Saturday, April 18, 2009

Roshni or Darkness

Roshni, The Biggest Ever Land Scandal?
From Sheikh’s land-to-tiller to Azad’s Raj Tilak

NASEER A GANAI


Srinagar, Apr 15: Though the Ghulam Nabi Azad led coalition government had compared Roshni (light) Act with the land reforms of Sheikh Abdullah, it is turning out to be the biggest ever land scandal of the State.
The Congress-PDP government had earlier claimed that Roshni scheme would generate Rs 25000 crores. Later it said Rs 6000 crores would be generated, however so far 1,77,395 kanals of State land has been given to the occupiers in Jammu and the State has realized only Rs 15.47 crores. In Kashmir division, 31,103 kanals have been given and the State has realized Rs 39.64 crores.
The then Leader of Opposition, present Finance Minister Abdul Rahim Rather, had spoken against the amendments brought by Azad government in the Act conceived by him to generate money for utilizing State’s water resources. He had ridiculed Azad’s comparison of Roshni Act with the land reforms.
Sheikh, Rather had said, snatched land from land-grabbers and gave that to tillers free of cost. “Here you are giving property rights to land-grabbers who have occupied Nazool land in cities and Khalisa land in villages,” he had said. “Only rich, elite and land-grabbers had the audacity to grab the State land and now have a benevolent government who gave them its rights,” Rather had said. He had cautioned that the State wouldn’t get any money out of the amendments. His fears proved right.
LAND TO TILLER
On October 17, 1950, Sheikh Abdullah declared policy of liquidating the big landed estates and transferring land to tiller by enacting Big Landed Estates Abolition Act, the land of these people was reduced to only 182 kanals.
Former editor of the Asian Age, M.J Akbar, describes the reforms in these words. “The century of Dogra rule has seen usurpation of nearly all the land in the valley by ruling class, with the result most of the 2,200,000 acres of cultivable Kashmiri land belonged to either to the Maharaja directly or to his Jagirdars and small class of landlords called Chakdars.” To put it more starkly, he says “the owners were Jammu Hindus, the tillers Kashmiri Muslims.”

Historian and politician Muhammad Yousuf Taing says till the land to tiller law of 1950 came into force, even the daughters of poor peasants were treated as part of the estate on which the landlords enjoyed absolute rights. He says the sweeping land reforms under the Big Landed Estates Abolition Act passed on July 13, 1950, changed the complexion of Kashmiri society. He said that Kashmiri Pandits who were close to tyrannical regime had not got any land outside the Kashmir valley.

In 1950 when the constituent assembly of the Jammu Kashmir was constituted, it had to decide four points including whether compensation should be given to those landlords who have lost their land through the land abolition act. On November 5, 1951 the then Revenue Minister Mirza Muhammad Afzal Beg refused to give compensation to landlords.
RAJ TILAK
He argued in the Constituent Assembly that the Maharaja Hari Singh on ascending the throne in 1924-25 issued a Royal Proclamation called the Raj Tilak Boon. On the basis of this declaration, Maharaja permitted the landlords to annex Village Common Lands (Shamilat) with their holdings. These Shamilat came into possession of landlords apart from cultivated land they already possessed. And with this the landholder who had 1000 kanals got further 1000 kanals of land grants on the basis of Raj Tilk Boon. And those who had 2000 kanals got 2000 kanals of Shamilat.
Beg told the Constituent Assembly that the deceit and frauds took place while these orders were operated so much that land of pity land holders were also grabbed by influential elements. In Kashmir 160,000 acres and in Jammu 310,000 acres were given away by Maharaja by Raj Tilak Boon.”
The land reforms empowered 87 per cent people in Jammu and Kashmir State. Landlords were given right over only 180 kanals of land and later when Agrarian Reforms Act was enacted, it was slashed to 100 kanals,” he said.

The widow of Dewan Jawalla Sahai, who had given substantial money to Maharaja Gulab Singh when he purchased Jammu & Kashmir from the British for Rs 75 lakhs, owned 120,000 kanals of land in south Kashmir. In Kulgam Tehsil it was difficult for people to bury their dead as almost all land had proprietorship of the widow.

