Friday, December 30, 2011

Losar Festival Welcomes New Year

Fighting the biting cold, over thousand Ladakhi students today thronged the celebrations of Losar-a traditional festival, the Ladakhi way of welcoming the New Year with dominating Tibetan and Buddhist overtones.

An impressive colourful programme in this connection was organized by All Ladakh Students Association Jammu (ALSAJ) at Bhagwati Nagar. Nawang Rigzin Jora, Minister for Tourism and Culture was the chief guest on the occasion while Rigzin Spalbar, CEC, LAHCD was guest of the honour.

On the occasion, the students presented a colourful traditional programme depicting the rich cultural ethos of the region. The presentations mesmerized the audience winning great applause from one and all.

Nawang Rigzin Jora greeted people, especially the Buddhist community on the eve of Losar. He highlighted the rich traditions of amity and brotherhood prevailing in Ladakh region. 

Jora advised the students to take full benefit of congenial academic atmosphere and achieve excellence in their streams of interest. He said "Youth are the future builders of a nation and they have to prepare themselves fully to face the future challenges". 

Rabgias, President ALSAJ in his address thanked all the dignitaries, participants and spectators present on the occasion. Rabgias also presented a charter of demands to the Minister which included opening of University, JKPSC Nodal Cell and JKSSRB at Leh.

Earlier, the function commenced with the lighting of the traditional lamp by the Minister and other dignitaries. 
Narbo Gulsan, MLC Leh; Robin Singh Mehta, Director Tourism, Jammu; Director General Fisheries besides a large number of Ladakhi students, social, political activists of the region and prominent citizens were present on the occasion.

Kud Dance highlight of Trikuta Hills Show

Presentation of traditional ‘Kud Dance’ was the highlight of fourth day’s ongoing cultural show of Trikuta Hills organised by Shri Mata Vaishno Dev Shrine Board at its state of art world class auditorium at Spiritual Growth Centre, Katra. Performances of such a kind of rarest traditional artistic expressions has been organised by Natrang Jammu under the direction of Balwant Thakur for Shree Mata Vaishno Devi  Shrine Board, the programme aims at showcasing the priceless cultural heritage of the hills of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi for the visiting pilgrims at Katra which has already crossed the one crore mark this year.
‘Kud’ is one of the most popular dance form of the hills of Shri Mata Vaishno  Devi. Primarily performed by men folk this ritualistic dance is performed to please the local deities. People have a belief that during village celebrations and rituals which are organised in the honour of local deities whole men folk perform  ‘Kud’ and missing the same  may annoy the local deity which no one can afford to do. For centuries this wonderful tradition of dance survived in the same fashion and later it started to be performed  in other festivities like marriages, child birth, crop cutting etc. In Trikuta Hills there are three different styles of Kud presentations. One comes from Panjar, another from Sujjandhar and the third comes from Bakkal. Friday’s style of Kud came from village Bakkal of Reasi District which was performed by the artists of Hari Saran Cultural Centre, Bakkal. Laced with the traditional instruments like flute and drums, the artists of Kud who gave remarkable performances included Baldev Raj Sharma, Shaftan Singh, Balwant Singh, Dhani Ram, Balwan Singh and Balwant Raj.
Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board is organising daily four shows at 11:30 AM, 1:30 PM, 3: 30 PM and 5: 30 PM for the pilgrims and the local audiences and these programmes will continue till 5th of January, 2012.

Power shortage issue

 A day after Chief Minister Omar Abdullah advised Hurriyat Conference (M) Mirwaiz Umar Farooq to give fatwa against power thefts, the latter challenged the former to recover outstanding power arrears of Rs 750 crores from security forces.
Addressing a gathering at central Kashmir Beerwah, Mirwaiz said that successive governments including present government of National Conference are directly responsible for present power crisis. He said they exploited natural resources of the state for their pretty political benefits.
“These so-called elected governments have made the people of the state slaves at the hands of New Delhi. We have huge water resource of generating 2000 MWs of power. A number of foreign countries are intending to invest here in power sector, but New Delhi is not allowing them.
They want the people of state to remain dependent on Delhi,” he said.
Mirwaiz said that the state government should stop atrocities against common people if they demand basic amenities like power. There is no need to announce Jehad against everyone. “We have started Jehad 20 years back
against all atrocities, against political atrocities, and against the atrocities of state government,” the Hurriyat (M) chairman said.
Mirwaiz without naming Omar said that those advocating Jehad against power thefts should themselves start initiating measures for preventing thefts against those who are being patronized.
“If the so called elected governments have courage and guts they should recover the outstanding power tariff from the so-called security forces. Rs 750 crores are pending with them. They should stop blaming common people and should concentrate on the recovery of power dues from security
forces,” he said.
Mirwaiz said that they do not expect from the state government to provide basic amenities. “We believe that those who are advocating that they can solve problems of the people cannot solve them without the resolution of long pending Kashmir issue. We believe that once the Kashmir issue
gets resolved as per wishes and aspirations of the people of the state, the administrative related issues would get automatically resolved,” he said.
The Hurriyat (M) leader also said that those, who have the wrong notion that people of the state have forgotten the ongoing freedom movement, are mistaken. “For the last 60 years, people of the state have loved this movement and New Delhi has failed to suppress the movement,” he said.
Mirwaiz said that solution of the Kashmir issue lies with tripartite talks and all such moves in which principal party, Kashmiris, are not included, will be a futile exercise.

Vigilance FIR against JD Handloom

After hearing hectic arguments from the parties for the last four days, the High Court today heard and reserved its order on anticipatory bail plea of Mukhtar-ul-Aziz the Joint Director Handloom, who
has been accused of fraudulently causing a loss of Rs one crore to the state exchequer by showing non-entitled beneficiaries for compensation.
Justice Mohammad Yaqoob Mir who heard the matter has reserved the order. However, according to Nisar Hussain Shah, the deputy advocate general, court did not issue any interim order or stay on Aziz’s arrest.
“We submitted relevant records which include the documents seized by the vigilance department from many offices in connection with an allegation of fraudulent and dishonest payment made in the year 2010 to non-entitled
beneficiaries,”Shah told Kashmir Times.
According to vigilance department the investigations have revealed that Mukhtar-ul-Aziz, Collector Land Acquisition (Additional Deputy Commissioner, Srinagar) and T.K. Sadhoo, Executive Engineer Construction
Division, Ganderbal fraudulently and dishonestly caused a loss of Rs.1.00 Crore to the state exchequer by showing non-entitled beneficiaries for compensation.
On December 28, senior lawyer Reyaz Jan who represents Aziz in court had prayed that his client has been unnecessarily dragged into a controversy. On December 24, a special anti corruption court had rejected an application
seeking anticipatory bail for Aziz in connection with vigilance FIR number 25 of 2011 registered against him and executive engineer T K Sadhoo.
However, the additional special anti-corruption judge Jawad Ahmad rejected
the bail plea made by Aziz’s counsel Reyaz Ahmad Jan.

Structures damage in fire

 Fire broke out in the residential house of Abdul Majeed Ganie and Ghulam Mohammad
Ganie, sons of Abdul Gaffar at Tehsil Chowk, Baramulla, falling under the jurisdiction of police station Baramulla, resulting
in complete damage to the residential house and seven shops. The cause of the fire is being ascertained.
Fire broke out at village Akipora Behibag, Kulgam falling under the jurisdiction
of police station Yaripora,
resulting in partial damage to the house of Mohammad Ramzan Rather, son of Abdul Rashid, resident of Akkipora,
Kulgam. The cause of the fire is being ascertained.
Fire broke out in Gujjar Basti, Gulshanpora, Tral falling under the jurisdiction
of police station, Awantipora,
resulting in damage to the residential houses and cowshed of Abdullah Gujjar, son of Dina, Nazir Ahmad Gujjar,
son of Abdullah and Rashid Gujjar son-in-law of Abdullah, residents of Gujjar Basti, Gulshanpora, Tral. However, no loss of life or injury was reported in this incident. The cause of the fire is being ascertained.
During the intervening night of 29/30.12.2011, fire broke out in the residential house of Ghulam Hassan Ahanger, son of Ghulam Mohammad, resident of Gulshan colony, Khonmoh, Srinagar, falling under the jurisdiction of police station Panthachowk, resulting in damage
to the house. However, no loss of life or injury was reported
in this incident. The cause of the fire is being ascertained.

Valley freezing at minus 2.3

The minimum temperatures were below the freezing point in the Kashmir Valley including Srinagar, with Leh shivering at minus 16.6 degrees. The minimum temperature
was minus 4.5 degrees in Srinagar, minus 7.4 in Pahalgam in south Kashmir and minus 7.5 in Gulmarg, meteorological office director Sonam Lotus told reporters. Leh in Ladakh region was the coldest place in Jammu and Kashmir at minus 16.6 degrees. Kargil recorded minus 15.2 degrees, he added.The temperature in Srinagar was minus 2.3 degrees Thursday.The official said the weather would remain cold and dry across the valley and the Ladakh region during the next two days and there could be a further drop in the night temperatures. But despite the severe cold, a good number of domestic tourists thronged Kashmir."Our main attraction for coming to Kashmir is to enjoy the snow. I plan to welcome the New Year in Gulmarg," said tourist Rakesh Pande.

