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Saturday, April 10, 2010

Govt may order retirement of 35-plus, offer 30-60 to employees

Khursheed Alam let off yet again, 30 employees sent to Srinagar Central Jail

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Apr 10: On lightning orders from Ministry of Finance, Heads of Departments (HODs) have submitted a list of all those employees to the government who have completed 35 years of their service. Even as the process of their forcible retirement from service is now underway, Omar Abdullah’s coalition government is likely to address the agitating employees’ demand of extending the age of retirement by offering them a fresh ceiling---60 years of age or 30 years of service, whichever is earlier. Meanwhile, on 6th consecutive day of the shutdown of offices, sponsored by Joint Consultative Committee (JCC), authorities today arrested 30 of the employees on strike, though the most wanted Employees Joint Action Committee (EJAC) chief, Khursheed Alam, has been yet again detained and later sent back to his home.

Highly placed sources in the coalition government told Early Times that a Cabinet sub-committee, comprising five Ministers, which met and briefed Chief Minister about the latest obtaining situation on Thursday, sounded unanimous over the need to restore the government’s credibility with certain “harsh initiatives”. Immediately after the meeting ended, Ministry of Finance flashed a circular to all HODs, excluding Police, asking them to furnish a list of all the employees who had completed 35 years of government service. Sources said that the HODs compiled lists of their respective departments and submitted the same to Commissioner-Secretary of Finance Department, Sudhanshu Pandey, within 24 hours. According to these sources, Government was mooting forcible retirement of all these employees who were reportedly a few thousands in number.

Sources said that the state government was likely to address the demand of raising the age of retirement from 58 to 60 years while offering the trade union leaders a fresh proposal. Under this scheme, all the government and semi-government employees would reach superannuation on the day of completing 60 years of age or 30 years of continuous service, whichever earlier. This was being considered to allay the apprehensions of over half-a-million unemployed youth who have been bitterly critical of the government’s intention of raising the age of retirement at the cost of their job opportunities. People at large have been viewing the employee’s demand with its co-relation to the fact that almost all of the prominent trade union leaders were in the age group of 57-58 years and thus supposed to retire in the next few months.

As regards the release of pay arrears, Government would soon send a political delegation, comprising representatives of all mainstream political parties, to New Delhi where it would approach Prime Minister as well as Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission and Chairman of 13th Finance Commission to seek special grant of Rs 4200 Crore on account of liquidating the employees’ salary arrears.

On the 6th consecutive day of near-total shutdown of government establishments in Jammu and Kashmir, authorities today detained 25 employees in Bandipore and 35 more in the summer capital of Srinagar. Later this evening, all the 25, detained in Bandipore, and five more detained in Srinagar, were let off. Remaining 30 of the detainees were released from Police Stations of Kothibagh and Ram Munshi Bagh in Srinagar.

Sources said that the five trade union activists, picked up from Civil Lines of Srinagar and later let off by Police on the telephonic orders of a Minister, included the most wanted EJAC President, Khursheed Alam. Earlier too, Alam had been detained for a few hours but subsequently dropped back at his residence. He has set up a “strike control room” at headquarters of CAPD quarters where the trade union leaders have been holding news conference and threatening to make the government bow before them.

The agitating employees’ threats have worked till date as the government has not shown competence to enforce the draconian ESMA it invoked with fanfare at Jammu earlier this week. Today’s reports, gathered from independent sources at different district headquarters, said that shutdown was complete in the sense that nobody from the common masses was seen visiting any office with the hope of getting a work done. Reports said that attendance was slightly up as compared to five previous days of the strike but most of the officers remained closeted with DCs and Divisional Commissioner.

These reports said that little impact of the strike appeared to be on emergency services, including power, water and health services. Though less than five percent schools functioned, remaining 95 percent remained locked for the whole day like on the last five days.

Police foiled attempts of the striking employees to assemble and put up a mass show of strength and solidarity at Sher-e-Kashmir Park. Officials said that in all 35 of the trade union activists and striking employees were taken into custody and detained at three different Police Stations in Civil Lines. Five of them, including EJAC chief, Khursheed Alam, were later let off, reportedly on the telephonic orders of a Cabinet Minister. Officials said that remaining 30 detainees were lodged at Srinagar Central Jail. While as the trade union leaders insisted that more than 50 of their striking colleagues sustained injuries in Police action, officials maintained that less than ten people were believed to have sustained just minor injuries.

