Total Pageviews

Friday, May 21, 2010

Mirwaiz asks PM to announce dialogue with Hurriyat, Pak during Valley visit

‘Delhi’s secret talks refrain is unfounded’

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, May 21: Chairman of the separatist conglomerate Hurriyat Conference, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, today asserted that there was absolutely no substance in the union Home Minister P Chidambaram’s refrain of a secret process of talks with Kashmir’s separatist leadership. Repeating demilitarization, revocation of “draconian laws” and declaration of “complete political package” as the key conditions, Mirwaiz urged Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh to announce a fresh dialogue process with Hurriyat Conference and Pakistan during his forthcoming visit to Kashmir valley.

In his key address on occasion of the death anniversary of two Kashmiri leaders, Mirwaiz Maulvi Mohammad Farooq and Abdul Gani Lone, on the Eidgah Grounds today Mirwaiz Umar Farooq claimed that no Kashmiri separatist leader was involved in any process of secret dialogue with the Government of India. “This bogey of secret dialogue is completely baseless”, he told a gathering of around 16,000 people while paying tributes to his father Mirwaiz Farooq who had been gunned down by militants on May 21, 1990, and the Peoples Conference founder-chairman, Abdul Gani Lone, who was shot dead by militants at the Mirwaiz remembrance rally on Eidgah Grounds on May 21, 2002.

Junior Mirwaiz urged Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh to announce a fresh, meaningful dialogue process with Hurriyat and Pakistan during his forthcoming visit to Kashmir valley. Prime Minister would be reportedly visiting the Valley in June. Mirwaiz, nevertheless, repeated withdrawal of troops, revocation of “draconian laws like Armed Forces Special Powers Act” and announcement of “a complete political package” as the Hurriyat’s key conditions to participation in a dialogue process with New Delhi. He lamented that Hurriyat had time and again submitted a host of proposals to New Delhi with regard to resolution of the Kashmir crisis but, according to him, Government of India had “never budged an inch from its rigid stand”.

Mirwaiz described his slain father and founder of Awami Action Committee, Maulvi Mohammad Farooq, as a “stanch freedom fighter” and claimed that winning Kashmir’s freedom from India was his goal. He called the Hurriyat as representative of over one hundred thousands martyrs who, according to him, had laid down their life for Kashmir’s separation from India and asserted that the blood spilled for the “noble cause of Azadi” would never go waste. Laying emphasis on unity, Mirwaiz warned his fellow separatist leaders against causing split after split of their organizations and alliances. According to him, Kashmiris would achieve nothing as long as there was a war of one-upmanship in the Valley’s separatist fold.

Head of so-called moderate faction of the Hurriyat, Mirwaiz lashed out on the mainstream opposition Peoples Democratic Party, without mentioning its name, over highlighting the issue of human rights abuse by the Indian security forces in Jammu & Kashmir. He alleged that the mainstream opposition party had been shedding crocodile tears “only to befool the Kashmiris”. “But the people of Kashmir are mature enough to understand the difference between their real leaders and the crying mummies”, Mirwaiz asserted. He complained that Omar Abdullah’s government had not kept its world of not disrupting today’s Hurriyat rally. Notwithstanding a rejoinder from the official spokesman, Mirwaiz alleged that the government had prevented a large number of his followers from participating in the rally.

On its return, some youth in the rally set on fire a paramilitary CRPF bunker at Kawdara, on Nallah Maar Road and attempted to enter and attack the armed soldiers. They observed restraint and did not retaliate. A Police party quickly rushed to the spot and dispersed the rioters with tearsmoke, baton charge and firing in the air. Nobody was reportedly injured.

Earlier, Mirwaiz was carried to Eidgah Grounds in a rally in which people shouted pro-Azadi slogans. Mirwaiz set out from Jamia Masjid after delivering his weekly sermon and participating in the mass Friday prayers. Senior leaders of the “moderate” Hurriyat, namely Bilal Gani Lone, Professor Abdul Gani Bhat and Maulvi Abbas Ansari were conspicuously absent even as Ansari was represented by his son.

Govt prostrates on Hurriyat ground with a blood camp
Congress Ministers’ department makes separatists’ show a big success

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, May 20: Hours before Inspector General of Police Kashmir Zone, Farooq Ahmed, today made it publicly clear that there would be no restrictions on participation of people in the year’s biggest separatist show on the Eidgah Grounds on May 21st, two of the senior Congress leaders--- Minister of Health, Sham Lal Sharma, and Minister of Medical Education, R S Chib---mobilised their subordinate departments to make the Hurriyat Chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq’s blood camp at Jamia Masjid a big success. Hurriyat’s remembrance week is concluding tomorrow on the spacious Eidgah Grounds where a separatist congregation would take a fresh oath of continuing the “freedom struggle till its logical conclusion” and pay homage to Mirwaiz Maulvi Farooq and Abdul Gani Lone, who were gunned down by militants on May 21st in 1990 and 2002 respectively.

