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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

J&K welcomes cancelation of licence to 9,000 NGOs

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

JAMMU, April 28: Civil society at large has demanded blanket ban on all dubious NGOs and other such organisations in Jammu and Kashmir which have been receiving funds from different departments and organisations of the State and the Central governments, besides foreign countries, without any accountability. It has been observed over the years that this ill-gotten money is either swindled completely by the NGO operators or spent on anti-national activities.
“Some of them have done a little bit of work and their vested interest is not apparently at work. But their number is not more than three or four. Government officials say over 50,000 fake NGOs have been registered in J&K in the last 25 years. One can say without fear of contradiction that 99% of them are a fraud. They exist only on papers. Many of them manage to siphon huge amounts of money in social, cultural, educational, environmental and health sectors”, said a Professor of the University of Kashmir on the condition of anonymity.

“These people maintain friendly relations with officers, bureaucrats, Police, security and intelligence agencies. They do public relation jobs for different individuals, including politicians. Even if somebody submits a written complaint against them, there’s no action. It’s a well-knit nexus”, added the academic.
On social media, hundreds of youngsters have been demanding White Paper on the activities of the NGOs who have been receiving funds from the State or the Central governments or the foreign countries. As of now, none of the government departments maintains a data base of the NGOs, though Police and CID sometimes prepare brief notes on the profile of the NGO operators and their apparent activities.

Intelligentsia across the board believes that the White Paper could differentiate between the fake and the genuine NGOs. “Why should the genuine social activists object to the suggestion of a White Paper on the NGOs and a detailed public account of their funding and spending?”, said a Jammu-based advocate. He, however, sounded pessimistic with regard to the role of Police and pointed out that senior Police officers themselves have provided huge funds of Civic Action funds, provided by Government of India, to some Srinagar-based Christian Missionary Schools in total violation of rules, regulations and norms.
“Their only purpose is to keep the prestigious school managements in good humour so as to ensure admission to the children of the influential politicians’ and bureaucrats’ families”, said the advocate. He demanded a CBI inquiry into the working of the NGOs and trusts operating in violation of different norms and guidelines in J&K.

On social networking sites, hundreds of people have appreciated the move of cancelling the licence of 9,000 fake NGOs as also keeping the US-based Ford Foundation and Greenpeace on security watch list. “Does any of those operating or claiming to operate in Kashmir fall under the cancellation move ... The rules change viz-a-viz Kashmir, even his (Modi’s) lieutenant (MOS) & ex army chief  [VK Singh]has been sponsoring such NGO's , civil & political persons in Kashmir as an official policy”, one Manzoor Wani of Kashmir posted on Facebook. His insinuation is reference to Army’s Technical Support Division which is known to have secretly funded different individuals, trusts and NGOs in the last 12 years.
Last week, Government of India cancelled licences of nearly 9,000 NGOs for violation of Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA). In an order, the Home Ministry said that notices were issued to 10,343 NGOs for not filing annual returns for the year 2009-10, 2010-11 and 2011-12.

The notices were served on October 16, 2014 saying that the NGOs should file their annual returns within a month specifying amount of foreign funds received, sources of such funds, for which purpose they were received and the manner in which they were utilised. Out of the 10,344 NGOs, only 229 replied. There was no reply from the remaining NGOs leading to cancellation of their registration.


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Mufti’s maiden safari to Sher-Bakra sanctuary

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, April 27: With his first extensive tour of the summer capital after taking over as Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed has added some symbolism to his grand plans of development and governance. Of the 25 public places he visited with a thick entourage of officials and some Ministerial colleagues on Monday, at least six were picked up from the list of the iconic religious and spiritual centres managed and controlled by his political adversaries.
During his whirlwind passage through Srinagar, Mufti made it a point to mark his attendance not only at the historic shrines and monasteries of the revered Muslim saints but also at the traditional politico-spiritual seats retained by Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah’s and Mirwaiz Maulvi Farooq’s dynasties.