Speaking at a rally, before he was taken into temporary custody, EJAC chief Khursheed Alam said that the alliance of trade unions would not engage into any dialogue process with the state until ESMA was fully revoked, all the detained activists released and a written offer came from the government. He said that JCC would consider the government’s offer of dialogue only after receiving a formal invite.


Friday, April 9, 2010


Govt brings Bill to regulate brick kilns but wants amnesty for listed defaulters

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

JAMMU, Apr 9: Government of Jammu & Kashmir has finally introduced a comprehensive law seeking to regulate and control brick kilns but the draft Bill seems to be remarkably soft towards hundreds of unauthorized kilns which have been established by influential industrialists in brazen violation of environmental laws in the last two decades. As regards the new entrepreneurs, the Bill has proposed stringent penal punishment for violation of its provisions and, much like the draconian Forest Act, bar to judicial scrutiny in the matters of challenging the executive orders.

On the concluding day of the 50-day-long Budget session in Legislative Assembly, Minister incharge Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution (CAPD), Qamar Ali Akhoon, introduced a Bill to regulate and control the establishment of brick kilns in the state. This Bill, when passed in due course of discussion possibly in the next session in Srinagar later this year, would be called “Jammu & Kashmir Brick Kilns (Regulation) Act, 2010”. During Governor’s rule in 1990, Government had enacted a law but it had expired as none of the successive government’s had replaced it by a formal law in the state legislature.

“In absence of any law on the subject, a mushroom growth of brick kilns has emerged in the state, which needs to be checked and controlled” reads the statement of objectives and reasons attached to the Bill. It adds: “The proposed J&K Brick Kilns (Regulation) Bill, 2010, seeks to achieve the aforesaid objectives. In the Bill, provisions for protection of environment, conversion of agricultural land into brick kilns etc, have been incorporated”.

In October, 2009, Early Times had published a series of reports to highlight ecological vandalisation being carried out by a well-connected mafia of brick kiln owners and government officials. It had been reported in detail how hundreds of unauthorized brick kilns, laid in brazen violation of Environment Act, Air Act and Water Act, besides nearly a dozen related laws, had been operating in Kashmir valley, particularly in Budgam and Pulwama districts, in an anarchical state.

Taking suo moto cognizance of the environmental series in EARLY TIMES issues of 8th, 9th and 13th October 2009, Speaker of Legislative Assembly, Mohammad Akbar Lone, had written DO NO: LA/J/Spk/06/09 dated 10-11-2009 to Chief Secretary, asking him to get all illegal and unauthorized brick kilns closed down in Budgam district. He had recorded serious concern over the ecological degradation and breakdown of administrative machinery in the letter and told head of the state bureaucracy that several delegations had made similar complaints to him during a recent visit to Budgam. He had written to Mr Kapur that a large number of brick kilns had been set up in Budgam up “in utter violation of the prescribed rules and regulations in connivance with the concerned departments, thereby causing a lot of inconvenience to the people there”.

Quoting an inventory prepared by J&K State Pollution Control Board (PCB) and submitted to Chief Minister in July 2009, Early Times had put the number of brick kilns established and operating in Budgam district alone in brazen violation of over a dozen laws and without PCB’s Consent to Establish (CTE) and Consent to Operate (CTO) as 155 out of the total of 202.

Reluctant to take recourse to Environment Act and Water Act, which are in force in entire country, including the state of Jammu & Kashmir, and have superseding effect on all existing laws, Chief Secretary S S Kapoor had expressed government’s helplessness and sought to make it clear that necessary powers under law were not with any authority. In his DO No: CAPD/Food/19/Brick/09 Dated 26th November 2009, Chief Secretary has informed the Speaker that “presently we do not have any legal framework for regulating the activities of the brick kilns as the “J&K Brick Kilns (Regulation) Act, 1990” enacted during the Governor’s rule in 1990 has not been replaced by an Act passed by the State Legislature”.