From Rs 25,000 crore to Rs 100 for 100 kanals

The National Conference government had conceived the Roshni Act to generate Rs 25000 crore for development of power projects in the state sector of Jammu and Kashmir. Senior officials in the Power Development Corporation said that when National Conference government started Baglihar project it had no money. The then chief minister, Dr Farooq Abdullah, pursued the policy of “beg, borrow or steal” to realize the objective.
Realizing money constraints to exploit water resources, the then Finance minister, Abdul Rahim Rather, came up with the idea of Roshni Act. It took five years for the government to come up with the legislation. Till then it had lost seven power projects to the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation including Pakaldul. The projects would now be developed by Chenab Projects Ltd, a joint venture company of NHPC and the JKSPDC.
The NC government had got the concurrence of internationally reputed agencies for funding. The agencies had given detailed project reports to JKSPDC and had agreed to provide 85 per cent financial assistance to the state government in developing these projects. However the centre government sabotaged it by not giving counter guarantees to the State Government forcing the State to hand over seven projects to the NHPC, a government of India corporation.
In 2001, Abdul Rahim Rather came up with the legislation to create separate power fund for the state. The state government presuming it would generate Rs 25000 crore enacted the law, the J&K State Land (Vesting of Ownership Rights to the Occupants) Act 2001.
The Act was named as Roshni Act so that whatsoever revenue was generated by it, it will be used in power sector. The government had kept January 1990 as cut-of date and described as state land the land as “illegally occupied” after 1990.
According to the law any occupant of the state land shall apply to the territorial Tehsildar for having such land vested / transferred to him under the provisions of the Act.

The concerned Tehsildar after holding an enquiry and verifying the contents of application would send a report to District Commissioner of the area with his recommendations. The District Commissioner would subsequently make further enquiry and forward the application along with his report to the committee which is required to pass appropriate order for disposal of land and also determine the price to be deposited by the applicant (occupant) for vesting of such state land.

