Wednesday, April 29, 2009

"Govt fails to resolve water crises in J&K"

The Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party (JKNPP) has plans of highlighting the problems being faced by people in the state through demonstrations and rallies. Stating this the leader of the Panthers Party in the Assembly, Harsh Dev Singh, said that the ruling coalition of the National Conference and the Congress has been hit by inertia with the result basic problems of people were not being looked into. 
Harsh Dev said that the Government has not taken any immediate step for increasing drinking water supply to people in the Jammu region. He said it is amazing that successive state Governments had failed in resolving the drinking water scarcity even in the state's winter capital. He said that the state Government has equally failed in persuading the union Ministry of Urban Development in giving sanction to the two ambitious projects which could reduce the water scarcity problem in Jammu and Srinagar cities. He said that several months ago the state Government had submitted two schemes, one estimated to cost Rs.338.74 crores and the other Rs.535 crores for augmenting water supply in Srinagar and Jammu cities respectively. But so far there has been no word from the union Ministry. 
Harsh Dev said that since January last the ruling coalition has not initiated any measure for ameliorating the lot of people in the state. He said that the state had witnessed "paralysis" in the functioning of the administrative machinery. He alleged that peoples' cases kept on pending in different Government departments because of delay in ministerial sanction. He said that so long the size of the ministry was not increased work in Government offices and the civil secretariat would continue to suffer. He said the Panthers Party will agitate against these issues.

People’s involvement in conservation of water bodies emphasizesd

Deputy Chief Minister, Mr. Tara Chand has called for involving people in the conservation of water bodies and other natural resources in the state adding that this would help supplement the efforts already being made to achieve this objective. He said Jammu and Kashmir has been blessed with umpteen natural resources and beauty and there is dire need to preserve these for posterity.
Chairing a high-level meeting at Srinagar today, the Deputy Chief Minister said that water bodies and other resources give Jammu and Kashmir a place of pride in the world and “all of us should strive to maintain the beauty and grandeur of these gifts from nature”. He stressed for launching an awareness campaign among the masses to educate them about the conservative measures as also about improving sanitation. Mr. Tara Chand called for greater coordination among the concerned departments for improving the civic amenities in Srinagar and Jammu cities as also other towns in the State. He said that an exercise should be undertaken to identify all the land available with the Srinagar Municipal Corporation, Srinagar Development Authority and other departments so that it is put to proper use and utilized for creating assets. He directed for making inventory of this exercise.   The Deputy Chief Minister instructed the officers to submit a weekly report about the progress made under various development schemes and measures taken to remove encroachments and illegal structures, if any. He said the Master Plan formulated for Srinagar city should be adhered to and no deviation should be made. He asked for ensuring proper land use in the cities and towns saying this would add to the efforts made for providing better amenities to the people in these areas.  Mr. Tara Chand said that Lakes and Waterways Development Authority, Srinagar Municipal Corporation and Srinagar Development Authority have an important role to play in the development of Srinagar city and extending improved urban facilities to the dwellers. He said the beautification and sanitation efforts would receive a boost if people are educated about the same.  Among others, Vice-Chairman, LAWDA, Mr. Irfan Yaseen, Vice-Chairman, Srinagar Development Authority, Mr. Baseer Ahmad Khan, Director, Local Bodies, Mr. G.A. Qureshi and Commissioner, Srinagar Municipal Corporation, Mr. Farooq Ahmad Renzu were present.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Abdullah invites tourists to Kashmir

National Conference (NC) President and former Chief Minister (CM) Dr. Farooq has reiterated that his party will facilitate talks between pro-freedom leaders and the centre.
Kicking start his election campaign from Srinagar’s Dal Lake on Tuesday, Dr Abdullah said, that soon after the elections NC will facilitate talks between separatists and the Centre so that a way is paved for the resolution of Kashmir issue.
Abdullah said that he decided to kick start his election campaign from world famous Dal Lake to clear the confusion created by some miscreants that Kashmir was not a safe place to visit.
“Tourist season is low because of propaganda unleashed by some miscreants. There was a strong need to tell people that Kashmir is a safe place and we’re ready to welcome them,” Abdullah said.
“My message to the people of the world is come and enjoy the scenic beauty of Kashmir,” he added.
When asked if Rahul Gandhi’s rally at Islamabad district of South Kashmir will help NC candidates in the ongoing parliamentary elections, NC President said that Rahul Gandhi is the youth leader of the Nation and his presence will certainly be an advantage to his party.
“Rahul Gandhi is the youth leader of the nation. We not only wanted him to visit South Kashmir but Srinagar and Baramulla as well,” NC president said, adding “Rahul wanted to tell the youth of the state that he is with them.”