“However, the Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution Department has now drafted an Ordinance viz “J&K Brick Kiln (Regulation) Ordinance, 2009” which is shortly being submitted to the State Cabinet for its consideration”, Chief Secretary had written to the Speaker and added: “The issue of illegal use of agricultural/forest land has also been taken care of in the proposed Ordinance, which also seeks to adequately empower the State Government to control the illegal growth of brick kilns”.

Notwithstanding Chief Secretary’s averment, legal and environmental experts had insisted to this newspaper that the state government was already competent to close down and dismantle brick kilns not conforming to the ecological standards and citing criteria fixed by J&K State Pollution Control Board. They had cited examples where a number of such defaulter units had been closed down or dismantled. Well-placed sources had insisted that lack of political will alone was the lifeline of unauthorised brick kilns.

The Bill introduced in the Assembly today has addressed many of the problems identified by Early Times but it has adopted a remarkably soft approach, bordering general amnesty, towards the listed defaulters who have been operating such industrial units in clear violation of over a dozen laws. It has proposed stringent punishment for the prospective defaulters and even sought to bar judiciary from challenging the government’s executive orders carried out under the new law.

The Bill has also proposed unlimited powers to government officials without identifying necessary safeguards to check their misuse like the already maligned Forest Act of 1998. Section 24 of the Bill reads: “Power to Exempt: The Government may, by general or special order, exempt any class of persons from operation of any or all provisions of this Act and may modify or rescind any such order”.


Thursday, April 8, 2010

ESMA reduced to hukm-e-nawwab ta dar-e-nawwab

Trade union leaders set up ‘War Control Room’ at CAPD hqs; shutdown continues

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Apr 8: Even as authorities have detained nearly 50 trade union activists in what are locally ridiculed as ‘ornamental arrests’, Omar Abdullah government’s decision of invoking the draconian Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) has been reduced to a joke. As over 95 percent offices and all educational institutions remained locked on the fourth consecutive day of the strike sponsored by Joint Consultative Committee (JCC) of the employees, prominent trade union leaders have established a control room for running and monitoring the strike at CAPD headquarters while holding daily press conferences to browbeat the Government.

Reports available from different sources suggested that there was near-total shutdown in government and public sector undertaking offices besides educational institutions all over Kashmir valley on the fourth day of strike. JCC, which comprises both factions of Employees Joint Action Committee (EJAC) and constituents of almost all trade union alliances, with the support of premier organization of the non-gazetted staff working as Civil Secretariat, has been demanding release of pay arrears which have become due to over 450000 employees on account of the implementation of 6th pay commission recommendations in 2009.

Employees on strike have also been seeking enhancement of the age of superannuation from 58 to 60 years, House Rent Allowance and regularization of the services of all the incumbents engaged on daily-wage, adhoc, contractual and consolidated arrangement.

Reports said that Police managed to pre-empt demonstrations and assemblies of the trade union leaders and employees at several places in Valley. DC Budgam said that 11 of the trade union activists were detained by Police as they had gathered at Budgam and were attempting to form a rally. He said that “99 percent” of the District Officers were present at their offices. Similar claims poured in from other districts all over Valley. However, independent reports said that less than 50 officers at each district headquarters enjoyed an idle day at respective DC’s offices and guesthouses as all of their offices remained locked.

Trade union activists were spotted entering even the fortified office complexes and dragging out skeletal class 3 and class 4 employees who had been drawn by officers mainly to serve them tea and cold drinks. Divisional Commissioner of Kashmir and all DCs in Valley called it “successful attendance” and conveyed to Chief Minister that “almost all the offices are open and functional”. Two of the junior officials, who had opened their office, and were ready to discharge duty, were scolded by a DC’s PA as to why they were violating the strike. “There are serious complaints that you people have opened the office and you are on duty”, they were purportedly told by the officials who themselves remained busy in doling out lies to the highest authorities.

According to reliable reports, even a few hundred officials, who reached their offices, did not do any work in absence of their subordinate staff. They did not have even keys to open their offices. Trade union leaders were seen flashing their writ over mobile phones to ensure that there was no business at offices. It is believed to have demoralized more than 50 percent of the employees who looked convinced over Government’s argument, as published in paid advertisements, and were ready to attend duty. As against the government propaganda machinery, trade union leaders have even dominated all local newspapers and cable television channels to convince the masses over the agitation and float a virulent counter-information campaign against the government.