The provisions of the Act, shall however, not apply to such land as is earmarked for a specific purpose in any master plan etc. Soon the National Conference lost power and the PDP-led coalition took over. In May 2004, Muzaffer Hussain Baig framed the rules. In November 2005, the Azad government took over and brought amendments in the law marring the whole scheme. It fixed the cut of date as 2004. Azad didn’t stop there.
For residential use authorized occupants (where lease had been granted) were asked to pay 25 per cent of the total value for upto 2 kanals. In 3 to 10 kanals, 40 per cent and for more than 10 kanals full value of the land has to be paid or as determined by committee.
For authorized overstayed occupants (where lease has expired) 35 per cent of total value has to be paid for 2 kanals or as determined by committee. For 3 to 10 kanals, 50 per cent of the total value and for more than 10 kanals occupants either have to surrender beyond ten kanals or pay full value which will be determined by the committee.
For unauthorized occupants who are in possession of upto 2 kanals (where no lease has been granted or allotment made) price has been fixed 40 per cent of the total value. For 3 to 10 kanals, 50 per cent of the total cost has been fixed.
In commercial area authorized occupants (where lease has not expired) will have to pay 30 per cent of the total value. For authorized over stayed occupants (where lease has expired) they will have to pay 45 per cent of the total value. And for unauthorized occupants (where no lease was granted) 60 per cent of the total value has been fixed.
The land which has been used for, what government says, institutional use like educational, religious, charitable, social institution and political parties recognized by election commission of India, rate list is: An authorized occupant (where lease has not expired), price has been fixed 15 per cent of total value. For authorized overstayed occupants (where lease has expired) 25 per cent has been fixed and for unauthorized occupants (where no lease has been granted) it is 50 per cent of total value.
The final blow was agriculture land. For agriculture land upto 100 kanals token money of Rs 100 has to be paid for maintenance of records. An authorized occupant (where lease has not expired), price has been fixed 15 per cent of total value. For authorized overstayed occupants (where lease has expired) 25 per cent has been fixed and for unauthorized occupants (where no lease has been granted) it is 50 per cent of total value.
Land Mafia
With the government of Jammu and Kashmir vesting ownership rights of thousands of kanals of state land to illegal occupiers, it is gradually losing the land, considered to be the biggest asset.
Sources said there was no provision of compensation for land acquired for implementation of scores of centrally-sponsored schemes like construction of roads, health care units and construction of drinking water tanks across the state. “But now with no land available, the government has no money to provide compensation to acquire land,” said an official of Revenue Department. “The government could have easily bartered the land. Now in absence of money, it would face severe problems in implementing the schemes.”
Sources say the government claim that farming community got the benefit of the schemes is full of contradictions. On February 9, 2007, when Ghulam Nabi Azad introduced the scheme in the Assembly he described it as a “revolutionary step” and stated that the farmers would be empowered by the Act as thousands of kanals having market rate of Rs 15000 crores would go to farmers. The Government had claimed that it would benefit 19 lakh cultivators but the State has only 16 lakh cultivators and only 16 percent of them have occupied the state land, mostly in Jammu. In Jammu district, the committee headed by the divisional commissioner gave away ownership rights on 42914.18 kanals while in Srinagar on 429.61 kanals. Sources in the Revenue Department said that major revenue came from Srinagar and Jammu cities with Jammu realizing Rs 15.47 crores against 1.77 lakh kanals and Kashmir division Rs 39 crores against over 31000 kanals. Sources said the government has been lenient in Jammu district and most of the beneficiaries were land mafia, politicians and senior officials.
However the first ever case filed in Srinagar by the Vigilance Organisation for transfer of state land under Roshni Act is a classic example of how the revenue records have been fudged and the Act misused. Last month the VO filed cases against top officials of the Government for transferring State land under Roshni Act to the big businessmen in Gulmarg.
The VO sources describe vesting ownership rights of land in Gulmarg as violation of all laws and say Roshni Act doesn’t apply in Gulmarg. The vigilance case is based on the argument that the State land even under occupation can’t be transferred to the occupant in the areas specified by the government for some purpose and the areas which come under the Master Plan.
Gulmarg has a master plan of 1966. Sources in the vigilance said that some five to six applicants have paid Rs 10 crores to the State government for the transfer of the State land in Srinagar and Gulmarg. The revenue officials, sources said, interestingly have not followed the law but violated the law by transferring the title of that land to the accused under the Roshni Act which doesn’t come under the purview of the Act. “In Jammu district the fraud might be at bigger scale. This is tip of iceberg. The Revenue department has to answer many things,” sources in the VO said.
As many as 80,420 cases are pending under the Act and the Government has not fixed any final date for disposal of the held-up cases. However NC-led government is indecisive to take action. The Chief Minister Omer Abdullah agrees that there has been large scale illegal transfer under the Act. However he didn’t comment when asked whether government would turn down the 80,000 more applications pending with the Revenue Department.
Sources said under threat was the land that belongs to the departments including Forest, Tourism and Irrigation. There are thousands of kanals of land in Srinagar city that belongs to the Tourism Department and Srinagar Municipal Corporation. Fearing huge land grab under Roshni Act by land mafia in Srinagar, the SMC has this month written to the Revenue department that the land including Kah Charai, Nazool, Panchayat should be identified. Interestingly the SMC so far has not conducted any such survey.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Govt's excuse to handover Baglihar to NHPC

Jammu, Apr 16: A spokesman of the J&K State Power Development Corporation has acknowledged the report about the Baglihar Hydro Power Project controlled by NHPC saying Baglihar being highly sophisticated and state-of-the-art project, its operation and maintenance was felt to be outsourced to the NHPC for a limited period which would be utilized for training of its own engineers and technicians as the requisite level of expertise was not available in JKSPDC and within the state government to run such a sophisticated plant.

The spokesman said in September 2008 a technical committee of top most engineers of the JKSPDC including the executive director and the chief engineer, Generation, Jammu had recommended that as the requisite level of expertise was not available within JKSPDC and in the state government to run such a sophisticated plant, it would be appropriate to outsource its operation and maintenance for a limited period of time which could also be utilized for training its own engineers and technicians.
Giving details, the spokesman said that in pursuance to the technical committee’s recommendation, JKSPDC called for offers from different quarters, including M/S Precision Engg. Services, M/S Siemens, M/S JAL and NHPC. The offers were examined by a high level committee of JKSPDC which was of the view that all offers except that of NHPC were incomplete in terms of their scope. 
The spokesman said an Apex Committee headed by the chief secretary and comprising financial commissioner, Planning and Development, commissioner/secretary, Finance, commissioner/secretary, PDD, managing director, JKSPDC and JKSPDC senior engineers felt that the NHPC offer should be guided by CERC norms on operation and maintenance which comes to Rs. 74 crore for the first year. He said within this amount, NHPC will also train all engineers and technicians of JKSPDC working for Baglihar project. The number of JKSPDC employees working for the project is going to be approximately 250, he added.
The spokesman said that the board of directors met in Jammu on March 25, 2009, and decided that the Baglihar project would be made commercially operational from April 1, 2009 and the operation and maintenance contract for the project would be given to NHPC for a limited period. He said the recruitment process for complete staff for Baglihar project is underway.