J&K utilizes Rs 499-cr under NRHM

Under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), to provide effective healthcare to rural population, scheme Jammu and Kashmir has utilized Rs 499.70 crores at the end of November 2011.
According to the Mission Director, NRHM, J&K, Dr. Yashpal Sharma, against the availability of Rs 666.23 crores including the state share of Rs 73.62 crores, Rs 499.70 crores, which means 75 per cent stands utilized at
the end of November.
While, Rs 267 crores provided under NRHM for construction/ upgradation of District Hospitals, CHCs (Community Health Centre), PHCs (Primary Health Centers) and sub-centres under NRHM till date against which Rs 210 crores have been spent.
Additionally, Rs 66.70 crore additional funds provided for construction/ upgradation of District Hospitals, CHCs, PHCs and subcentres under NRHM during the current year.
CHC Katra, PHC Mishriwala and Doctors/paramedics Quarters at Akhnoor completed with support of funding from NRHM during this year.
“50 basic life support ambulances procured to strengthen referral/ emergency transport. These life support ambulances are being placed on National highway after every 30 Kms.
4121 additional doctors/ paramedics engaged under NRHM, 36 specialists, 687 MBBS/ISM doctors and 3398 paramedics. 1745 2nd ANMs (Auxiliary Nurse Midwife) provided in sub centres till date,” Mission Director mentions.
Every medical aid centre has been provided one male multipurpose health worker. 346 MMPHWs have been approved. The remuneration of doctors/ paramedics engaged under NRHM has been enhanced by 20 per cent raising the salary of doctors from Rs 16000 to Rs 19200 and of paramedics from Rs
9000 to Rs 10800. Similarly, the remuneration of the staff engaged in theprogramme Management Units at different levels state/district and block has been enhanced by 20 per cent.
According to the NRHM officials the health services are being provided free or at a very low / negligible user charges and more than 90 per cent IPD patients are treated in government institutions.
“Efforts have been made to make the functioning of health institutions 24x7. In the first instance, 157 PHCs have been strengthened as 24x7 PHCs. Similarly, 67 CHCs have been strengthened to the level of first referral units,” Mission Director believes.

SBI organises training course

 A Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Repair Course with Entrepreneur Development Programme organized by State Bank of India Rural Self Employment Training Institute (SBI-RSETI) in collaboration with National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) concluded at Bantalab, here in which unemployed youth from rural areas of Jammu district participated.

K.K.Sharma, Director of the Institute, maintained that opportunities in wage employment are bleak and Governemt is providing many facilities to the person who adopts for self employment, so one should go for self employment. He further added that SBI RSETI which is aimed at skill building of prospective small entrepreneurs / borrowers specially for rural youth.

Army Chief opposes AFSPA withdrawal

Warning that partial revocation of AFSPA from Jammu and Kashmir will create terrorist 'sanctuaries', Army Chief General V K Singh has said dilution of the controversial Act will be 'detrimental' to national interest.
The Army Chief said, "Just one summer of peace does not mean normalcy... Diluting of AFSPA in any form will be detrimental to national interest."
He said though the Army has not operated in some parts of Kashmir, if AFSPA is revoked, "Army will not have legal protection to operate even if situation goes bad."
The Army Chief was asked why the force was opposing partial withdrawal of AFSPA from the state.
Noting that the Army would be constrained in operations against terrorists, he said, "Partial revocation of AFSPA will result in emergence of sanctuaries and safe havens for terrorists."
General Singh said though the degree of violence has decreased in the state,terror infrastructure in PoK was still intact.
"The operational flexibility of troops will be severely restricted and efforts to stabilize and consolidate the situation in the state will receive a setback," he said.
Mentioning that there were issues related to safety of Army personnel located in non-AFSPA areas, General Singh said, "One should not view security situation of reduced violence in one summer, but allow consolidation of gains made before taking a call on revocation of AFSPA."
Maintaining that the withdrawal of the Act from Jammu and Kashmir willhamper the security forces' operations against terrorist groups and will bring terror attacks back to the state, Army has been opposing the moves for partial revocation of the controversial Act.
It may be recalled that withdrawal of AFSPA issues has snowballed into a major controversy after its unilateral announcement by the J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah a few months back. The defence ministry has also
been opposing the move on the plea that all the stakeholders on this issue should be taken into confidence before any decision is taken on AFSPA issue.
The union home minister P Chidambaram had supported the move on the plea that there was improvement in the situation and things could move forward on this issue but discussions should be held with all the parties involved in it. He had also supported the move for para-military forces
shouldering the responsibility in the counter-insurgency operations.

Kuggi Maar Duaari now at KC cineplex

The Dogri feature film 'Kuggi Maar Duaari', which due to very good public response started third-week run at Swaran Theatre, here today, has further got a shot in the arm with grant of exemption from Entertainment Tax by the State Government.

In order to provide a better cinematic experience to the audience, the film is also being shown in Audi one of KC cineplex from today in afternoon and evening shows. Thus 'Kugi Maar Duaari', has earned the distinction of becoming the first ever Dogri film to run simultaneously in two cinema halls of the winter capital.

Talking to Excelsior, Neealm Phull, producer/director of the film said that the positive response of the audience of Jammu and Udhampur where the film is also showing at City Light Cinema Hall has proved that there is a great scope for making more of such social theme based films in our mother tongue.

He said, the story of the film in which a young talented musician from a village who has gone to the city to earn name and fame although becomes successful but driven by his filial duty towards his widow mother forsakes the glitter of money and glamour and returns back to his roots, has struck the cord with the audience and has been highly appreciated by the masses.

While thanking the State Government for granting exemption to the film from Entertainment Tax, he said that with reduced ticket price, now more and more people could watch the film and enjoy a story, which is set in the backdrop of Dogra culture and ethos.

Vaishno Devi yatra crosses one crore in 2011

In a new landmark, pilgrimage to holy cave shrine of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi ji today crossed one crore mark for the first time in history of the shrine, setting an all time record.

News Agency had exclusively reported on December 25 that yatra to the shrine of Goddess Vaishno Devi would touch or cross 10 million on December 28.

The pilgrimage touched 1 crore at 4.20 pm today, a jubilant Additional CEO of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board (SMVDSB), Dr Mandeep K Bhandari, announced.

Dr Rakesh Vishavakarma from Jaipur, Rajasthan, who had come to darshan of Mata Vaishno Devi ji, became 10 millionth pilgrim when he registered himself for visiting the Bhawan at Shrine Board’s counter at holy town of Katra, the base camp of the shrine, at 4.20 pm.

The Shrine Board authorities brought Dr Vishavakarma and his family to Spiritual Growth Centre (SGC) near Shrine Board’s head office at Katra and facilitated him and his family. They were presented with ‘Mata Ki Chunri’ and a photograph. The entire family would be the guest of the Shrine Board during their pilgrimage. Deputy CEOs SMVDSB Rahul Sharma, Vikas Sharma and Rashpal Singh and Rohit Khajuria, CAO and Director SGC were also present on the occasion.

Dr Rakesh and his wife would be the Board’s guest for next five years, Dr Bhandari said.

This was for the first time in history of the shrine that number of pilgrims in a year has touched and crossed the figure of one crore. Significantly, the magic figure was recorded in silver jubilee year of the SMVDSB.

Mata Vaishno Devi’s shrine has become the first religious place across the country, which is not covered by road, but still received over one crore pilgrims. Some other shrines in the country including Tirupati, Shirdi and Sidhi Vinayak received more than one crore pilgrims a year but they all are covered by road.

To reach Mata Vaishno Devi shrine, the pilgrims had to trek 13 kilometer hills from Katra. Some of them hired the services of pithoos to carry luggage or children and mules. The battery car ferried only 500 odd pilgrims a day from Bhawan to Adh-Kunwari as against the arrival of 30,000 to 35,000 pilgrims per day.

Last year, highest number of 87.2 lakh yatris had visited holy cave shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi ji, located between Trikuta hills at a height of 5200 feet from sea level. This year the yatra was up by 13.05 lakh so far from the last year.

During last three years, pilgrimage to Mata Vaishno Devi shrine has recorded about 45 per cent increase. In 2008, 67.8 lakh yatris had paid obeisance to natural pindies of Goddess Vaishno Devi in sanctum sanctorum of natural cave shrine. This year, about 1.02 crore pilgrims were expected to visit the shrine.

News Agency Editor-in-Chief S D Rohmetra has congratulated Governor NN Vohra, chairman of SMVDSB on record one crore yatra to Mata Vaishno Devi shrine during the current year.