Those who personally mobilized subordinate doctors, blood banks under their command and enlisted donors of different hospitals to make the Hurriyat Chairman’s blood donation camp a remarkable success included Director Health Services Kashmir, Dr Mohammad Amin Wani, Director Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS), Dr Abdul Hamid Zargar and Principal of Government Medical College Srinagar and administrator of its associated hospitals in Srinagar, Dr Shahida Mir. Sources present on the occasion at Jamia Masjid said that over 100 pints of blood were collected in just three hours. They said that on the directions of the two Congress Ministers, entire blood bank staff of six major hospitals in Srinagar conducted the camp that had been organized by the youth wing of Mirwaiz Umar Farooq’s Awami Action Committee (AAC).

Sources close to Mirwaiz said that about 2500 patients were examined by the doctors and medicines worth over Rs 2.00 Lakh were distributed at the camp.

Prominent hospital administrators and noted physician and surgeons, including Dr Meraj-ud-din, Dr Gul Javed, Dr Pervaiz Koul, Dr Altaf Kawoosa, Dr Riyaz Ahmed, Dr Ramzan Mir, Dr Najeeb Drabu, Dr Massarat Shaheen, Dr Nazir Ahmed Wani and Dr Shahida Fazili, marked their attendance at the Jamia Masjid camp and supervised the blood donation operation. Government’s participation was witnessed for the first time, though AAC has been holding such camps every year in this week of May as a mark of tribute to its founder-chairman Maulvi Mohammad Farooq whose assassination took place at his Nageen house on May 21st, 1990. Over 50 of the Mirwaiz followers had subsequently died when Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) opened fire on the funeral procession near Government Islamia College of Science & Commerce at Hawal.

Striking in broad daylight on the Mirwaiz remembrance rally on the Eidgah Grounds, suspected militants later gunned down senior mainstream-turned-separatist leader and founder-chairman of Peoples Conference, Abdul Gani Lone, alongwith his armed guards on May 21st, 2002. Tombs of both, Mirwaiz Farooq and Abdul Gani Lone, are among dozens of militants and civilians killed or believed to be killed and buried in Mazaar-e-shuhada (The Martyrs Graveyard) on the Eidgah Grounds. Like every year, Hurriyat is preparing to hold its biggest show at Eidgah on Friday.

Hurriyat has called for a total shutdown in the Valley on Friday and asked people to participate in the remembrance rally of the two slain leaders in large numbers. Top category protected cleric-politician, Mirwaiz is scheduled to deliver his weekly sermon and perform Friday afternoon mass prayers at Jamia Masjid in downtown Srinagar before leading a rally of his supporters to Eidgah Grounds. Like in the last few years, state government has decided not to enforce any restrictions on participation of people in the separatists’ rally. Amid speculations of curfew, IGP Kashmir made it publicly clear this evening that people would be free to participate in the assembly.

As part of the remembrance week events, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq today led a rally of his supporters from Bachhpora to Nowshera in Soura area. Addressing the gathering, he asserted that the “freedom struggle” would be taken to its logical conclusion (Kashmir’s separation from India) and nobody would be allowed to make any comprise. “No stone will be left unturned to take the sacrifices of our one hundred thousand martyrs to a logical conclusion”, Mirwaiz said.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Vakil urges CM to proceed against corrupt Ministers

‘Govt should terminate all advocates appointed on basis of political affiliation’

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, May 18: Congress party’s MLC and former Minister Abdul Gani Vakil today complained that a number of the coalition government’s Ministers were neck deep in corruption. While urging Chief Minister Omar Abdullah to ‘rise above the conventional vote bank politics’, Vakil demanded constitution of ‘an independent and credible commission’ which would force the ‘corrupt Ministers and legislators’ to disclose source of their income as quite a number of them, according to him, had acquired thousands of Kanals of prime land and raised palatial bungalows overnight in Srinagar, Jammu and New Delhi.