Reports said that health and medical services, besides other essential services, remained affected to a large extent notwithstanding the visit of a ministerial delegation to different hospitals in the summer capital. Shutdown remained complete even as Chief Minister had taken a serious note of the “total strike” and made it clear on senior government functionaries at a high level meeting last evening that any lackadaisical attitude in enforcement of ESMA would not be tolerated by him. Informed sources said that Police and intelligence agencies have informed Chief Minister that a number of Heads of Departments, particularly some Chief Engineers, besides KAS officers of 1977 and 1984 batch, who were in age group of 55 to 58 years but had not been inducted into IAS, were openly supporting EJAC and JCC not only with lip service but also material contribution.

Ironically within hours of Chief Minister’s meeting with the officers, Police was forced to release the most important trade union leader and head of a faction of EJAC, Khursheed Alam, late last night. Reports said that over the telephonic orders of a Ministrer from Jammu, Khursheed Alam was released within an hour of his arrest and handed over to his family. Plush with high level of morale and confidence, Alam today addressed 2nd consecutive press conference. He has already established a control room of the JCC and EJAC at CAPD headquarters and Director CAPD is said to be providing complete support to the trade union leaders addressing virulent news conferences against Chief Minister and one particular Minister of the 5-member Cabinet Sub Committee dealing with the agitation.

Highly placed authoritative sources revealed to Early Times that two of the Cabinet Ministers were aggressively against giving any relief to the agitating employees. They were reportedly in favour of strict enforcement of ESMA. However, two more of their colleagues were completely tight-lipped. Last member of the Cabinet sub committee was now widely perceived to be in favour of reconciliation and conceding 58-60 year demand. In absence of clear-cut instructions to the law enforcement agencies, decision of invoking ESMA is being dismissed as a joke which, analysts believe, had the potential of causing huge damage to the coalition government’s credibility and competence in implementing its sensitive decisions.


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

ESMA threat fails to break morale of trade union leaders, employees

EJAC leader Qayoom arrested; Khursheed Alam picked up but released in one hour

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Apr 7: Treating Omar Abdullah government’s threat of ‘no work no wages’ and detention under the draconian Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) with contempt, over 200,000 state government employees in Kashmir valley observed near-total shutdown of their work places on the third consecutive day of their strike to press their principal demand of release of arrears of their salaries. Even as, in its first enforcement of ESMA, Police today arrested a senior trade union leader, his colleagues at a news conference said that the employees were unfazed by the threats and they would soon make the Government bow.

Little impact of the government’s ESMA threat was visible on third consecutive day of the weeklong strike of the employees today in Kashmir valley as more than 95 percent of the offices remained locked and attendance was dismal in others that opened for business. Essential services and Police are not covered under the agitation that has been launched by the government employees to press their demands---primarily release of pay arrears due to them on account of implementation of the recommendations of the sixth pay commission in 2009.

Reports said that in absence of the government’s clear instructions to law enforcements agencies, particularly district magistrates and district Police chiefs, trade union leaders enjoyed a field day in keeping the offices locked and preventing staff from discharging their duties. According to these reports, a number of the employees heading for their work places or found working at offices were not only humiliated but also harassed. However, the offices of Divisional Commissioner and District Development Commissioners functioned, albeit with remarkably thin attendance.

Finding the employees and trade union leaders in high spirits, Government launched its first crackdown with the arrest of EJAC (Q) President, Abdul Qayoom Wani, when he was going to see his wife who was reportedly admitted at SKIMS Medical College Bemina. A couple of insignificant trade union activists were also arrested in Anantnag. In a significant development, Government got the most wanted EJAC (K) President, Khursheed Alam, arrested by SHO Parimpora. However, the authorities buckled under pressure from different sources and dropped him back at his residence late tonight.

Earlier today, while addressing a news conference at CAPD headquarters, Khursheed Alam asserted that the Government would be made to bow and forced to concede all of the employees’ demands. He said that there were four-and-a-half lakh employees at the back of the trade union leaders and there was no question of their succumbing to the government’s threats. Khursheed alleged that the Government had resorted to “martial law” marshal to break the morale of the agitating employees but, according to him, it would end up as an exercise in futility. He said that in reaction to Government’s action of arresting some trade union leaders and choosing to remain bellicose, Joint Consultative Committee (JCC) had extended the strike with the addition of two days to April 13th.