The SMVDSB was set up by the then Governor Jagmohan in 1986 taking over all affairs of the shrine from the baaridars and 13 kilometers track leading to an era of unprecedented development all around.

The Shrine Board is presently running Shri Mata Vaishno Devi University while Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Institute of Medical Excellence at Katra (first phase) is expected to be commissioned in next seven months. President Pratibha Devi Patil had commissioned Board’s Spiritual Growth Centre during her visit to the shrine in November this year.

Pilgrimage to Mata Vaishno Devi shrine was just 13.95 lakh in 1986 when the Shrine Board was constituted by an act of the Legislature. The yatra has recorded nearly seven fold increase in 25 years.

From 13.95 lakh in 1986, the pilgrimage to the cave shrine started picking up and crossed 40 lakh in 1995. By 2000, the yatra had crossed 5 million mark. In 2004, the yatra crossed 60 lakh for the first time while it crossed the figure of 7 million recording 74.17 lakh pilgrimage in 2007.

In 2008, the yatra came down to 67.92 lakh due to two months long Amarnath land row agitation but recorded a massive jump of about 14 lakh and went up to 82 lakh in 2009. In 2010, 87.2 lakh yatris visited the holy cave shrine.

Yatra during the months of June, July and August helped in achieving the magic figure of 10 million. The highest number of 11.5 lakh and 11.27 lakh pilgrims visited Mata Vaishno Devi shrine this year during the months of June and July respectively. In August, the number of yatris stood at 10.05 lakh.

During April and May, 9.77 lakh and 8.7 lakh yatris respectively had darshan of Mata Vaishno Devi ji. In September, October and November, the number of pilgrims stood at 8.25 lakh, 8.72 lakh and 6.39 lakh.

In January this year, 4.21 lakh pilgrims had paid obeisance to the Goddess while lowest ever yatra of 3.69 lakh was recorded in the month of February. In March, 7.55 lakh pilgrims had visited the holy cave shrine.

In the month of December so far, 5.75 lakh yatris have visited the shrine.

After the SMVDSB took over affairs of the Shrine Board in 1986, the pilgrimage to holy cave shrine started increasing with every passing year due to massive infrastructure generated for pilgrims by the Board along with a number of facilities from Katra to Vaishno Devi Bhawan.

Several rest and guest houses with accommodation for the pilgrims, ‘Bhojnalayas’ at ‘no-profit, no-loss’ basis’, other eatable points, widening of tracks all around, creation of an alternate track from Adh-Kunwari to Bhawan with battery car facilities for aged and infirm pilgrims and construction of two new caves around the Bhawan are just to mention the facilities generated by the Board.

The upcoming facilities of the Board included an exclusive track dedicated to ponneys from Katra to Adh-Kunwari, material ropeway from Katra to Bhawan and passenger ropeway from Bhawan to Bhairon Ghati, for which ground work has already been completed.

Governor N N Vohra, who is also the Chairman of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board congratulated Board on this momentous occasion and desired that the focus of the Shrine Board must continue in the direction of providing better services and infrastructure to the visiting pilgrims. Chief Executive Officer, Raj Kumar Goyal, also conveyed his greetings to the one crore'th yatri and informed that the Shrine Board has been consistently making efforts to improve upon the existing infrastructure. Operation of Manokamna Bhawan Phase-II, starting of accommodation projects like Parvati Bhawan and Ashirwad Complex are the remarkable efforts in this direction, he said.

The work of Sports Stadium and dedicated mule track, new and renewable energy related projects, emergency helipad and ropeway projects are the highlights of the recent achievements of the Shrine Board. There has been a continuous effort to maintain the existing facilities and to provide a very satisfying experience to the visiting pilgrims. Replacement of worn out tiles on the track, provision of better medical facilities, carrying massive plantation for preservation of ecology, Disaster Management Preparedness and such other activities in this direction have been at the focus of the Shrine Board in the interest of pilgrimage.

"Lot of efforts have been made towards improvement of sanitation facilities by carrying dedicated sanitation drives, construction and improvement of the rain shelter sheds and improving the water supply to Bhawan and Adhkuwari as well as the arrangement of power to the Shrine area in the recent past. Commissioning of two major projects i.e. Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Spiritual Growth Centre and Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Gurukul, apart from the opening of the new tunnel leading to Sanctum Sanctorum have been the recent achievements of the Shrine Board,'' Dr Bhandari said.

Interlocutors report on Kashmir to be made public in January

Union Home Minister P Chidambaram today said the government is open to dialogue with separatists in Jammu and Kashmir and once the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) is thoroughly briefed on the report of the J&K interlocutors, it will be made public and that is most probably in early January.

"The CCS has been briefed on the report only once. Once it has been briefed thoroughly, the report would be made public. We are open to dialogue with separatists. If they are ready for talks, so are we. The channels of talks are still open, " Mr Chidambaram told at a news conference called to present a monthly report of his Ministry.

The interlocutors submitted their report to Mr Chidambaram in October this year.The report was called for review of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and gradual withdrawal of Disturbed Areas Act from certain parts of the Kashmir valley.The report, however, stayed away from the contentious issues of ‘azadi’ and autonomy, saying the clock cannot be turned back in the Valley.The panel comprised senior journalist Dileep Padgaonkar, academician Radha Kumar and Information Commissioner M M Ansari.The trio were appointed on October 13 last year, when the Kashmir situation had turned grim following street protests and the killing of more than 100 youths. 

Peace in Kashmir is New Year eve hotspot for tourists

With unrests out of the way at least for the time being, Kashmir seems tourists’ new preferred destination for New Year eve celebrations.With the New Year eve-December 31-just round the corner, the tourists are flying in “exceptional numbers” only to welcome 2012 from the snow clad and chilly highlands and mountains. The occupancy in hotels and guest houses is already on a high, and counting.

“We are having an exceptional rush this winter. All flights arriving here today were fully percent booked with tourists and we have the same for tomorrow and Saturday,” the president tour agents association of Kashmir, Rauf Tramboo, told News Agency.The visitors include the ‘high end’ tourists specially flying in for the weekend.“Since this New Year falls on a weekend, we have high end tourists coming in just to be here on the New Year eve. They may stay for a couple of days,” Tramboo added.As per the estimates the hotels and guest houses are up to 60 percent occupied, but the highest rush is seen at snow clad Gulmarg and Pahalgam. The recent snowfall and cold weather is proving the added attraction.

“The hotels at Gulmarg and Pahalgam are almost full because tourists want to enjoy the snow. We have good rush in Srinagar hotels also,” the president Kashmir Hotel and Restaurant Owners Federation (KHAROF), Faiz Ahmad Bakhshi, said.Kashmir has witnessed a relatively calm year after unrest consumed, almost completely, last three tourism seasons. The 2008, 2009 and 2010 all saw a good beginning to the tourist season, but later it turned ugly with unrest. As against 7.38 lakh tourists who visited Kashmir last year despite the unrest, the number this year has been an unprecedented 11 Lakh.However, it is after 1988 that Kashmir is witnessing rush.
“In comparison to previous years this has been the best in terms of the tourist inflow. It is after start of militancy that we are witnessing such rush,” Faiz said.While the typical New Year parties are avoided, the state tourism department and hoteliers have small time events lined up just to attract the tourists.And, for the winter tourists the tourism department has also has planned various adventurous events to woo both foreign and domestic tourists.“These will include normal skiing, ice skating, heli-skiing and snow carnivals to attract tourists,” a senior officials in the department said.

HC stays Anganwari workers selection

 A division bench of the High Court today stayed the selection of an Anganwari worker of Manazrakh Pulwama who according to the appellants counsel had lesser merit than the Subaya Jan.According to Bashir Ahmad Bashir, senior lawyer and the counsel for Subaya Jan, CDPO Pulwama had notified the posts of Anganwari workers in Pulwma and one of the posts was meant for Manazrakh punch constituency 36.Three candidates applied for the post including Tahira Nazir, Suraya and Subaya Jan. Though Subaya had the highest merit and Suraya was next to her yet the officials for no reson selcted the lowest merit holder Tahira Nazir.Against this selection both the candidates Suraya and Subaya filed separate petitions before the High Court but during the pendency of the matter, the official respondents cancelled the selection of Tahira Nazir but mischievously instead of selecting the highest remaining merit holder Subaya Jan selected the lowest merit holder Suraya again in violation of rules.