 

WHAT SPOKESMAN DIDN’T SAY:
The JKSPDC response does not deny our story. In fact, it has authenticated the facts that the government has given Baglihar to NHPC. The spokesman is silent about shelving of the recruitment process in the JKSPDC in 2004-2005 when the PDP-led coalition was in power. The JKSPDC had conducted interviews to select engineers for training them for the operation and maintenance of Baglihar. However, the list was shelved for unknown reasons even after the selection process was complete. Why?
By sabotaging the recruitment process, heavy losses have been inflicted on the state exchequer. Now, the state has to pay Rs 120 crore to the NHPC for maintenance and operation of the project. Had the concerned officials recruited and trained the people in time, and had the PDP-Congress coalition government taken the issue seriously, the state could have saved Rs 100 crore and ploughed the money back into development of 93 MW new Ganderbal project, which requires Rs 500 crores only.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

NHPC would control Baglihar too

State Didn’t Pay Rs 18 Cr To Train Local Engineers For Maintenance, But Will Pay NHPC Rs 120 Cr Annually

NASEER GANAI/MUDDASIR ALI
Srinagar, Apr 15: The Jammu and Kashmir government has decided to hand over the control of 450 megawatt Baglihar power project; the first state owned power project, to National Hydro Power Corporation (NHPC) for maintenance and operation, highly placed sources told Greater Kashmir on Wednesday. The move has evoked severe criticism from top officials in Jammu and Kashmir Power Development Corporation who believe that the Corporation has the potential to run the project, sources said.
The decision to handover Baglihar’s control to NHPC was taken a meeting of the Jammu and Kashmir Power Development Corporation Board headed by chief minister Omar Abdullah last month, sources said.
“The NHPC would charge Rs 120 crore annually for maintenance and operation of the project for two years,” sources said, adding the corporation is waiting for allocation of the money before formally taking over the charge. It has been reliably learnt that the commissioner secretary power has played pivotal role in pushing the deal through, sources said.
“The NHPC was eying the Baglihar, set up on the river Chenab in between the two power projects, Dul Hasti and Salal, both of which are the central owned projects run by NHPC. The corporation has its interests directly associated with the two projects,” sources said adding, “With Baglihar sandwiched between Dul Hasti and Salal, the NHPC will have now full control when to release the water from Dul Hasti to Baglihar and Baglihar to Salal for power generation at the cost of state owned project.”
Criticizing the move by the government, a senior official in the power ministry said that there was a standing offer from Hyderabad based Precision Engineering Services, which had carried out major electro-mechanical works of the project to maintain and operate it at a cost of Rs 3 crore annually. “The government could have easily outsourced the service contract to the Company which in turn would have been beneficial for the state,” he said.
The construction of the Baglihar involved two types of works, civil and electro-mechanical. While the former was carried out by the renowned company Jai Prakash (JP), the contract for the latter was taken by Voith & Seimens at cost of Rs 700 crore and they had involved the Precision Engineering Service.
“It had actually implemented the electro-mechanical works of the Baglihar on ground, and obliviously they are well aware with all the technicalities of the project in comparison to the NHPC,” said the official adding the company had involved experts from the JKPDC for carrying out the works.
The official said the state power ministry had sufficient talent available to run successfully the project like Baglihar. “As far as the operation of the project is concerned it can be easily done by our engineers. Twenty people are sufficient to operate it in four shifts round the clock. In fact at present the Baglihar was successfully operated by four to five local engineers,” the official said.
For maintenance, the official said the local engineers could have been trained to run the Baglihar but same was not done for past nine years since the work on the Baglihar was commissioned. In 2005 the PDC had advertised 100 posts of junior engineers out of which a lot was to be picked up for training them to maintain the project, he said.
“The interviews were held, selection process was conducted but the then managing director JKPDC, presently commissioner secretary power withheld the list without any reason and ultimately the process was shelved,” the official said.
“It seems a conspiracy is being hatched at some levels to prove that Baglihar is a failure and state has no potential either to set up or manage the power projects independently,” sources said the daily income of the project is more than Rs 2 crore. “At any cost Baglihar should have been the priority of the government.”
Siemens, a premier company in the international power generation sector, had assured the state government that it will train its engineers in six months for operation and maintenance of Baglihar while charging a monthly fee of Rs three crore. “We could have got the skilled manpower in six months for Rs 18 crore but the government shelved the offer,” the official said.
With the commissioning of the first phase of Baglihar, the state’s power generation has reached 759 MW which is more than the cumulative 309 MW generated in the state during the last 60 years. Even the power purchase bill of JK would get reduced by Rs 400 crore once state clear its debts, as 50 percent of the power generated from Baglihar was scheduled to go towards debt servicing for the initial period of 10 years.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Elections won't make any difference to Kashmir issue: CM