Khursheed Alam said that the essential services, including health and CAPD, had been left out but threatened their inclusion in case government continued to remain “at war with its own employees”. He advised consumers to keep stock of two months of ration at their homes as there was likelihood of the strike overstretching to the summer.

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah arrived in the summer capital and took a detailed meeting at SKICC with senior officers of Police and civil administration to take stock of the situation arising out of the employees’ strike. Officials gave him a resume of the work, according to them, underway in their departments.

Deputy Chief Minister,Tara Chand, Minister for Medical Education, R S Chib, Minister for CAPD and Transport, Qamar Ali Akhoon, Advisor to Chief Minister, Mubarak Gul, Political Advisor to Chief Minister, Devinder Singh Rana, Minister of State for Tourism, Nasir Aslam Wani, Chief Secretary, S S Kapur, Principal Secretary to Chief Minister, Khursheed Ahmed Ganai, DG Police, Kuldeep Khoda, Additional DG CID, K Rajendra Kumar, Divisional Commissioner Kashmir Mrs Naseem Lanker, IGP Kashmir, Farooq Ahmed, and heads of departments of various departments and educational institutions were present in the meeting.

Addressing the officials Chief Minister said that the Government had not closed its doors for negotiations and urged upon the employees to resume their duties in the larger public interest. He said that the government was committed to fulfill the genuine demands of the employees, most of which, he asserted, had been already met. “The government requires huge sum of Rs. 4200 Crores to disburse the arrears on account of implementation of sixth pay commission recommendations for which resources have to be arranged”, he said.

Chief Minister Omar called upon the officers to ensure that the people were not put to any inconvenience due to the strike of the employees and exhorted upon them to ensure that the contingency plans were fully implemented. He said that Government’s primary responsibility was to provide services to the greater population which expected effective delivery of services. As such efforts should be made to provide the services across the board with focus on essential services particularly Education, Health, Drinking Water, Electricity and Public Distribution.

Chief Minister said that “No Work No Pay” provision would be strictly implemented and the resolve of the government in this regard remained undeterred. He said that his government was committed to the people of the state and no effort would be left to serve the population of the state in a way they expected the government to function.

Expecting an early resolution to the problem the Chief Minister said that his government has always taken an extra step to fulfill the genuine demands of its employees and despite financial resources we were among the first few states in the country to implement the recommendations of the Sixth Pay Commission and during the last year the government incurred an extra expenditure of Rs. 1800 crore on the demands of our employees. The employees must understand that the situation cannot be pushed beyond a certain point and appealed them to resume work and come forward for the discussions to find an amicable solution to the problem. Mr. Omar said that we are being paid to serve the people weather as Public representatives or Public Servants and our Aim must be that people of the state do not suffer at any cost.


Monday, April 5, 2010

Govt invokes ESMA against employees on strike

Tough decision of ‘no work no wages’ taken on day one of shutdown in Secretariat

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

JAMMU, Apr 5: In sharp contrast to its image of a government of submission and surrender, 15-month-old National Conference-led ruling coalition today decided to invoke Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) to beat the ongoing agitation of over 400,000 state employees. It was on day one of the weeklong strike, which was, for the first time this year, also observed in Civil Secretariat that Omar Abdullah government took the tough decision of not paying any wages to any of the employees found absent from work.

After a three-hour-long Cabinet meeting this evening, Minister of Finance and head of a 5-member Cabinet sub committee dealing with the demands of the employees on strike, Abdul Rahim Rather, told mediapersons at a hurriedly organized news conference at Chief Minister’s Secretariat that Government had taken tough decisions to keep the systems running for ten million people of the state. He disclosed that the Cabinet discussed the employees’ strike and their demands at length and decided to invoke different provisions of ESMA to discharge what he called “the government’s constitutional responsibilities”.