When Subya filed petition to challenge the selection list, the official respondents file reply before the writ court saying Manazrakh has been divided into three wards hence Subaya could not be selected and writ petition was dismissed b the court.However, Subaya challenged the writ court judgment and when appeal cam eto be considered today the appellant counsel Bashir Ahmad Bashir argued that first of all any change made to the advertisement notice of any kind after its publication or after interview is not permissible under law hence the division of punch constituency of Manazrakh having been made after the advertisement notice being illegal same is not sustainable. The division bench after hearing the arguments made by Bashir, issued the notice and in the mean time directed the selection of Suraya

Kerosene Firewood burning in Kashmir poses more health problems

In the wake of absence of adequate electricity supplies and shortage of alternative supplies like LPG in the valley, many people have turned to conventional kerosene/ mud stoves for cooking meals this winter.Kerosene heaters/ stoves have been selling like hot cakes as people find it the most affordable and easily available source for cooking and warming themselves.However, a number of health risks people expose themselves to while using kerosene based heating/ warming and even lightning appliances are usually ignored.
Kerosene combustion/ burning produces the most toxic gases like Carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide , nitrogen oxides which lead to serious respiratory and cardiac ailments.

Their usage is particularly high in rural areas, where people are not provided with basic electricity and other facilities and health awareness is low.Incidentally, a number of tragic accidents which have occurred were due to burn injuries caused, especially to women and children while using kerosene heating/ cooking devices.“ People usually avoid exercising precautionary measures while using kerosene based devices which lands them into trouble. Many sub-district hospitals in the far flung areas treat hundreds of such cases on an average basis in winters. Children are the most affected age group as they indulge in mishandling of these dangerous devices,” said Dr. Ahmad Waseem, a physician at SKIMS, Soura.

People say that there does not seem to be much of the choice for them which is why they have again gone back to the usage of kerosene lamps/ heaters and stoves.

“ Electricity tariff is touching sky high prices. Even LPG is not readily available now is being sold by black marketers at unaffordable rates. What could a common man do? ,” asks Gaffar, a public employee.Usage of kerosene, charcoal and firewood is prevalent in valley and more than 60 per cent of the valleyites in some way or the other use these during winters for heating, cooking and other purposes. The state government , has been non-active in enforcing strict regulations on inddor pollution problem , even if the number of injuries and deaths due to smoke choking , lung cancers and other related diseases in far off areas of the valley are on a rise especially in winters.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Sahitya Akademi Award for 2 J&K writers

Two prominent writers from Jammu and Kashmir, Prof. Lalit Magotra and Naseem Shafaie, were among the several litterateurs conferred with the coveted Sahitya Akademi Award for the year 2011. While Magotra has bagged the award for his collection of Dogri essays titled ‘Cheten Diyan Galiyan’, Kashmir’s well known poetess, Shafaie has got it for her poetic collection “Na Thsay Na Aks”.

This prestigious award ceremony will be held in Delhi on February 14, 2012 and they will also be rewarded with prize money of Rs.1 lakh.

While talking to News Agency Jammu, an elated Prof Magotra said that the content in the book depicts different shades and facets of life in Dogra culture as well as human relations. “I have tried to analyze about the changing time in this book, whether we have progressed or not,” he added.

Born in November 1944 in Jammu, Prof. Lalit Magotra is also a Physicist holding degrees of M. Sc. and Ph.D. in Physics (High Energy Physics) and retired as professor of Physics from University of Jammu. He has more than 200 scientific publications (Physics) in international journals of highest repute and has spent about five years in European countries.
He wrote his first short story in Dogri in the year 1972 and his first play in 1976. Since then Prof. Magotra has written prolifically in various genres of Dogri including short story, one-act play, stage-play, essays, travelogue, literary criticism etc.  He has four books to his credit in Dogri. Prof. Magotra remained general secretary of Dogri Sanstha for seven years and is now the president of this prestigious organization since 1996.

The awarded book of Prof. Magotra “Cheten Diyan Ga’liyan” is a collection of 65 short personal essays which show Prof. Magotra as a cosmopolitan author rooted to the soil of his birth. The content of the essays is absorbing, informative and instructive.  Of the 65 essays, 30 are a commentary on the state of affairs around us.  Of special interest are his autobiographical pieces.

Naseem Shafaie, become the first Kashmiri woman to get the prestigious Sahitya Akademi Award.This is the second award for 'Na Thsaay Na Aks'. In 2009, it was chosen for the first ever Tagore Award, jointly sponsored by the Sahitya Akademi and Samsung Electronics in collaboration with the South Korean government. 'Na Thsay Na Aks', which represents modern sensibility on the poetic scene in Kashmir, was released in 2008 and is second poetic collection of the poet.
Naseem Shafaie’s earlier poetic collection 'Derche Machrith (Open windows)' was released in 1999. Many of her poems, including the ones that depict the suppressed atmosphere of turbulent Kashmir, have been translated into different languages including English, Urdu, Kannada, Tamil, Marathi and Telugu.

The other poets getting the award are  Kabin Phukan (Assamese), Manindra Gupta (Bengali), Premananda Mosahari (Bodo), Melvyn Rodrigues  (Konkani), Harekrishna Satapathy (Sanskrit), Aditya Kumar Mandi  (Santali) and Khaleel Mamoon (Urdu).
Eight books of poetry, seven of novels, three of essays, one each of short stories, narrative history, biography and a play have won the Sahitya Akademi Award this year.

The recommendation for the awards was made by jury members representing 23 Indian languages and approved by the executive board of the Sahitya Akademi. The jury met in New Delhi yesterday and announced the awards. The award function will be held in New Delhi on February 14 next year.

Lawyers suspend strike in jammu

After suspending their over three weeks long of strike, lawyers here today resumed their work following High Court order to put on hold state government's decision of transferring powers of registration of documents from judiciary to executive.
Full Bench of the State High Court comprising Justice Virender Singh, Justice JP Singh and Justice Hasnain Massodi yesterday stayed the government order of transferring powers of land registration from judiciary to revenue department, and directed the striking lawyers who were opposing the move to resume normal work.

The decision to call off the strike was taken by the Bar Association of Jammu (BAJ) in general body meeting in view of the stay given by the High Court, which also asked us to commence work, president of the association Advocate BS Salathia said.
“We have suspended the strike and resumed normal work in the courts from today. This decision was taken at general house meeting here this morning,” Salathia told reporters here while addressing a press conference this afternoon.
BAJ president further said that talks with government will take place on one side and case is now also under review of the High Court.

Earlier while addressing general house meeting BS Salathia congratulated the legal fraternity in taking lead in the protest against the transfer of registration powers. He praised the role of young lawyers who worked overnight to make sure that the public is informed of the design of the government in facilitating the regularisation of illegal encroachments by land mafia and those sitting in the power corridors.

He complimented the High Court for recognising the public interest involved in the issue and its intervention by framing Public Interest Litigation for its judicial adjudication.

Advocate Slathia also extended thanks to all the trade, transport, social and political organisations which came out in support of the protest initiated by BAJ. He further stated that the role of media has also been positive in projecting the cause taken up by BAJ in its right perspective.

Slathia appealed to Bar Associations on protest across the state to suspend the protest agitation and resume work forthwith since the issuance of SRO has been put on hold by the Special Bench of the High Court.
In the meeting vice president BAJ Advocate Usman Salaria and General Secretary Advocate Vikram Sharma also addressed the house.

Veeri takes stock of peoples problems in Anantnag

 Member Legislative Council (MLC) Dr. Bashir Ahmad Shah (Veeri) today conducted extensive tour to various villages of Anantnag district and took stock of ongoing developmental projects being executed for facilitating people of the district at earliest. The legislator impressed upon concerned executing agencies to ensure timely completion of ongoing projects with use of quality material so that a concrete infrastructure would be created once for all in the area.
During his tour the legislator met several deputations and assured them that all their genuine developmental needs would be mitigated on priority.

Interacting with the people at different places, Dr. Bashir asserted that all round development of Anantnag district like other districts is prime duty of government. He said the government led by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah is paying focussed attention for all round development of rurali ties, adding that crores of rupees are being expended on upgradation of basic infrastructure facilities in the district.

Referring to the developmental scenario of Bijbehera Constituency, Dr. Veeri said that government has already released a huge funds for carrying out developmental projects including upgradation of road connectivity, water and power supply besides thrust is also being given to improve health care and educational infrastructure in the constituency. Dr. Veeri said that an amount of Rs. 79.82 lakh have been released under Constituency Development Fund (CDF) for improving basic amenities in the villages of Bijbehara constituency. Giving details of the allocation of funds, the legislator said that Rs. 4 lakh each released for villages Khiram Parray Mohalla, Thokarpra Kanalwon, Hatigam, Darigund, Khushrowkalan, Joibal Veeri, Hanjipora Sattar and Ratherpora Panjpora, Rs. 4.5 lakh each for village Dangar Sirhama, Hajipora Veeri, Bijbehara, Rs. 4.75 lakh for Check Panjpora, Rs. 3.5 lakh each for Sofi Mohalla Kanlwon, and Nowbugh.