Monday, April 27, 2009

Conserving endangered Pir Panjal mountain goat

Markhor conservation gets fresh lease of life
Jammu and Kashmir Wildlife Protection Department has decided to develop Markhor Recovery Project at a cost of Rs. 10.72 cr. The said amount was received from the Public Works department, Mughal road project as 5% of the project cost on account of the construction of Mughal Road passing through the Hirpora Wildlife Sanctuary. 
Launching of the Markhor Project will go a long way in conserving this rare species and preserving its habitat spread over the Pir Panjal Range of the Valley.
The Ministry of Environment and Forests, supporting the State’s demand of utilisation of funds deposited under Compensatory Afforestration Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) of the Government of India, has given approval to the Markhor Recovery Plan formulated by the Wildlife Department for development of the Markhor Habitat in the Hirpora Limber, Lachipora Wildlife Sanctuaries and Kazinag National Park.
The State government has already extended the area of the Hirpora Wildlife Sanctuary by 150 sq km and notified the Kazinag National Park. The National Park is the habitat of critically endangered Markhor, the mountain goat, which is also listed in the red list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). The park is also home to several other endangered wild species like Musk Deer, Asiatic Black Bear, Brown Bear, Himalayan Palm Civet etc. 
As per the 2004 census, Markhor has a population of around 280 to 330 in Kazinag, Boniyar Hirpora areas of Kashmir Valley and Poonch district of Jammu region. A comprehensive Species Recovery Programme for Markhor was set as a precondition for the revival of Mughal Road.
The funds available with the Wildlife Department will be utilized for activities like fencing, habitat improvement, afforestation, soil and water conservation, development of infrastructure like guard huts, staff quarters, check- posts, measures for mobility and communications, fire protection, anti-grazing / anti-poaching activities, construction of nature trails and inspection paths, publicity and awareness, eco-development activities and ecotourism etc, besides regular census and survey of Markhor and other important wildlife species found in the Markhor habitats.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Gujjars are of Turk Origin: Study

TRCF writes Turkey Embassy for joint study
A latest study revealed that the word “Gujjar” has been originated in Turkey and initially used by Turks of Central Asia in third millennium BC. In Turkish language the word “Gujjar” was spelled as “Göçer” which stand for a dominant ethnic group who were later turned into a seasonal pastoralist nomad , said a report based on the study conducted by Tribal Research and Cultural Foundation a National Organization working on Gujjars of Indian States.
Releasing the study , Dr. Javaid Rahi, National Secretary of Tribal Foundation said that new research has proved that the Gujjar race had remained a most vibrant identity of Central Asia in BC era and later ruled over many princely states in northern India for hundred of years and left their imprints in the Himalayan ranges and inscribed them in such a way that they could not be destroyed even after thousand of years.
The study further revealed that the 5000 year history Gujjars unexpectedly resembles with the tribes of Turkic origins who left for Koh-e kaf during the era of Christ along with their, camels and other domestic animals. 
The study further said that in Jammu and Kashmir state “Turk” is one of the important cast (Gotra) of Gujjars and hundreds of Turk Gujjars are residing in different districts of Kashmir Valley.
Study said in Gojri there are a number words which are Trkish origin thereby linking the Gujjars history with Turks. Even this is surprising that the Tribal Folk-Art and Costumes of Nomadic Gujjar still resembles with that of Trakish tribe.
The anthropological study said that the physical feature and facial expressions of Gujjars amazingly resembles to that Turkish Tribals.
The study further said that one Göçer (Gujjar) Khan, of Turkistan was a commander in Babur’s army and he had done a remarkable work in binding various ethnic groups.
Dr. Rahi further told that the Foundation is in correspondence with and seeking help from Turkic mission in India regarding conducting a genetic survey of Gujjars to establish their roots in Central Asia from where they are believed to migrated different parts of the world especially to the sub continent.
The study further said in Central Asia places like Gurjarni, Gujari Pil, Gujreti are named after the name of Gujjars clan or Gots linking this ethinic group with its routs. 
The study suggested that the scholars, anthropologists and
historians of the countries like Turkey , Georgia, Iran, Pakistan, India etc. should come forward and should study this connection through anthropological, archaeological and historical evidence.
The conclusion of the study stressed for an inter-disciplinary and indepth research at national and international level with the help of these countries. so to study the rich culture of these nomads.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