 Power Coporation would be listed company like JK Bank
 That PDP lies was proven by Bandipora incident
 Channels reported Taliban in Kashmir, which is not true

Jammu, Apr 11: Kashmir dispute has to be resolved whether there is four percent or eighty percent voting in assembly elections, whether assembly elections are held or not, and even if National Conference is in power it still believes the relevance of Kashmir issue, chief minister Omar Abdullah said on Saturday.
In an exclusive interview, Omar said his views on elections remain unchanged. “I have always maintained that whether you participate in an election or you don’t, your caliber cannot be gauged. What is important is that we all work toward finding a consensus around which the solution of the Kashmir can be found. Whether four percent or eight percent people participated in the elections, Kashmir issue is there, which must be resolved,” Omar said when asked if he still de-linked elections from the resolution of Kashmir issue.
Omar suggested a two pronged approach for resolving the dispute: a dialogue between India and Pakistan and a dialogue between New Delhi and Jammu and Kashmir. Both the dialogues are important and must carry, regardless of elections.
“The fact is that the National Conference being in power today doesn’t change its position regarding resolution of Kashmir issue. Even in power we believe relevance of Kashmir issue,” he said.
When he launched the election campaign for 2008 Assembly polls from Budgam, Omar had stated that elections were merely for development, and he wound not contest elections if the Hurriyat Conference and leaders who advocate boycott of polls would promise him that they would provide water, electricity, and bridges to the people. The chief minister spoke on some critical contemporary issues:

POWER DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION WOULD BE ANOTHER JK BANK
Omar said he was concerned about the exploitation of the water resources of the State and intended to make the Jammu and Kashmir State Power Development Corporation (JKSPDC) a listed company on the pattern of Jammu Kashmir Bank. Presently the JKPDC get its employees from different departments on deputation basis. “Before the term of this government is over JKSPDC would be the second listed company from the government,” Omar said. 
“I believe the JKSPDC has enough assets and should be de-linked from the government,” he said, adding once listed it would have valuation that would allow JKSPDC to mobilize resources and raise more money for constructing new power projects. He said the government would be the majority share-holder and will have its presence in the board the way it has in the JK bank.
“It wouldn’t meet the same fate as the JKPCC. There is big difference between a Construction Company and a Power Development Company. The JKSPDC has biggest assets in the form of Baghlihar; it has installed capacity. I believe even in this depressed market if you were to float JKSPDC you will get a very good valuation for your shares, simply because the corporation has the capacity,” the CM said.
Omar said the government, however, would need to bring in the necessary talent and corporatise its functioning before floating it as a listed company. “That would make huge difference to the JKSPDC’s ability to create and develop power projects,” he said.
Omar said the government mulls to set up several power projects in the state sector in future. He said the government has set up a committee to negotiate out of the court settlement on Sawlakote Project, adding several other power projects would be established on the BOOT (Built, Own, Operate and Transfer) basis.

NO TALIBAN IN KASHMIR 
Omar strongly denied presence of Taliban in Jammu and Kashmir, saying the report by the Director General of Police, Kuldeep Khoda, about presence of Taliban, in fact, referred to “proximity of the Taliban to Islamabad and its implications on Jammu and Kashmir.”
“At no point in time has anybody from the government given any indication that Taliban has come to Jammu and Kashmir. Some news channels reported that Taliban were in Kashmir, which is not true. There is no evidence that the Taliban has infiltrated into the state,” he said.
Asked to respond to charges of the PDP that the Taliban threat was invented by the NC government to ensure election boycott, he said, “I would love the PDP to explain how a boycott helps the NC. Even after good turnout of the recent elections I am sitting in the government and PDP is sitting in the opposition. So I think boycott never helps the NC; the NC is a cadre based party and the higher the number of voters the larger would be our vote share,” he said.