In Take One Television’s current affairs programme ‘Face To Face With Ahmed Ali Fayyaz’, MLC Abdul Gani Vakil expressed full faith in Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s campaign to eradicate corruption but, at the same time, he asserted that it would all prove to be an exercise in futility until the ‘dynamic head of the government’ rose above the (inhibitions of) conventional vote bank politics. “Chief Minister will have to begin from the top. He will have to take drastic steps without thinking much about its consequences as the people at large want a neat and clean system. If, God forbid, he failed, this state is doomed to destruction”, Vakil asserted.

Vakil, who has been without break associated with Congress for over 35 years and functioned as Minister of Social Welfare in Ghulam Nabi Azad-led coalition government in 2007-08, asserted that a number of Ministers in Omar Abdullah’s government, MPs, MLCs and MLAs besides a former Union Cabinet Minister and some former state Ministers, were “neck deep in corruption”. He urged Chief Minister to proceed against them in a no-nonsense manner and constitute “an independent, competent and credible commission” that would force these mainstream political leaders to disclose their source of income. “Many of these Ministers and politicians lived in penurious or modest economic conditions till they assumed office. They have overnight purchased thousands of Kanals of prime land in Jammu and Srinagar and built for themselves palatial bungalows in Srinagar, Jammu and New Delhi. They should be forced to reveal source of their fortunes evidently disproportionate to their known and legal sources of income”, Vakil said.

Refusing to name the politicians, Vakil said that those who, according to him, had become cynosure of all eyes in Kashmir valley, included a former Union Minister “who has acquired 350 Kanals of land and raised palatial bungalows at Humhama” besides two Cabinet Ministers who had lately acquired huge houses worth Crores of Rupees in posh Humhama and Rajbagh localities in Srinagar. He argued that “this demonstration of brazen corruption” was the key source of alienation among thousands of people in Kashmir and had, according to him, led an entire generation to lose faith in the Indian system of governance in the state. He asserted that eradication of corruption among Ministers, legislators and top bureaucrats would solve more than three-fourth of the Kashmir problem.

“Wherever we go, people ask us where these fortunes came from. They cite examples of the politicians and public servants who had nothing to eat until they assumed power but had, overnight, become multi-millionaires”, Vakil said in the talk show that was telecast in Kashmir tonight and would be played on the network in Jammu on Friday next. He said that the biggest problem with the state government was that “some 8 to 9 Ministers” had got stay orders from the court to prevent State Accountability Commission (SAC) from investigating their ill-gotten wealth.

“Government has Rs 500 Crore with 1514 sales tax defaulters. Like our 8 or 9 Ministers, they too have got stay orders from the court. They have engaged the best of the country’s lawyers to protect and defend them. On the other hand, over government has appointed incompetent lawyers as government advocates merely on the basis of their political affiliation. As long as this situation continues, Government is destined to lose all cases. This situation is clearly a decisive advantage for the sales tax defaulters and corrupt politicians”, Vakil asserted. He urged Chief Minister to terminate services of the incompetent solicitors and engage the best of the advocates who should have integrity and competence to get the stay orders vacated and make the defaulters and the corrupt politicians and bureaucrats accountable in all legal and administrative procedures.

“Government has Rs 9 Crore with just one sale tax defaulter. Even if it spends Rs 20 Lakh on the recovery, still it will be richer by more than Rs 8 Crore. There’s no substitute to a strong political will and engagement of competent lawyers, if Omar Sahab has to live upto the expectations of hundreds of thousands of people who have given him mandate to restore accountability among the public men and public servants”, Vakil asserted. According to him, such bold steps only would restore faith of the millions of people in Jammu & Kashmir in “our democratic institutions and the system of governance”.


Monday, May 17, 2010

CM’s own Ganderbal tops in absenteeism in Kashmir

Only SPs among 70 district officers maintain station at Ganderbal, Budgam

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, May 17: Central Kashmir rural districts of Ganderbal and Budgam have earned the dubious distinction of topping all 10 districts in the Valley in absenteeism as the district officers of almost all the departments return to their respective residences in other districts after putting in few hours of work. Even as two-odd Superintendents of Police (SPs) stay at their stations in Ganderbal and Budgam, all 68 others---including Deputy Commissioners DCs)---have been religiously returning to Srinagar to put up the night with their respective families.

Contrary to the coalition government’s claims of good governance and sense of accountability in the public servants, not more than 10 percent of district officers of different departments maintain station in Kashmir valley. Lack of accountability among the government employees could be gauged by the fact that even the civil administration’s key organs---DC and Tehsildar (Territorial)---are never available at the two Central Kashmir district headquarters after 5.00 p.m, except during elections and for a couple of days around the District Development Board meetings.