No 'Jehad' in Kashmir, I was misled in Pak: HM militant

Plan disclosed, India can face another attack 
56 militants infiltrated in Valley, 32 killed: Army  
Pak militant, arrested on Saturday from Gurez sector warned the army of another Mumbai-like terror attack which can be launched by the terror operatives anytime.
A huge cache of arms and ammunition was also recovered from his possession, Army spokesperson Brig Gurmeet Singh said at a press conference on Saturday. 
According to the sources, as many as 120 militants have entered Indian borders. Out of these, 31 militants have been neutralized so far. About 89 militants are continuing with the mission to conduct another Mumbai-like blast in India.
The Hizbul Mujahideen militant, identified as Syed Moin-ul Shah, hails from Pakistan's North West Frontier Province and underwent training in Mansera. He was caught while trying to return to Pakistan. Moin-ul Shah said, ‘We had a huge cache of arms and ammunition with us. We intend to conduct more attacks in India. We were all trained in Pak.'
The arms and ammunition – which include 10 AK-47s with 13,000 rounds, 32 Kg explosives, 14 RPG shells and 445 grenades – were recovered on a tip-off from the nabbed militant, from Gurez sector. Describing the situation in Kashmir as normal, a Pakistani militant of Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) said he and others were misled that people here were not being allowed to offer prayers, women are molested and youths tortured by the Indian Army.
''I wanted to go back to my country as after visiting a number of areas here soon after my infiltration, I found people busy in their daily work,'' said the HM militant Syed Mainullah Shah, son of Badshah Rawan resident of village Katanpanjeer of Dir District in NWFP of Pakistan, who was arrested by troops in south of Shamasbari in Gurez sector about 10 days ago.
Talking to newspersons at the headquarters of 15 Corps here this afternoon, he said, ‘‘There is absolutely no Jehad.'' He said in Pakistan and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) people are being urged to join the Jehad (holy war) in Kashmir where Muslims are not allowed to offer prayer, women are raped and molested, youths tortured and put in jails.
I too decided to join the Jehad here and contacted a HM militant,'' he said, adding he received training with other militants in the forest area across the border.
He said different organisations, including HM, Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammad, Harkat and Pir Panjal Range (PPR) are running training camps in Pakistan and PoK.
However, there was no Taliban militants in these camps and they are getting training in Afghanistan, he said.
Shah said there are three courses--21 days, 40 days and three months-- in these camps.
He said ''We were also told in the camps about grave situation and Human Rights (HR) violations being committed by the Indian security forces.
''We crossed into this part of Kashmir through snow-bound mountains from PoK,'' he said, adding there were 31 militants. Eight militants and guides were killed under a snow avalanche.
Army claimed that thirty-two militants out of fifty-six, who had infiltrated into Kashmir Valley this year, were killed in separate encounters in north Kashmir’s Kupwara and Bandipora district. 
“Twenty six militants had infiltrated through Drangyari and Hafruda forests in the Shamsbari range (Kupwara) and a group of 31 entered via Gurez sector in Bandipora. While twenty militants were killed in Kupwara, 12 others have been gunned down in Gurez,” Brigadier General Staff (BGS) of Army’s Srinagar-based 15 Corps, Brigadier Gurmeet Singh told reporters at the corps headquarters at Badamibagh here.
Besides the killings, the Brigadier also claimed that six militants, one porter and snow clearance man have been killed in avalanche that struck them in the Gurez sector. 
“The bodies are still buried under the snow,” said he, adding 89 avalanches were reported in the north Kashmir so far since January.  
Reports reaching Press Bureau of India said that the Brigadier claimed that 53 militants including the 32 infiltrators were killed in the valley this year. 
Army also presented a Hizb militant before the media whom the Brigadier claimed was arrested in Gurez sector and was part of the infiltrating group. 
“On the militant instances, army has recovered huge war like cache including 10 Ak 47 rifles, 12,876 rounds of AK-47 ammunition, RPG Launcher, 14 RPG shells, four UBGLs, 445 UBGL grenades, 06 Chinese, 21 rifles grenades, 32 kgs of explosives and other ammunition and detonators,” said Singh. The weapons were later displayed before the media. 
The arrested militant has been identified as Syed Moinullah Shah alias Wahid son of Badasha of North west province, Pakistan. 
After queried by the Brigadier, the militant, “big catch,” said that cadres belong to four militant outfits including Hizbul Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Toiba, Jash-e-Mohammad and PEPR, a little known outfit.
“A group of 120 including 31 militants, 45 porters and snow clearance men infiltrated through Gurez,” said the militant, while responding to the questions.  
Regarding his arrest, the militant said that brother of the person, with whom he had entered the valley, took him directly to the army camp while as he had promised to manage his return safely to Pakistan. 
“I gave him Rs 1000 for getting rations and other things required during the travel through the difficult terrains and while I thought he was taking me towards the border area, I landed in an army camp,” he said. 
The arrested Hizb cadre categorically rejected the any connection exists between militants operating in Kashmir and Taliban fighters. 
“The militant outfits working in Kashmir have no connection with Taliban,” said the militant who army said stayed here for twelve days before his arrest. 
Gurmeet Singh, Brigadier General Staff, also claimed that the army was keeping a close track on the movement of the surviving militants and asserted that “they will be killed in near future.” 
He said that infiltration attempts were earlier than ‘expected’ this year. “The militants are being pushed into this side,” he said. The Brigadier also ruled out any possibility of Taliban presence in Jammu and Kashmir. “There is no conclusive evidence about the Taliban presence in Kashmir,” Gurmeet Singh said during the sidelines of the press briefing. 