Rather made it clear that none of the government employees found on strike or absent from work would be paid any wages for the period of absence. While further explaining consequences of absence of the government employees from office without “reasonable excuse”, Rather said that such employees as well as those preventing the employees from discharging of their duties could be arrested and detained for a period upto one year and subjected to fine. “We spend huge amount of Rs 25 Crore a day on account of the wages of the government employees. If they chose to remain absent from work, it is our constitutional duty to save this public money. We feel we are accountable for this expenditure before our people and before Almighty. Wasting of this money would be a gunaah-e-azeem (huge sin)”, Rather asserted.

Flanked by other members of the Cabinet sub committee---Surjit Singh Salathia, Taj Mohiuddin, Peerzada Mohammad Sayeed and Ali Mohammad Sagar---Rather said that the employees had declared war on their own government and pushed it to the wall with their ‘obduracy’. According to him, the trade union leaders’ current call for weeklong shutdown of offices was in no way justifiable as the government was leaving no stone unturned to meet their demands. He said that Government had made it clear to the employees in a meeting on February 18th, 2009, that it would implement recommendations of the 6th Central Pay Commission from 01-07-2009 and the demand of raising the retirement age from 58 to 60 years would be considered in view of all opinions.

“As per our agreement with the employees, we implemented the pay commission recommendations from 01-07-2009 and also paid all installments of Dearness Allowance to them all. Just one installment of DA, that has been announced by Government of India a few days back, remains payable. As against their demand of raising the wages of daily rated workers from Rs 70 to Rs 100, we enhanced it to Rs 110. We also took the bold and unprecedented decision of regularization of the services of all employees appointed by competent officers on adhoc, contractual and consolidated wages arrangement. We have passed the Bill in Assembly today”, Rather said. He said that Government held two detailed meetings with the trade union leaders on 19-03-2010 and 03-04-2010 and reiterated the assurance that their arrears would be liquidated as and when resources were made available by the Centre.

“We advised them to wait for the outcome of the visit of all-party delegation to New Delhi. The delegation is proposed to take up the demand of the payment of arrears with the Centre in near future. But, rather than being amenable to reason and logic, they began browbeating us with another strike”, Rather said. He said that in 2009-10, Omar Abdullah government had paid an additional amount of Rs 1,800 Crore on the employees’ salaries which was unprecedented in the state’s history. “There is absolutely no procrastination on our side. Our intentions are clear”, he added.

Rather said that his government had worked out a contingency plan to keep the systems functional and urged upon all daily rated, adhoc, consolidated and contractual staff to ensure that there was not a day’s break in their continuity of service. He made it clear that only those employees, who had no break in seven years of continuous service, would be entitled to regularization in government service. In reply to a question, Rather disclosed that his Government could resort to the option of fast track recruitment of the unemployed youth to overcome the deficiency of manpower.

Responding to another question, Rather made it clear that the government employees, responding to the strike calls of the separatist Hurriyat Conference and other separatist political outfits, would be making themselves liable to the similar action under ESMA. According to him, now on, no government employee found absent from office “without reasonable excuse” on the days of shutdown called by separatist organizations would be paid that particular day’s salary.

Asked for his reaction to the reports that Government had ordered Police to arrest prominent trade union leaders in Srinagar and Jammu, Rather said that no such orders had immediately flown from the Government. He, nevertheless, sought to make it clear that law would take its course on the employees found on strike or preventing the employees from discharging their duties.

Sagar’s Bill may unite NC, PDP but divide Cong in Assembly

Bills seeking regularization of contractual employment, ban on inter-district recruitment coming up today

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

JAMMU, Apr 4: Government’s Bill No: 1 of 2009, that will be moved by Minister of Law and Parliamentary Affairs, Ali Mohammad Sagar, for consideration and passage, is likely to force Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to end its boycott to the proceedings in Legislative Assembly on Monday and also, for the first time in 15 months, bring Mehbooba Mufti’s and Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s parties on one side. It is, however, likely to divide the coalition partner Congress in two groups---one of them, led by Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand, strongly opposing the legislation seeking ban on recruitment of government job aspirants of one district in another district.