He said Rs. 2 lakh have also been released for village of Danjipora Sirhama, Rs. 4.25 lakh for caravan Industrial Estate Bijbehara, Rs.3.47 lakh for Jaffarpora Marhama, Rs. 3.73 lakh for Lonepora Marhama ,Rs. 2.65 lakh for Thokerpora Veeri, Rs 3.47 lakh for Ganaie Mohalla Beerwa and Rs 3. Lakh for Kud Angan Marhama for improvement of basic amenities.
Earlier, the Legislator visited the residence of Peer Bilal of Darbagh Harwan for consoling the death of his father Peer Mohammad Yasin Shah Sahib who passed away couple of days before.Dr. Veeri said that the Late Peer Yasin was a spiritual, religious scholar and was inheriting all moral values. He said the contribution made by the late saint for the welfare of the society would be remembered for ever

Private practice of doctors continues despite HC ban

Notwithstanding the ban imposed on the private practice of doctors by the state high court, a large number of doctors across the Valley allegedly continue to indulge into the practice in violation of the directive. The officials maintain that they cannot implement the ban until and unless the state government endorses the court directive.

Reports from almost all the district headquarters of the valley said that the doctors despite the ban imposed by the court continue to practice at their private clinics under the nose of the law enforcement agencies.

“You can see dozens of doctors practicing at their private clinics in Anantnag, Pulwama, Srinagar, Kulgam and other district headquarters not only on holidays but even before and after the working hours on other days,” said an advocate Bashir Ahmad.

He said that the government seems to have completely ignored the high court ruling and allowed the doctors to go ahead with private practice.

“The high court ruling was also in the interest of the poor patients who cannot afford the fee doctors charge at the private clinics but the doctors in violation of the high court ruling continue to indulge in the private practice with authorities acting as mute spectators,” said a resident of south Kashmir, Suhail Ahmad.He said that it is irony that the authorities do not give any heed even to the court directive which is in the interest of the public to the hilt.

When contacted, director health services, Kashmir, Dr. Salim-u-Rehman, admitted that the doctors continue to indulge into private practice despite the high court ruling but added that they are waiting for the endorsement of the court order by the government.

“Yes it is true that the doctors continue to practice at their private clinics but until and unless the government endorses the court directive we cannot take action against any such doctor. Once the state government accepts the ruling we will implement the ban on private practice of doctors in letter and spirit,” director said.

Women Anganwari Workers not paid their Wages for 9 Months

Seems like it is not only the low rung public employees, thousands  of women Anganwari workers working in centres across valley have also not received their salaries for last nine months, with the concerned social welfare department citing the reason of inadequate budget for non-payment of the salaries.

Interestingly, the payment of salaries to the workers/ supervisors under Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) is being funded by the central government. Under this scheme, all the social welfare departments were directed to increase the salaries of field workers operating in various centers from Rs 2100  per month to Rs 3600  per month with effect from April 2011.

However, in  Jammu and Kashmir, thousands of Anganwari workers were paid  the hiked salary for just the month of April , and have been working wage- less since then.

Protesting against the indifference of state authorities towards their concerns, Parveena, Head , Anganwari Helpers and Workers Association told Kashmir Times that they will go on an indefinite strike if the department further delays the payment of salaries.

Women Anganwari workers from various districts of the valley protested against the indifference of government towards their problems and threatened to go on an indefinite strike, if they are not paid their pending wages.

“We work all the year, for providing meals and nutrition to the children from poor families. However when it comes to paying us our due wages, this department always shies away from the same. We have even approached Minister for Social Welfare, Sakina Itoo. We have only got assurances from them. We cannot work any further as we have families to feed too,” Nuzhat, an Anganwari worker said.

The workers said that paying the pre-revised salaries to them would be sheer injustice as the workers elsewhere in the country are getting the salaries according to newly revised rates.

“Non-payment of dues has now become a routine with us. Usually, we are paid our wages after 2-3 months with the department citing the unavailability of funds as the reason every time. This certainly seems to be the mishandling of the affairs by the state management, because central agencies funding our salaries have announced payment of our hiked salaries on time,” Parveena told News Agency.

When contacted, director social welfare department, Hilal Ahmad Parray  said  the decks for payment of hiked salaries have been cleared and that as of now the department is ready to pay the salaries to its workers as per old schedule.
“We currently do not have sufficient funds for payment of revised salaries. As soon as we get the funds, we shall pay them as arrears to the workers. We have written to general administration department regarding that. Meanwhile, the payment of salaries as per old schedule is already being done,” he added.

Sikhs may have separate marriage law soon

Sikhs are likely to have a separate marriage law soon with the Ministry of Home Affairs planning to move the Union Cabinet in this regard.
Ahead of the Punjab Assembly polls, the Centre has decided to accede to the long-standing demand of the Sikh community for enacting a separate Anand Marriage Act, giving legal sanctity to the marriages under Sikh religion, official sources said.
So far, Sikh marriages are solemnised under Hindu Marriage Act after the annulment of the Sikh Marriage Act in 1955.
Prior to Independence, marriages among Sikhs were held under the Anand Marriage Act in the presence of Guru Granth Sahib and the practice continued till 1955 when the Sikh Marriage Act was replaced and included in the Hindu Marriage Act, clubbing four communities together-- Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist and Jain.
The sources said after the Cabinet clears the proposal, a bill in this effect will be tabled in Parliament and once it gets approval, Sikhs can marry under the new law.
However, it is not clear whether the bill would be tabled in the current session of Parliament, they said.Several political, religious groups and individuals, including former Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and Congress leader R S Jaura, have appealed to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Home Minister P Chidambaram for enactment of a separate law for solemnising Sikh marriages.

Earlier, a Parliamentary Standing Committee had unanimously approved the creation of the marriage law for Sikhs.
However, the Centre has been refraining from acting on it it apparently apprehending that it could lead to similar demands from other communities covered under the Hindu Marriage Act.

267th Jayanti of Swami Mirzakak

267th Jayanti of Swami Mirzakak celebrated with religious fervour

 The 267th Jayanti of Swami Mirzakak was celebrated with full religious fervour and enthusiasm at Swami Ji’s Nagrota Ashram today.

A large number of devotees drawn from different parts of Jammu thronged the Ashram from early morning to participate in the celebrations and pay their obeisance to this mystic saint of medieval period.

On the occasion a Maha Yagya was also solemnized in the Ashram, which culminated with Puranahuti in the afternoon. This was followed by serving of prashad to devotees.

The day long Bhajan Kirtan also continued.

The President of Swami Mirzakak Trust Hangalgund, D N Hangloo and other disciples of the saint threw light on the Vaakhs of Swami Ji and termed them high in spiritual philosophy. They said Swami Ji was a great saint whose prophecy against the tyrant Afghan Governor, who was ruling Kashmir at that time came true as the same was liberated by Mahraja Ranjit Singh of Punjab from the Afghanis within days.

Swami Kumar Ji of Geeta Satsangh Ashram also delivered sermons on the occasion and threw light on Guru Shishia Parampara and its significance in Hindu mythology.

Christmas 2011 Celebrated in Jammu

Like other parts of the globe, Merry Christmas the birthday of Jesus Christ was celebrated with full religious fervour and gaiety across the Jammu region today.

Special prayers were offered across the Winter Capital of the State and other churches of Jammu region.

All the churches were specially decorated befitting the occasion by the members of Christian community.

Thousands of people thronged the churches, especially the St Garrison Church, Gandhi Nagar, where the main function was organised.

The Minister for Medical Education, Youth Services and Sports R S Chib also visited the St Marry’s Garrison Church and joined the Christmas celebrations there. He also congratulated the people on the auspicious day and prayed for peace and prosperity of the State.

The churches witnessed a huge rush of people and children attired colourfully wished "Merry Christmas" to their friends.

The Santa Claus was the central of attraction of the people on the occasion. People of other communities were seen greeting their Christian brethren and hugging and exchanging gifts with each other.

Special prayers were held in the churches for peace and prosperity in the State.

Tight security arrangements were also made for incident-free celebrations.

Lowest ever night temp 2011 in Jammu

Jammu is in the grip of severe cold wave as the temperature plummeted considerably since last evening.

According to Dr M K Khushu, Chief Scientist and Head Agronomy Division of Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology, the night temperature in the outskirts of Jammu district was recorded at 0.5 degree Celsius, about six degrees below the normal temperature.

"This is the lowest ever night temperature recorded in the outskirts of Jammu district during the last 30 years", he said, adding the night temperature in the Samba district was recorded at 0.2 degree Celsius while as the minimum temperature in Udhampur was 1.2 degree Celsius.

In response to a question, Dr Khushu said that as there is no indication of immediate rainfall, the temperature is likely to plummet further.

Coldest night of 2011 in Valley

As the temperatures across Kashmir continued to plummet, the State's summer capital, Srinagar, witnessed coldest night of the season with minimum temperature recorded at minus 4.8 degrees Celsius last night.

The Meteorological Department has forecast that dry and cold weather conditions will continue for next one week and the temperatures will plummet further in the region.