At Hazratbal, repository of Prophet Mohammad’s holy relic and a grand mosque, Mufti paid obeisance and held an interaction with the Wakf management. He ordered improvement of facilities, beautification of a vast area around the shrine complex and made an inspection of the marble cladding of the minaret being laid with an estimated cost of Rs 3.60 crore. Pilgrims have been complaining inordinate delay in completion of the work and poor quality of workmanship after the crest of a dome came down crumbling a couple of years back.

During his first tenure as Chief Minister and head of the PDP-Congress coalition, in 2003, Mufti had given management of Hazratbal and several other shrines in the hands of a government-controlled Wakf board. Late Sheikh Abdullah, who has played key role in developing Hazratbal as a major religious centre for decades, retained the Wakf control which was automatically inherited by his political successor Farooq Abdullah.

However, it was none other than Mufti’s coalition partner Ghulam Nabi Azad who got a vast area around the shrine cleared for development and beautification during his regime in 2006-07.

Hazratbal has the distinction of being one-odd religious centre on which the militant-backed Kashmiri separatists failed to gain control in the last 25 years. It was occupied by militants twice but both times, its structures and the holy relic survived. Even as Army provided safe passage to the holed up militants in 1993 and avoided bloodshed, the Jammu & Kashmir Special Operations Group killed around 30 militants outside the shrine in an operation in 1996.

Mufti’s second significant destination was Jamia Masjid---the politico-religious seat of the Mirwaiz dynasty, currently represented by Chairman of Hurriyat Conference Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. Insiders revealed that Chief Minister’s visit to Jamia Masjid precincts became possible only after a series of conversations between the government functionaries and Mirwaiz Umar’s Awami Action Committee.

As expected, Mufti issued instructions for underground cabling of the wires and improving the facilities at Wazu Khana. Presently, the wires are cluttered shabbily on the electric poles, affecting the ambience. He asked Chief Engineer to ensure uninterrupted power supply to the historic Mosque.

Chief Minister issued directions to Commissioner Srinagar Municipal Corporation Tufail Matoo to identify land for construction of a community-cum-marriage hall to facilitate the people residing in the areas adjoining the Jama Masjid.

During his visit to the revered shrine of Sultan-ul-Aarifeen Sheikh Hamza Makhdoom in the foothills of Hari Parbat, near the famed Badam Wari, Mufti instructed Director Tourism Farooq Shah to come up with a plan of mini-ropeway connecting the base to the top of the hill where J&K Tourism Development Corporation has set up a restaurant.

However, contrary to a many expectations, Mufti did not commit anything on the relocation of a paramilitary CRPF company which had occupied the vantage position in 1990. Residents, pilgrims and tourists have been demanding relocation of the camp and the historic Mughal fort’s development as a tourist destination. It provides a pan0ramic view of entire Srinagar city.
Mufti also paid obeisance at Khanqah-e-Mou’lla, the seat and monastery of the 14th century’s revered saint and preacher Ameer-e-Kabir Mir Sayyed Ali Hamadani. He also performed his afternoon prayers on the premises of the ornate shrine situated on the right bank of river Jhelum and covered by densely-populated neighbourhoods of downtown Srinagar, popularly known as Shehr-e-Khaas.

Controlled by Mirwaiz Umar, Shehr-e-Khaas has been the hub of pro-Pakistan and secessionist political activity, militancy and stone-pelting demonstrators since 1990. Mufti asked Director Tourism and other authorities to introduce navigation tourism which would carry pilgrims and tourists directly through The Jhelum to shrines of Khanqah-e-Mou’lla, Bulbul Shah Sahab, Rehbab Sahab and other pilgrim tourist attractions.  He also asked for renovation and beautification of the already retrieved Aali Masjid in Aalikadal area of downtown Srinagar.
Chief Minister also carried out an inspection of the historic Iddgah Grounds, also under the control of Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. Mirwaiz’s slain father Mirwaiz Maulvi Mohammad Farooq is among hundreds of the civilians and militants, killed during the last 25 years of the Kashmir conflict, who stand buried in a section of the Iddgah grounds, called Mazaar-e-Shuhada or ‘Martyrs Graveyard’.