With 11 Government Bills coming up for consideration and passage on the last day of the Budget Session, Legislative Assembly is likely to witness a united house on Monday for the principal ruling party, NC, and the principal Opposition party, PDP, first time in the last 15 months. Bill No: 1 of 2009, seeking ban on inter-district recruit, is scheduled to be moved for consideration and passage by Minister of Law and Parliamentary Affairs, Ali Mohammad Sagar, obviously under strong pressure from a consortium of five MLA of Kupwara districts. Besides independent MLA from Langet, Er Sheikh Abdul Rashid, and PDP’s one-odd MLA of Lolab, Abdul Haq Khan, this alliance of legislators has three MLA, namely Chowdhary Mohamamd Ramzan, Mir Saifullah and Kafeel-ur-Rehman, from NC. They have been sponsoring a mass agitation since last year.

This confluence of the interest of Kashmir-based political parties has already forced PDP to call off its indefinite boycott to the Business in Assembly that the party had declared over Chief Minister’s “non-seriousness towards Legislature” and alleged withdrawal of security cover to one of its Pulwama-based leaders. Sources in PDP said that all 21 of its members, excluding Nizam-ud-din Bhat, whose brother-in-law has died in Bandipora yesterday, would remain present in Assembly to speak and vote in favour of the Bill. “We have our doubts that two Congress MLAs, namely Abdul Majid Wani and Ashok Kumar, have moved their amendments only to derail the process and hand over the Bill yet again to another select committee. But, in case NC remains silent or supportive of another select committee, it will expose the ruling party and give us the desired dividends in the Valley”, said a senior PDP leader.

NC sources, however, insisted that it was a Government Bill and there was no question of its derailment to another select committee. “It has been already thoroughly examined by a sub committee that had representatives not only from NC and PDP but also from Congress, BJP and Panthers Party. All the controversial issues have been addressed”, said a senior NC leader and Cabinet Minister. He sought to clarify that Wani’s and Kumar’s amendments had come in their private capacity and maintained that a consensus had been already achieved over the Bill between the coalition partners. “There has been hectic political activity and senior leaders at Congress high command have taken Deputy Chief Minister Mr Tara Chand into confidence. His concern for Scheduled Castes is being addressed appropriately”, he added. According to him, Government was immediately going to reserve existing six Assembly segments, reserved for SCs, for further 10 years. He said that there was a possibility of the division of opinion among the Congress members and some of them may chose to remain absent but, according to him, large number of NC’s and PDP’s members, besides legislators like Er Rashid, Hakeem Yasin and Mohamamd Yusuf Tarigami were evidently supportive of the legislation.

Mr Tara Chand, who spent two days in New Delhi to discuss this crucial legislation with the Congress high command, could not be reached for his comments as his mobile phone was permanently switched off. However, one of the senior leaders of the party, believed to be close to Deputy Chief Minister, told Early Times that the coalition partners (Congress and NC) had secretly decided to bring the Bill only to break the PDP’s boycott and assuage the feelings of Kupwara MLAs. He disclosed that the Bill would be passed on to a proposed sub committee of 9 MLAs of different political parties. “No less a person than Chief Minister has been convinced on the strategy by Congress high commands and he has agreed to (derail) it”, he claimed.

The Bill will need simply majority of the members present at the time of voting for its passage in Assembly.

Sagar’s Bill will be the first among 11 Government Bills to come up for discussion in the Assembly on Monday immediately after the Business of Question Hour, five calling attention motions of Tarigami, Sharief Niaz, Nazir Gurezi, Basharat Bukhari and Sukhvinder, is over. It will be also preceded by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s laying of the half-yearly report on State Vigilance Organisation on the table of the House and Chairman of House Committee on Ethics, Mir Saifullah, submitting another report to the Assembly.

Significantly, after a debate on the issue for eight months, Minister of Finance, Abdul Rahim Rather, will be moving for consideration and passage the Bill seeking regularization of the services of those completing seven years of engagement on adhoc, contractual and consolidated arrangement. Those working in PSUs and all those not appointed against a clear vacancy in Government departments would not be entitled to the benefit.

While as Sagar is scheduled to move a Bill for amendment in anti-corruption laws and Minister of Tourism, Rigzin Jora, would move a Bill for preservation of the heritage sites and structures, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah would bring up a legislation to prevent power pilferage in the state. All the eleven Bills have been already introduced in Assembly.