With the dipping temperatures, the cold wave in Kashmir intensified resulting in the freezing of the parts of Srinagar's world famous Dal lake.

Early in the morning the water near the banks of the Dal lake was frozen as a thin lawyer of ice formation had taken place. However, in the interior areas, where water mostly remains stagnant and sunlight does not reach due to tree line, thick ice layer had formed. However, with the Sun coming out, the ice layer near peripheries vanished.

The Dal lake froze completely in 1960s and it again froze in 1986 attracting large number of tourists to the lake to see it frozen. Recently, the lake froze in 2006 and children played cricket on the surface of the frozen lake. Last year, parts of Dal lake particularly near the peripheries were frozen due to subzero temperatures.

Meanwhile, majority of the Kashmiris woke up to the frozen water tapes leading to the water crisis in the morning. It was only in the afternoon when Sun came out that the frozen tapes started melting giving relief to the people from the temporary water crisis.

There was some relief from the intense cold wave conditions during the day as Sun was out with maximum temperature settling at 8 degrees Celsius.

While Srinagar recorded the lowest night temperature of the season at minus 4.8 degree Celsius, the mercury in tourist resort of Gulmarg in North Kashmir recorded a marginal increase over the last two days as the minimum temperature there settled at minus 9.8 degrees Celsius, said an official of the MeT department.

It may be mentioned here that the Gulmarg recorded a low of minus 12 degrees Celsius for two consecutive nights two days ago.

The tourist resort of Pahalgam in South Kashmir recorded a minus 8.8 degrees Celsius. Previous night the temperature settled at minus 7.4 degrees Celsius.

In North Kashmir district of Kupwara, the minimum temperature was recorded at minus 4.7 degrees Celsius and in Qazigund South Kashmir it was recorded at minus 5.6 degree Celsius.

The MeT official said that in Leh, the minimum temperature dropped by nearly one degree compared to yesterday to settle at minus 16.2 degree Celsius. Kargil recorded a low of minus 12 degrees Celsius.

In the State's winter capital, Jammu, the impact of dipping temperature was felt with night temperature dipping to a low of 4.3 degrees Celsius. However, the day temperature settled at 20 degrees Celsius.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Dying Heritage of Srinagar

Passing by Valleyites watch the dying heritage

Passing by the old city of Kashmir, one can clearly see the reckless attitude of the government and people towards Kashmir’s priceless heritage.Old city or Sher-e-Khas, which is the oldest developed area of the whole Kashmir, holds rich heritage not only in the form of customs and traditions but as architecture as well. Ancient shrines and mosques are spread across the city. Though most of them are well maintained, the heritage residential houses are ignored.Hundreds of heritage buildings and houses stretched across Khanyar, Raniwari, Zanikadal, Habba Kadal, Fate kadal and other prominent parts of old city are in deplorable condition.

Many of them have been bulldozed while others are left to decay with time.Where government has shown negligence to the protection and maintenance of the heritage buildings, their owners completely derelict them. No sense of social responsibility is displayed by the citizens.Abdul Salaam, originally a resident of Zaina Kadal owns a heritage house build by his grand father in late 1800’s. But the house, made in wood and mud, is gradually ripping apart into masses of dust.
“It is a very old house. We have abandoned it some 30 years back. It is of no use,” said Salaam. Salaam says since the house is not in use, “spending money on its maintenance is useless.”Many new structures have also come up in place of heritages buildings.Mohammad Shafi of Khanyar dismantled half of his ancestral house to build a news one.“The old house was not safe. It didn’t have sufficient safe to accommodate my two sons and their families. So had to built a new on,” adds Mohammad Shafi who says that his new construction was not objected by anyone.

As the heritage buildings face threat, the imperative part of Kashmir history and heritage is wiped off. “We are least bothered about our heritage and culture. We are forgetting our cultural values and destroying our heritage,” said Majid Hassan, a college lecturer.He views that destruction of heritage means destruction of identity. “Heritage and culture are our identity. When we lose them, we lose our identity,” he added Shabana Khan, a student of sociology view that efforts have to be made by people to preserve heritage and culture “We all are a part of our culture and heritage. It is our collective responsibility to save it, more than that of government.”

Three day IT Expo in Jammu

JCDA organizing three day IT Expo from Dec 16

Jammu Computers Dealers Association (JCDA) is organizing a three-day IT Expo meet from December 16 to 18.

Addressing a press conference here today, Arvind Koul, president, JCDA, said that about 40 IT companies are participating in a three-day long IT Expo. He added that JCDA is a nodal body of over 200 companies of Computers and other IT related products advocating cause of IT industry in the State.

Koul further added that IT Expo will be inaugurated by Raman Bhalla, Minister for Relief, Revenue and Rehabilitation, who will be the chief guest accompanied by Anand Jain, SSP Jammu as guest of honour.

"The major sponsors for the IT show this year are Intel, whereas the co-sponsors include Epson, Digisol, HP-Compaq and Sharp. There will be around 40 stalls in the Expo," Koul said.

Arvind Koul further stated that the major highlight of this year IT Expo will be next generation IT category, which would include products like Tabloids, Cloud Computing, Latest Processing Technologies, Large Format Printers, Latest Networking and Wireless Products, Security Products and many more.

Koul further said that JCDA IT Expo has been one of the most effective mediums for establishing and maintaining customer relations, as seen last year also.

Ramnagar village for herbal farming

Indian Institute of Integrated Medicine (IIIM) Jammu has decided to adopt village Incha (Kulwanta) in Ramnagar tehsil of Udhampur district for promoting herbal farming so as to exploit topography for the development of medicinal plants.

Dr Ram Vishwakarma, Director IIIM Jammu, who visited the area accompanied by Maj Gen Goverdhan Singh Jamwal, president J&K Ex-services League to help ex-servicemen and the locals, announced to encourage income generation activities by developing herbal products.

The IIIM Director laid stress on proper harvesting of Berberi (Rasaunt). He also suggested that area was very suitable for Mentha and Ashwagandha plantation. He promised to survey the area and provide processing unit.

Dogri film Kuggi Maar Duari

Kuggi Maar Duari, the second feature film in Dogri language, is all set to be released simultaneously in Jammu and Udhampur on December 16.

Talking to Excelsior, Neelam Phull, the producer, director of the film said that ‘Kuggi Maar Duari’ is the second big screen film in Dogri after the first film ‘Gallaan Hoyian Bitiaan’ that was made some 45 years ago.

He said that ‘Kuggi Maar Duari’, is a cinemascope film that has been granted by "U" certificate by the Regional office of the Censor Board Film Certification, New Delhi, and will be released simultaneously in two major cities. In Jammu it will be screened at Swarn Theatre and in City Light cinema in Udhampur.

The audio CD of the film’s music was launched by Raman Bhalla, Minister for Revenue, at Press Club, here today. The music of film has been composed by Surinder Singh Manhas and singers are Suraj Singh, Deepali Wattal, Julekha Fareed, Jeevan Sharma, Upma Sharma, Marina Jamwal and Surinder Singh Manhas.

Produced under the banner of Shree T Creations, excepting the film’s camera crew which was from Mumbai, all other members of the production team including writer, music director, art director, singers, dancers and actors are from Jammu.

The film is written by Basant Biyogi and lyrics are by Payasa Anjum.

In today’s CD release function, the chief guest, Raman Bhalla, praised the producer, director, for making a film in Dogri and giving a beautiful present to the people of Jammu. While appreciating the lyrical music of the film, he appealed to the Jammuites to watch this colorful and musical film and make it a success.

Coldest night in Valley

The Kashmir valley witnessed coldest night of the season last night as minimum temperature in summer capital dipped over three degrees below the freezing point and Meteorological Department suggested that mercury will dip further this week

A meteorological Department told Excelsior that the night temperature in Srinagar was recorded at minus 3.2 degrees Celsius. He said the other parts of the Kashmir valley including Leh and Kargil also reeled under the intense cold wave leading to shivering of the common masses.

The Leh town in Ladakh division was the coldest one as the mercury plummeted to minus 14.2 degrees. Leh was followed by Gulmarg where the night temperature was recorded as minus 10.2 degrees. In Kargil town, the minimum temperature was minus 9.6 degrees. The world renowned health resort of Pahalgam recorded the minimum temperature of minus 10 degrees Celsius.

"It is expected that the night temperature would go down further in the Kashmir valley. The sky is expected to be clear over the next four or five days and this would lead to further dip in the minimum temperature over the next few days," said the Met official.

Two youth held in Delhi for thefts

Two youths hailing from Jammu and Kashmir, including an engineer, were arrested here for allegedly stealing luggage from hospitals and airports, police said today.

Rafiq Dar (27) and Irfan Malik (32), both from Srinagar, were arrested from Apollo Hospital in Sarita Vihar two days ago, Additional Commissioner of Police (South-East) Ajay Chaudhry said.