Even as Iddgah Grounds have been developed with structures and landscaping by Mufti and Azad in 2003-08, many of Kashmir’s separatist political congregations have taken place here. During his visit, Mufti ordered the authorities to initiate another programme of comprehensive development including drainage facility and electrification.
First time in last several years, Mufti’s tone and tenor was completely different from his speeches and statements which made him appear “soft” to separatist politicians, militants and stone-pelting youths. All through his visit, which came in days of the arrest of prominent separatist leaders like Masarat Aalam and Mushtaq-ul-Islam, Mufti made no reference to the secessionists. For many, it carried a statement that governance and development were the only priorities of his government.

Akbar Lone differs with party colleagues like Rana and Rather

NC divided over AIIMS for Jammu

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
SRINAGAR, April 26: Senior National Conference leader, MLA from Sonawari and former Minister and Speaker of Legislative Assembly Mohammad Akbar Lone has virtually snubbed his party colleagues, including Devender Singh Rana and Abdul Rahim Rather, for supporting demand of different political and non-political organisations for establishment of a major hospital on the pattern on All India Institute of Medical Sciences [AIIMS].

Without mentioning anybody’s name but with clear insinuation to Rana and Rather, Lone reportedly told Kashmir News Service on Sunday that “some short-sighted NC leaders” had toed the Jammu-based organisations’ line over the demand of AIIMS to Jammu without any discussion in the party’s Working Committee. According to Lone,” some leaders of the National Conference have lately been promoting this perverse mind-set”.

 “Unfortunately some short-sighted NC leaders have been compromising the party's stand in this behalf. Our party did not protest when the Centre sanctioned an IIT [Indian Institute of Technology] for Jammu. Whether the party should join the controversy over AIIMS should have been discussed in the Working Committee but that has not been done. The party high command needs to take immediate notice of this issue and sort out the mess before late”, Lone has been reported to have told KNS.

 “The proposed AIIMS is being setup in the valley. Some political groups have been trying to raise a controversy around it, their argument being that the Centre should sanction a similar institute for Jammu. These groups have been promoting an unhealthy competition between two regions of the state, in the name of equitable development. They have been pursuing this policy for decades. This has caused deep psychological split, so much so that Kashmir and Jammu have virtually become two states within one geographical unit,” Lone is quoted to have said.

“These groups were up in arms when the government of India sanctioned Central University in Srinagar. What has shocked me more is that some leaders of the National Conference have lately been promoting this perverse mind-set. They have joined the campaign for a separate AIIMS in Jammu. There is no doubt that all regions, in fact all districts and sub-districts of the state should grow equally. But this by no means justifies the demand that everything that comes to the state should come in pairs. It is sheer parochialism, which undermines the state's unity and integrity. The National Conference is committed to unity of the state and harmony among its different regions”, Lone has said.

Meanwhile, in a related development, Rather denied to have told the correspondent of a Jammu-based newspaper that in his meeting with Governor N.N. Vohra, he had said that NC wanted an AIIMS in Kashmir but not at the cost of the one in Jammu.

“The words put in my mouth are figment of imagination and I still wonder why such a statement has been attributed to me, as I never and nowhere stated what has been carried by the newspaper”,  Rather said in a statement. “More painful was the fact that it has been carried by a newspaper which is known for its objectivity and credibility”, he said. According to him, when a reporter called him to know as to what had transpired in his meeting with Governor, he told him that he would say nothing beyond what had been given out to media in NC’s official press release. He said that the NC delegation simply demanded an AIIMS for Jammu while hailing the one sanctioned for Kashmir.