Even after the working hours, all government officials are bound by service rules to stay within a short distance from their offices and are not authorized to leave station without the permission of competent authority. Those who are not in possession of their own houses and official accommodation in the territory are supposed to put up at hired houses. It has been observed that all the district officers, whether staying at official accommodation or returning to their respective homes, have been taking House Rent Allowance (HRA) and other perks from the state exchequer every month.

In Power Development Department, only the field staff on duty by night are entitled to extra payment of two-and-a-half days’ salary. It has been observed that the field staff on or off duty, including clerks and executive engineers, who are the first to return to their residences after working at offices, have been drawing this special perk with active connivance of their Drawing & Disbursing Officers (DDOs). With the senior officials’ eyes conveniently shut, those taking this special benefit “on account of providing essential service to the consumers for 24 hours in 7 days”, include separatist leaders who never attend their official duties. They have been getting their salaries, including all special perks, deposited in their bank accounts every month, even for the period they spend in detention under Public Safety Act (PSA).

In a Valley-wide survey, Early Times noticed that not more than 100 out of 400-0dd district officers in the 10 districts stay at their headquarters for the night. Most of them stay by default as their private residential houses happen to be in close vicinity of their offices. An official who has been continuously living in close vicinity of his office at Baramulla, called it “Government, not available for 18 hours”. “There’s absolutely no accountability (among the government employees)”, he said and specified that, in addition to stone pelting and shutdown, there were many other reasons behind the absenteeism. According to him, not more than 60 to 70% of the employees attend their duties.

The survey observed that among 70-odd District Officers, only the two SPs have been staying for the night at Ganderbal and Budgam. While DC of Ganderbal has been shuttling between his office and private house at Rawalpora in Srinagar, DC of Budgam has been returning to his Sonwar residence in Srinagar every evening. Even the Additional DCs, Assistant Commissioners of Revenue and Tehsildars (Territorial) were never found at station when Early Times enquired about them as many as 10 times in the last four weeks. It surfaced that even Tehsildar of Kangan, in Ganderbal district, has been living somewhere in Srinagar.

Residents of Beehama at Ganderbal revealed that they call on the SP whenever there is a problem like power breakdown, water supply disruption or a critical delivery case. “None of the Executive Engineers, AEs and JEs is available here beyond office hours. Sometimes they set up secret offices to make fudged claims at their houses in Srinagar. Doctors or technicians are never on night duty. Just one male or female doctor stays here. They simply do the formality of referring the patients to different hospitals in Srinagar”, Ghulam Hassan Dar, a retired government official, complained at Dadarhama in Ganderbal.

At Budgam, shopkeeper Ghulam Mohammad Bhat claimed that neither the Medical Superintendent nor the surgeons and technicians are ever available at Aga Syed Yousuf Memorial District Hospital after 5.00 p.m. “There’s always a lady doctor who refers all the gynecology cases to Lal Ded Hospital of Srinagar as she doesn’t have the facilities at her command”, he said. According to him, no facility of X-Ray, USG, anesthesia was available at the district hospital from 4.00 pm to 10.00 a.m next day.

Minister of Health, Sham Lal Sharma, and officials in General Administration Department (GAD) did not respond to phone calls when attempts were made to get their comments.


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Omar Govt’s flagship scheme has few takers in J&K

SKEWPY loses its sheen in red tape; MOU doesn’t crystallize in 9 months

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, May 15: In the next three months, architects of the coalition government’s flagship scheme would be celebrating anniversary of Finance Minister Abdul Rahim Rather’s announcement of a “revolutionary” employment policy, made in the summer session of the state Legislative Assembly last year. Notwithstanding the tall claims of the top government functionaries, there have been few takers to Sher-e-Kashmir Employment and Welfare Programme for the Youth (SKEWPY). Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Jammu & Kashmir Bank Ltd over arrangement of financial support for the prospective entrepreneurs has not crystallized either---in the last nine months.

Out of nearly 600,000 unemployed youth, who had registered themselves at different tehsil and district centres in the state, just 2,000 have expressed intention to take benefit of the government’s free seed capital while establishing their business units. Surprisingly, just 2,000 more have come forward to take home Voluntary Service Allowance (VSA). One-time free seed capital for the educated entrepreneurs and monthly disbursement of VSA for the unemployed youth till, they get a job, were the key features of the much-hyped SKEWPY that was supposed to take off from April 1st, 2010.