AFSPA
He said the government was serious about revocation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). “No chief minister has ever made a statement about its revocation on the floor of the assembly,” he said.
PDP IN HABIT OF LYING, BANDIPORA INCIDENT PROVED IT
On the PDP’s criticism that NC-Cong coalition government was not visible, Omar said if visibility “is what the PDP did in three years then we prefer to be invisible.”
“We prefer to make less noise and do more,” he said, adding, “In three months we did more than PDP’s healing touch statements in six years. I would like to see one place, one single incident where PDP led government of Mufti Muhammad Sayeed made anybody accountable for incidents of human rights violation or conceded to demands of people or shift an army camp,” he said.
He said his government has proven that PDP is smitten by a habit of lying. “We proved it on the floor of the Assembly. No less a person than the PDP president made an irresponsible allegation that 35 houses have been demolished in an encounter in Bandipora area. Previously such allegations would have gone uncontested and people would have believed them to be truth. I am the first chief minister who immediately sent the local MLA, DG Police, and one of our ministers to the spot, and it was proven that they were in habit of lying,” Omer said. He said his job would be to deliver on the ground and it would not be subservient to what PDP says.
To charges of PDP regarding encouraging political corruption by nominating Ghulam Qadir Pardesi for the upper house, he said the PDP should first answer what they did with Rafi Mir and Nizamuddin Khatana. “If anyone talks about the political corruption PDP at least shouldn’t be the one to talk about it,” he said. Unlike the PDP, he said the NC represents all regions and doesn’t indulge in double talk. “In Valley PDP talked about revocation of land transferred to the Amarnath Shrine Board and in Jammu Mufti Muhammad Sayeed gives press conferences and says PDP was never interested in cancellation of the transfer of land allotment order,” he said. “One statement in Jammu, another in Srinagar over the same issue. Somewhere he is telling lies. Either he is telling lies in Kashmir or in Jammu,” he said.
“The PDP is extremely uncomfortable with the growing acceptability of this government in the state as well as in Delhi. The credibility this government gained due to its strong stand on the unfortunate killing of two civilians in Bomai dealt a serious blow to the PDP’s credibility,” Omar said.
He said the relations between New Delhi and the state were harmonious, and that was reflected in the quick response by defense and home ministries on the Bomai incident.

RTI WOULD MAKE GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABLE, IMPROVE ITS PERFORMANE 
He said the government’s performance would improve due to right to information bill that has been amended by his government. He said the Act would make the government more accountable to people. “Every department has to make charter about its functioning. If we found they are not performing we will look into it,” he said, adding, people would demand more accountability from the government.
He however refused to comment on whether the rise in pay scale after implementation of the sixth commission would be linked with the performance of the officials. “If we see people are not performing we would do what we need to do,” he said.
He said the deputy chairman of the planning commission and other members of the commission had fruitful interaction with the State government. He said the planning commission however can’t approve the plan given that the central government is functioning on the vote of account. “After the parliamentary elections our plan size would be determined, and we will go with full budget,” he said.

NC-CONGRESS COALITION 
Asked why NC conceded all the seats to its ally Congress in Ladakh and Jammu and confined itself to the Valley, he said, “The congress would find it very difficult to win these seats without the NC’s support.”
He said the NC was not in business of hoodwinking people by getting into alliance then going for friendly contest. “The NC continues to be in three regions. Whether we fight elections for parliamentary seats or not,” he said. He said in the course of discussion we arrived at what is the most optimum and best decision for the coalition. “We could have disagreed over Ladakh and fought a friendly contest, but that would amount to fooling people. Being in an alliance demands propriety,” he said.
Asked in other regions regional parties are more assertive with the Congress, he said the State of Jammu and Kashmir shouldn’t be compared with Bihar where parties have sharing arrangements for 40 seats. “Here we have only six seats,” he said.

RELEASE OF PRISONERS 
He said most of the leaders arrested during the summer of 2008 or during the election boycott have been released. “We aggressively follow the policy of reviewing Public Safety Act detention cases and releasing the detainees,” he added.
Asked why the pro-freedom leaders have been restricted to their homes when you were talking about giving them a level playing field during the assembly election campaign, he said, “There is a level playing field. But it is not level playing field if you start asking people to throw stones. There are also responsibilities,” he said. 
Asked government was releasing people whose sentences under PSA were already quashed by the High Court, he said the Review Committee constituted to review these cases has recommended the release of other PSA detainees, too, and several detainees whose cases are still pending in the court have been released.

