nabi Azad, was taking personal care to ensure that both these flying machines were acquired in the next few months. He said that one each of these ambulances would remain stationed at Srinagar and Jammu respectively. Mr Sharma said that this facility would be availed by anybody in J&K who was in need of being flown to a super special treatment hospital in New Delhi, Chandigarh and other places.

Mr Sharma revealed that the flying machines, each costing around Rs 18 Crore, would be like helicopters which could land and take off at any ordinary place in the state. He said that these air ambulances could carry the patients from any place to a hospital in Srinagar and Jammu or from J&K to New Delhi and other cities in the country. According to him, state-of-the-art medical equipment fitted in the air ambulances would cost more than the flying machines.

Mr Sharma revealed to Early Times that his department was also in the process of acquiring as many as 50 fresh critical care ambulance vans for trauma and delivery patients besides those suffering from cardiac arrest and other diseases needing urgent medical treatment. As each ambulance would cost around Rs 25 Lakh, an amount of Rs 6.00 Crore had been earmarked for this purpose, he said. According to him, all 22 District Hospitals would get one each ambulance and three more would be provided to Government Medical College Srinagar, GMC Jammu and Leh district.

Minister said that 25 fresh ambulances were being procured for recovery of the people falling victim to road accidents on the highways in the current financial year. He claimed that there would be as many as 50 well equipped critical care ambulances on 1,500 Km length of the highways in J&K in the next two years---one each every 30 Km. Mr Sharma said that presently only two private hospitals, both in Jammu, had this facility available with them and they had been charging exorbitant amounts of Rs 50,000 to Rs 60,000 for each trip from Jammu to Ludhiana and Jammu to New Delhi. Minister had no hesitation to admit that presently his government had just one of such ambulances which always remained attached to Raj Bhawan. That too was deficient in various respects.

Mr Sharma said that all the 50 critical care ambulances being acquired for DHs, GMCs and highways this year would be fitted with sophisticated cardio-monitoring systems, defabulators and oxygen gadgetry. According to him, acute shortage of anesthetists, pharmacists and drivers was the biggest problem afflicting the healthcare system, particularly the critical care, in J&K. He said that in order to address this problem, Mr Azad had managed to change rules and the government had, of late, increased the intake capacity of anesthetists and radiologists in all medical colleges in the state by 100%. He said that professors would previously keep one each PG student for such courses but now on there would be two of such students with each professor.

Minister said that his Government would have to launch a special recruitment drive to appoint drivers and regularize all those working on contractual arrangement and consolidated salaries with different hospitals as the healthcare system had become nearly dysfunctional for want of necessary staff.