Dar is married and has two children and his father has a smalltime poultry business in Srinagar, while Malik is a B Tech degree holder from a private college in Faridabad and has a computer paraphernalia shop in Srinagar. He was also working as a tour and travel agent and was planning to go to Dubai.

The arrests came following investigations into a complaint that two mobile phones of a patient were stolen from Apollo Hospital here.

"CCTV footage were analysed and one suspect was zeroed down who could be seen roaming unnecessarily in the very part of the hospital where the patient was recuperating. He was again seen on December 10 morning wandering in the hospital.

"He was intercepted and put to questioning. He revealed his name as Rafiq Dar and confessed to have committed the said theft. He also named Malik, who was also apprehended from the Apollo Hospital complex itself," Chaudhry said.

Dar had come to Delhi with his father long back on a few occasions for treatment. After leaving the school, he got involved in his father's smalltime business of poultry.

However, he fell in bad company and started committing petty thefts. Since he was familiar with hospital activities, he knew that it was very easy to pick luggage or belongings of the patients in hospitals.

He has allegedly committed bag-lifting from hospitals in the past also, but was never caught. He also befriended Malik, whom he knows since childhood, and Rafiq was providing him stolen laptops.

"They had come to Delhi by air on December 8 and lifted two bags from the airport also. The duo has also disclosed that they had stolen a bag containing a laptop and some other documents from City Hospital near Karol Bagh on December 9," Chaudhry said.

Interestingly, he said a photograph of Fortis Super-Speciality Hospital, a lot of Pan-Cards, Laptops (2), Mobile phones (6), Photo-IDs of other persons, used garments and cosmetics have been recovered from them.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Kangris back in kashmir

Frequent power cuts and shortage of LPG in Kashmir has thrown a new lease of life to the 'Kangri', the traditional mobile heater for residents of the valley, as sales have doubled with the onset of this winter. "We have sold almost double the quantity of Kangris this November compared to corresponding period last year," Ghulam Mohammad, a kangri seller at busy Batamaloo bus stand, said. Mohammad said the business for Kangri sellers was getting back to the time of 1980s. "I think we are selling more kangris this year than we have ever sold," he added.

Besides being a portable means of heating, carried under the Pheran (traditional cloak used by Kashmiris during winter), Kangri used to be one of the cherished gifts given to a bride or groom. A Kangri can cost anything between Rs 45 for low quality wicker to Rs 20,000 for the ones made of silver. Good quality wicker Kangris, generally made in Chrar-e-Sharief area of Central Kashmir Budgam district, can cost up to Rs 1,500. Hundreds of people were earning their livelihood by making kangris. The use of Kangri, a wicker basket fitted with clay pot for holding simmering charcoal, had, however, declined over the past decade with the introduction of gas heaters in the valley. The power supply had also become dependable over the years and the residents took to using electric heating appliances to keep themselves warm during the winter months when the temperature can drop as low as minus seven degrees. Rising costs of electricity and LPG, the prices have increased by 20 to 35 per cent since last winter, have forced people to go back to the cheaper and traditional means of keeping themselves warm."I had bought a LPG heater in 2003 but our family has now switched back to using Kangri. We don't even get enough gas for cooking, forget about using it for heating purposes," Khursheed Ahmad, a resident of posh Peerbagh area in the city, said.A businessman by profession, Ahmad said while he could afford to pay high cost of using electricity for heating purpose, the power supply is so erratic that it cannot be depended upon. "The load shedding schedule is designed as such that one has to shiver in cold for two to three hours every evening. People want to get back to the warmth of their homes after a hard day out but generally we enter into darkness," he added.

Ancient Temple Burnt in Doda

Protest against burning of temple in Doda

Hundreds of people from about a dozen villages in Doda and Ramban districts held a demonstration and staged a dharna outside the official residence of the local deputy commissioner by blocking the road for more than an hour here this morning in protest against the burning down of an ancient temple at Gala Dhar. The villagers alleged that the temple was burnt down by some miscreants on the intervening night of December 9 and 10.

The villagers were demanding detailed investigation into the fire incident and stern action against the miscreants, who were involved in it. The protestors called off their protest and dharna after assurances from the deputy commission Farooq Ahmed Khan that SSP and DySP had already gone to the spot for investigation and action would be taken against the culprits.
Another group of people from different villages in tehsil Ramban crossed river Chenab to protest at Batote on National Highway but were stopped by police at various points. Hundreds of people from these areas met DIG of police Doda range, who gave a patient hearing to the agitating villagers and assured that Doda Administration would take action within five days and shall not leave any stone unturned to catch the culprits.

People from villages Dhandal, Kastigarh, Bhagwah, Dessa, Chill, Bibrota, Chuchater, Kamit, Gagla, Shamthi,  Rajgarh, Chaka Kundi and other areas of Doda and Ramban districts had gathered here this morning. They also blocked the roads for about an hour and disrupted the traffic movement.

The demonstrators led by C L Thakur Advocate, Raman Pardeep, Advocate, Gajay Singh Rana and other prominent persons of Doda met the deputy commissioner. They alleged that the administration and police had not taken any action in the past when the thousand year old temple was burnt the first time in 1995 then in 2009. It was reconstructed and an idol was installed.
It may be recalled that on the intervening night of December 9 and 10, the temple was set afire by some unidentified persons at about 2.00 AM. The high rising flames were seen by villagers from the surrounding areas. Yesterday morning about 300 villagers reached the temple site at Gala Dhar to see the charred remains of the temple. A DySP and some cops from the nearby area also visited the spot and noticed the foot-prints of the miscreants on the fresh snow around the temple premises.
All the demonstrators again met at Ramlila Ground and unanimously took the decision to meet on December 16 next and hold demonstration at Doda and chalk out further course of action on December 15. C L Thakur Advocate and prominent social worker was unanimously nominated convener of the action committee to spearhead the agitation.

Another successful effort of SKUAST

SKUAST Jammu under the leadership of Vice Chancellor, Dr B Mishra after glaring success of increasing production of rain fed farmers at Badodi village has made another successful effort in bringing of 10 ha rainfed and dry area of Nai Akhnoor in a production mode.

According to a SKUAST release for the first time 10 farmers of village Nai Basti and Akhnoor have been brought in "Joint Liability Group’’ where in their total 10 ha pooled land has been designed for drip and sprinkler irrigation under the ICAR project entitled Technology Refinement in Micro Irrigation and Fertigation for improving the quality and productivity of important crops in rainfed areas of Jammu.

The project is run under the supervision of Dr Dileep Kachroo, Principal Investigator and Chief Scientist, Farming System Research Centre, SKUAST, Jammu.

The Horticulture Department has already established bore well and Dr Kachroo with the help of Director Horticulture, Jammu has identified these farmers under "Farmer-Scientist Research Mode’’. The land brought under mango orchard has been properly designed and put under drip irrigation whereas the in- between plantation land has been intercropped with various vegetables and wheat /mustard cultivation.

The farmers are happy over the new experiment which has brought cheerfulness on their faces.

Bid to set ablaze Firdous cinema

Police this evening foiled a bid by some youth to set ablaze Firdous Cinema, vacated by Central Reserve Police (CRPF) last week, in Srinagar’s sensitive down town area.

Scores of youth entered the compound of the Cinema in Hawal area and tried to set it ablaze but timely intervention by the police saved the building. However, a wooden hut used as a bunker by the CRPF personnel was gutted.

The CRPF last week vacated the building after the security forces used it as a security camp for past two decades of militancy to fight militants in this area. The CRPF had taken over this building from Border Security Forces in 2003 when they replaced them to fight urban militancy. BSF had occupied the Cinemas in 1993 and used it as their camps.

The attack on the building comes when the statement of NC president and Union Minister Dr Farooq Abdullah on re-opening of Cinemas and liquour shops in Kashmir valley resulted in a controversy here.

Mule Dung Vaishnodevi track to Produce Bio Gas

Finally, the mule dung on the track of holy cave shrine of Shri Mata Vaishnodevi is all set to yield bio-gas instead of remaining a menace as country’s first ever mule dung based bio-gas plant set up near the holy town of Katra has been put on trial and would be formally commissioned by the end of next month.

Official sources told News Agency that as per the analysis conducted by Shri Mata Vaishnodevi Shrine Board (SMVDSB) around 40 tonnes of dung is being littered by the mules all along the track from Katra to Bhawan every day and the same continues to be menace despite the fact that Shrine Board is leaving no stone unturned for prompt removal of the same from the track.

In order to turn the menace into a source of generating energy for the Shrine Board, the Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy headed by Dr Farooq Abdullah early last year discussed with the Governor N N Vohra, who is also the Chairman of Shrine Board, its Special Area Demonstration Project (SADP) Scheme, which is aimed at demonstrating renewable energy systems/ devices by their installation at places of national and international importance to supplement the energy requirement.