MUGHAL ROAD AND OTHER ROADS 
The Chief Minister said the Mughal Road had been opened for brief period and a convoy of jeeps already traveled over it. He said work on road was in progress and it would be completed in time. Simultaneously, work on other roads including Simthan Road, Doda-Desa-Kapran road linking Kishtiwar and Doda districts respectively with the valley would be started soon. He said relying on Jammu-Srinagar road that gets closed often was not prudent. “You will see much greater connectivity between the Valley and other parts of the state at the end of the term of our government,” he said.

SRINAGAR CITY
Promising to pump funds for developing Srinagar city, Omar said water logging was a major problem in the city that would be tackled. Besides improving electricity distribution and checking power theft, traffic management would be improved and a satellite city for Srinagar would be developed, Omar said. These projects would be taken when the funds become available, he said. He said the Government has given right portfolios to the right people.  He however insisted that no district would be neglected in any sector. “We will pay particular attention to the road connectivity to the remote and far-flung areas and we will give due attention to all districts of the state,” he said.

HEALTH SECTOR 
The chief minister said that the government was going to improve the functioning both the Medical Colleges of the State. Asked why the GMCs are not being governed under the MCI rules and run through SROs, he said health was crucial sector and the government would do whatever it can for its improvement. Asked about ad hocism in the SKIMS, GMC and Directorate of Health, he said, “We have certain things particularly with the case of Directors of Health of both Jammu and Kashmir. The guidelines that have been set are such that it makes a reasonable choice very difficult and we are streamlining the guidelines based upon which a director can be appointed,” he said. He said there will be no further extensions of the Director Health Kashmir. He said government would come up with the guidelines and once the guidelines in place; it would be making appointments to these crucial points.


Saturday, April 4, 2009

Politcs of Rural Development in Kashmir

How development funds are used to secure vote bank 

NASEER A GANAI
Srinagar, Apr 3: Providing housing, sanitation, and roads to the poor have been effectively used by political parties to cultivate a vote bank in rural areas of the state, especially in the Kashmir Valley.
While looking for the causes of its debacle in the rural belt in recent Assembly elections, the National Conference, it seems, has found one of the culprits: the Monitoring and the Vigilance Committees formed by the Peoples Democratic Party-led government in 2002 to oversee developmental works in villages. 
The committees were established by the PDP-led coalition after realizing their potential to create a vote bank. 
Sources said several schemes funded by the government of Indian require the assistance, recommendation, and monitoring by Panchayats. But in the J&K the Panchayat elections have not been held for decades, therefore, in the absence of Panchayats the PDP-Cong government formed the Monitoring and Vigilance Committees in every Halqa to identify and recommend beneficiaries for the schemes. 
Take Indira Awas Yojana, the biggest housing scheme in the India aimed at providing shelter to homeless people living below poverty line in the rural areas. The PDP-led government conducted a survey to identify people living Below Poverty Line, and employed the Vigilance and Monitoring Committees during the survey. Under this scheme Rs. 25,500 in plain areas and Rs 27,500 in hilly areas are given to the beneficiaries. The central government bears 75 percent cost of the scheme, the state government the rest. 
Sources said the list of beneficiaries has been prepared with the active influence of the Vigilance and Monitoring Committees, and most of the beneficiaries are the party workers of different political parties.
Sources said the National Conference led government presumes that the Vigilance and the Monitoring Committees in Panchayat Halqas were used to strengthen the vote bank. 
This has prompted the Rural Development Department Government of Jammu and Kashmir to issue a circular on 19 February 2009 saying the Vigilance and Monitoring Committees set up in different Halqas have ceased to function. 
“In certain cases it has been found that these committees have not stood the test of time and lost relevance among general masses,” the circular said, adding, new committees would be set up in consultation with general public.
The government has now nominated the additional district development commissioner as nodal officer of the Halqa Majlis comprising two to six villages. The nodal officer has been assigned to convene a meeting of Halqa Majlis and nominate different officers from different departments to supervising the Halqa Majlis or meeting of the Halqa. The Halqa Majlis would either ratify the existing Monitoring Committee or propose its replacement. The government has given the officials one month to identify the new Vigilance and Monitoring Committees.
“Every work in villages is being carried out in consultation with the help and assistance of the committees; formation of the new committees would bring transparency in the system,” said a senior official of R&D Kashmir. 
However, critics say that now the PDP monitoring committees would be replaced by NC ones. “It is not transparency but playing politics and getting votes. The PDP did it and now NC would do it,” said an official pleading anonymity.