Number of the entrepreneurs taking benefit of the government’s “historic policy” or pursuing their loan cases with the financial institutions on May 15th, as also the number of the unemployed youth taking home ‘berauzgaar bhatta’, is zero. Bureaucracy has been drafting and fine tuning necessary MOU with J&K Bank Ltd since September last year but the much awaited instrument, that would have facilitated Jammu & Kashmir State Entrepreneurship Development Institute (EDI) to formulate and recommend Detailed Project Reports (DPRs) of the aspirants to the designated financial institution, has not seen the light of the day till date.

“Total of 2,371 unemployed youth have registered themselves with us and expressed willingness to take training from our field experts and seek loan from the bank with the advantage of free seed capital from the government. We have, of late, started entrepreneurship awareness programmes and modular training courses in a couple of sectorss. Yes, our DPRs are not ready as the aspirants are keen to first know about things like the interest rate, release of seed capital and scheme of recovery of loan etcetera”, Director EDI, Prof Mohammad Ismail Parray, told Early Times. He admitted that the enthusiasm, initially found among the aspirants, was not much visible today. “But, I am sure things are going to change in a few days from now”, Parray added. He sounded optimistic that the elegantly created Rs 12 Crore EDI complex in Srinagar, as well as in Jammu, would be “in full bloom” by next month.

Secretary to Government, Labour and Employment, Farooq Ahmed Pir, refused to accept that delay in signing of MOU with J&K Bank would adversely affect the process of training and recommending loan cases at EDI. He admitted that an amount of Rs 24 Crore, generously provided by Finance Miniser for immediate disbursement of the seed capital to the entrepreneurs, had remained unutilized in Civil Deposit Account as not a single case had been recommended to the bank. “We have provided Rs 1 Crore to EDI to take care of training courses in different fields and other logistics involved in selection of the candidates and formulation of their DPRs. MOU with J&K Bank is expected to be inked in a few days”, he asserted.

Department of Labour and Employment has been designated as the government’s nodal agency to operate SKEWPY while as EDI would be servicing and training the entrepreneurs interested in establishing their business in horticulture, agriculture, floriculture and many other sectors. Even as EDI had sought a sum of only Rs 10 Crore, Finance Minister had provided sizable amount of Rs 25 Crore for the purpose in days of Mr Rather’s commitment, made in the Budget session of Legislature in Srinagar last year. In the following Budget session, held in Jammu, Rather announced to provide Rs 50 Crore and made it clear that money would be no problem in implementation of SKEWPY.

Secretary Labour & Employment revealed that not more than 2,000 educated youth had come forward to take home VSA. “We were expecting some 40,000 applicants. Just a little over 2,000 have come forward to claim VSA”, he said and described this remarkably low response to SKEWPY as “surprising”. Most of the educated unemployed youth are still pursuing government jobs as the most stable and assured source of income. According to analysts, they are erroneously labouring under the impression that accepting VSA or free seed capital would make them disqualified for a government job. Red tapeism is categorized as another dampener.

Under SKEWPY, state government is committed to provide non-refundable seed capital equivalent to 35% of the project cost upto a maximum of Rs 3.00 Lakh to undergraduates and graduates, Rs 5.00 Lakh to postgraduates and Rs 7.50 Lakh to graduates/ postgraduates in medicine, engineering, Information Technology and management. In particular cases, upper ceiling has been fixed as Rs 10.00 Lakh. Candidates of 18-37 year age group with minimum qualification of 10+2 would be entitled to the benefit.

Sources in the government, however, insisted that “a section of bureaucracy” was bent upon failing the Omar Abdullah government’s flagship employment scheme. “Even the draft of the MOU has been shuttling between dozens of offices at snail’s pace. In September 2009, Government had made it clear that the scheme would be ceremonially unveiled on December 5th last year. Later, it made a commitment of starting off the scheme from day one of the next financial year. Why did bureaucracy waste nine months in the process and still the MOU is nowhere in sight?”, asked a middle rung official at Civil Secretariat. “Such decisions are not taken at the clerical level. Had there been any seriousness, administrative Secretaries of all the concerned departments would have held a meeting, finalized the draft and got it inked with J&K Bank”, he complained.

“In this case, at least, J&K Bank is not at fault. Government has proposed to it that the bank would be the financial institution for SKEWPY on the condition that it would sanction loan to all the recommended candidates with its eyes shut but, at the same time, take full responsibility of recovery. This kind of a dictation would not be acceptable to any bank”, said another official. However, he added, government should negotiate the rate of interest to 8.5% and insist that the same be capped for 3 years as per RBI guidelines for such micro financing in the country.