Subsequently, the Union Ministry sanctioned ` 50 lakh worth project which not only includes setting up of bio-gas plant but also solar water heaters and solar power plants of 5 Kilo Watt each, sources said, adding though solar water heaters and solar power plants have already come up, the mule-dung based bio-gas plant has recently been set up near Chetak Bhawan by a Pune-based firm—Mailhem.

"During the past two days, the plant has been put on trial and gas formation by using mule dung is being observed", sources said, adding "the trial of the plant would continue for at least 20 to 25 days following which the plant would be formally commissioned and put to regular use".

The plant has the capacity to generate bio-gas from 4 tonnes of mule every day and Shrine Board has already entered into a contract with the Katra-based agency, which will purchase bio-gas and put to use for its own use, sources said, adding "initially the mule dung would be lifted from the most problematic areas like first 3-4 kilometers of the track and both sides of Banganga".

As the plant would also generate approximately 12 to 15 tonnes of bio-manure per month as an end project, the Shrine Board has invited Expressions of Interest from the individuals, Government agencies, firms and organizations for the purchase of the bio-manure and the last date of submission of Expressions of Interest is December 30, 2011.

"As the plant has been set up on demonstration basis, Shrine Board would monitor the bio-gas generation for some months before taking any decision about setting up of more such plants or increasing the capacity of the existing one as per day generation of mule dung is much more than the present capacity of the plant", sources said.

To a question, they said that Shrine Board has also engaged Mailhem for Operation and Maintenance of the plant.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Migratory Birds Reach Shallabugh Wetland

While the migratory birds have already started to visit the valley’s several wetlands, the Shallabugh Wetland located some 8 kilometers from district Ganderbal has also started receiving the flying visitors.“We have received here over one lakh migratory birds that come from different parts of the globe,” in-charge, Wetland Shallabugh, Abdul Rashid Wani said.
Spread over about 14.6 square kilometres, Shallabugh wetland receives lakhs of flying visitors every year. This year, the number of the flying visitors, as per the officials, is a bit lesser than the previous years. However, the Wani said, “We are quite optimistic about receiving the good number of these migratory birds, like in previous years, in days ahead, provided the water here does not freeze.”

Last year, Shallabugh wetland had received over six lakh flying visitors, which is a record.The migratory birds come to the Valley every year, covering thousands of miles from far off lands.Connected with the famous Aanchar Sar and the Sangam Sar on the South, Shallabugh wetland is the Asia’s biggest wetland reserve.“This season, the 'migratory birds started to throng the wetland since November and the outward migration is expected to start from March and end in mid-April," Wani said.
The migratory birds which visit this wetland mostly come from Siberia, Central Asia, Northern Europe, Ladakh, China and Central Asia.

Some of the popular migratory birds visiting the Shallabugh reserve include goose, bar goose, white heeled duck, shoveller, red-crested Pochard, white-eyed Pochard, common Teal, Pintail, Mallard, Gadwall, Coot, Hoonk and Graylag.Among these, Pintail, Common Teal and Gadwall are the birds visiting this wetland in great number than others.To check the menaces of hunting in the Shallabugh Wetland, wildlife wetland department has increased the vigil here. Besides, being a wetland and the home for the lakhs of flying visitors, Shallabugh in the past used to be an important tourist destination for both domestic and foreign tourists. The pollution in this wetland since decades by the valley's premier health insititue, Sher-i- Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences Soura coupled with the inflow of wastes and litter emanating from different hamlets on its peripheries is distracting the tourists.

The officials in wetland had communicated the problem to the SKIMS authorities, who took some measures initially. But the enthusiasm died down later.An environmentalist and a Research Scholar of Dab Mohammad Abbas Bhat said the emanations of bio-medical wastes from SKIMS are the hazardous substances which affect and destroy the flora as well as fauna in this wetland.“Use of pesticides, DDT and insecticides by farmers whose run off reaches ultimately this wetland ultimately causes death to thousands of these species which force them to change the habitat and influence their mating patterns,” he said.

Dozens of schools without buildings

Dozens of newly established schools are without buildings due to the non-availability of the land for their construction.Interestingly the educational authorities in many zones of the valley have asked the ReT teachers appointed in these schools to manage the land for the construction of school buildings in their respective villages or face punishment. Sources said that a number schools established under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan in the valley during last few years either function in the rented rooms or have been clubbed with already existing nearby schools as there is no land available for the construction of the buildings for them in the habitations or villages the schools were established.

The teachers working in the said schools in many educational zones of south Kashmir told News agency that the concerned zonal educational officers have withheld their salaries for clubbing with the nearby schools. “Since our school has no building of its own and the former Zonal education officer (ZEO) on seeing us taking the classes under the open sky directed
us to club with nearby middle school till the land is made available for the construction of our own school building. But ironically the present ZEO two months ago withheld our salaries asking us to separate our schools from the ones we have clubbed with,” said a teacher from a south Kashmir educational zone.

He said not only they but also the teachers appointed in the newly established schools in many other zones have been asked by their concerned ZEOs to manage the land for the construction of the school buildings. “We had got clubbed with other nearby schools for the benefit of the children. We do not have any problem in separating our schools and making the children study in open. But irony is that the concerned ZEOs are asking us to either provide our own land or manage the same for the construction of the school buildings,” said a group of teachers whose salary has been withheld. A top official in the education department said that it is not only south Kashm ir but in the entire valley hundreds of newly established schools are with out buildings.

He blamed the government for its inefficiency in retrieving huge chunk of state land encroached by the people across the valley particularlyin the villages “In almost every village the people have illegally occupied big pastures of land. If government comes into action and retrieve the same from the encroachers the problem of the non-availability of the land for the construction of the school buildings will be solved once for all,” he said. When contacted minister of state for education, Peerzada Mohammad Sayeed said the problem of non-availability of land for construction of school buildings is not everywhere but at few places only. "We have almost managed the land for this purpose in every area the schools were established. If problem remains at some places we are trying to solve the problem by involving the locals of that area," minister said.

Kashmir chamber wants to end ban on Shahtoosh

The apex business chamber of the valley, Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI), demanded lifting of ban on shahtoosh. It has not been over two weeks time that the new president KCCI, Abdul Hamid Punjabi has taken charge of one of the oldest business chambers of the state. The new president today told Kashmir Times that the chamber has been insisting the state government and New Delhi to take away ban on the shahtoosh trade. "It has been over a decade now and we have been advocating for removal of ban on the trade," he said. The annual turnover of the shahtoosh trade was over Rs 120 crore. Over 30,000 families were depending on the trade. "The ban has brought miseries to the shahtoosh weavers, traders and their families and these families are facing starvation,"he said.

The KCCI had earlier sent a recommendation to the state government on lifting ban on the trade however, have not heard any from the state till date. "This is a mater of grave concern for us. The concerned agencies should find a solution to the problem at earliest. There is hardly a day when affected families especially poor women come to our office to express their hardship,"Hamid Punjabi said and added "We would try our best to take away the ban to bring respite to 600 year old industry."Kashmir Shawl industry is famous in the world. Shahtoosh are so fine that an average size shawl can be passed through a wedding ring. "We have world famous artisans associated with the trade and the state of art embroidery on shawls in unique in the world," he added.The ban has led to the demise of the skill of the Kashmir weavers, who were the only ones in the world who could handle the fibre, he added. "China has vested interest in the ban as they are not able to handle the wool from Tibetan antelope," he said. Giving the details Hamid Punjabi said the population of the Tibetan antelope has been found dwindling and the Convention on  International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), listed it as endangered specie in the 1970s. "The government of India enacted this in schedule I of the wild life Act without giving reservation, which was within the scope of CITES. States Shahtoosh shawl sector was not consulted," he said. The selling of shahtoosh was made illegal in all countries that signed the CITES.

However, since J&K had its own wild life Act as such it continued to be in schedule II allowing trading of Shahtoosh. "Free trading within the state could not help in survival of the industry as the major outlets were the outside markets which come under enforcement of wild life Act prohibiting the sale," he added. In 2005 the government of India constituted an expert group to look into the issues relating to shahtoosh trade. The group was of the view that lifting ban would mean killing of antelopes. However, in the meeting Dr A M Mir had argued that the shahtoosh fiber used in making shawls comes from live chirus and not from dead animals because  according to him the fiber obtained from the dead animals is useless and can't be converted into shawls. The wild life societies are of the opinion that antelope from which shahtoosh wool is derived is most endangered specie and wool is derived from killing the animal. However, Hamid Punjabi says that the wool shedding is a biological process. Like other animals of cold climate, the Tibetan antelope also sheds their thick winter coats when ambient temperature rises with onset of winter. "Dead wool is of no use in the shahtoosh shawl production," he said. The government should look for the options of setting commercial farming. "Captive breeding has not been attempted till date," he added.
The antelope lives at an altitude of 14-17,000 feet. In winter months due to lack of vegetation chiru move down to the plains. It is here they share pastures with domestic live stock and are near human habitation, he said.