Legally speaking

Can Supreme Court judgment be challenged in HC?
Naseer A Ganai
Srinagar, Apr 2: The High Court Bar Association (HCBA) decision to challenge the judgment of Supreme Court on available grounds in Muhammad Salim versus Nirmala Convent Higher Secondary School case in which the Apex Court had dismissed a Muslim boy’s plea to sport beard while attending the school has opened a legal debate whether the Supreme Court judgment could be challenged in the High Court through a writ petition.
“Yes, the SC judgment can be challenged on the available grounds and we would be filing a writ petition in the High Court to challenge the judgment in Muhammad Salim versus Nirmala Convent Higher Secondary School case in the High Court,” says HCBA president Mian Abdul Qayoom.
“To understand the issue first we should see Article 32 and the Article 226 of the Constitution of India,” he said.
Articles 32 and 226 are the provisions of the Constitution that together provide an effective guarantee that every person has a fundamental right of access to courts. Article 32 confers power on the Supreme Court to enforce the fundamental rights. It provides a guaranteed, quick and summary remedy for enforcing the fundamental rights because a person can go straight to the Supreme Court without having to go undergo the dilatory process of proceeding from the lower to higher court as he has to do in other ordinary litigation. The Supreme Court is thus constitution the protector and guarantor of the fundamental rights.
The High courts have a parallel power under Article 226 to enforce the fundamental rights. Article 226 differs from Article 32 in that whereas Article 32 can be invoked only for the enforcement of fundamental rights, Article 226 can be invoked not only for the enforcement of fundamental rights but for any other purpose as well. This means that the Supreme Court’s power under Article 32 is restricted as compared with the power of a High Court under Article 226, Qayoom said.
In 1988 he said in A.R Antualy case the Supreme Court said a final Supreme Court judgment can be assailed via writ petition under article 32 in the Apex Court.
In 1992 the Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court held that no writ under the Article 32 of the Constitution of India can lie against the final judgment of the Supreme Court. The Court however in its judgment said A. R Antualy case couldn’t be made be precedent for filing a writ in the Supreme Court.
In 1999, the matter was referred to the Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court. In this matter in 2002 the Court held the writ petition under article 32 will not lie before the Supreme Court against the final judgment when review filed against it has been also dismissed.
It however said the curative petition is maintainable. The curative petition against the review petition is sent to the senior judges and the bench that has heard the case and if they ask for reconsideration then the case would be heard by the same bench that has passed the judgment.
Qayoom said that in all these cases the Supreme Court has not discussed whether HC can interfere with the order passed by the Apex Court in exercise of its powers under article 226 of the Constitution of India.
He said in Rubiya Sayeed kidnapping case the Government of India through CBI approached the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India to transfer the case from JK to another State. The CBI had pleaded that the case should be transferred to another state owing to the disturbance in Jammu and Kashmir.
The Chief Justice, he said directed the Government of India to shift the case to the TADA Court Ajmar. In compliance with the CJ’s directions, the Government of India issued a notification to transfer the case. However in JK a writ petition was filed in the High Court to challenge the order of the Government of India.
Qayoom said in the case known as Javid Ahmad Zargar and others versus Union of India the single bench of the High Court comprising Justice A.M Mir stayed Government of India order.
Later, in the same matter, the division bench of the High Court comprising Justice V.K Gupta, Justice G.D Sharma quashed the notification of the government of India and directed it to reconsider the matter. He said it shows the HC has entertained the petition challenging the order of the CJ. In the same manner, he said, HCBA was going to file writ petition in the High Court to challenge the Apex Court order under Article 226.
However former advocate general of the State D.C Raina differs with the view of Mian Abdul Qayoom. Raina said the judgment of the Supreme Court or of the Coordinate Bench can not be challenged through a writ petition in the High Court. He said there is no question of the SC judgment can be challenged under 226 in the High Court. “The judicial review of the judgment of the supreme court can’t be permitted through the high Court. “It is not possible,” he said.