World famous Dal Lake cleaning operation begins

Calls for restoring its originality 
Continuing with its efforts to restore grandeur and originality of the world famous Dal Lake, the Jammu and Kashmir Lakes and Waterways Development Authority (LAWDA) has launched a massive manual de-weeding of the lake alongside mechanical process with increased number of labourers.
Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir, Mr. Masuad Samoon inaugurated the manual de-weeding operation, Spring-2009 at Oberai Ghat of the Dal Lake today in presence of Vice-Chairman, LAWDA, Irfan Yaseen and other officers besides media persons.
Highlighting the significance of the traditional de-weeding operation of the Dal and Nigeen Lakes, the Divisional Commissioner said that restoring the pristine glory of the Dal is a top priority with the present government. He said, the Dal is our heritage which we have to preserve for our posterity. He called for coordinated efforts by all of us to keep the Dal free from pollution and extending cooperation to LAWDA in preserving and conserving the water treasure in the state which is an attraction for tourists all over the world.
Vice Chairman, LAWDA said that de-weeding of the Dal and Nigeen lakes is being undertaken annually but this year more labourers are being engaged for the operation. He said 600 labourers are at work today while from tomorrow 1000 labourers would be engaged for the operation. He said the spring de-weeding operation would continue upto August while the Autumn operation would be started in November this year. He said during last year weeds on water expanse of 76000 cubic meters were extracted both manually and mechanically adding that this year more weed extraction is expected with increased number of labourers. He said during March this year duck weed was also removed from the lake. He said conducting manual operation of the Dal not only helps in restoring its pristine glory but also is a source of employment for Dal dwellers. 
Highlighting the importance of manual de-weeding operation, the Vice-Chairman, maintained that this process is free from hazards as only unwanted weed are being removed from the water body.

Chinar Heritage Park at KU soon

To develop a Chinar heritage park at Naseem Bagh Campus, Kashmir University has shifted 30 families of administrative staff to other quarters of the varsity. 
At the same time some structures in Naseem Bagh have been demolished to open up the space. In addition 400 new Chinars have been planted in KU campus. It may be mentioned that Vice Chancellor has already banned new constructions at the Naseem Bagh campus. The nature lovers and civil society have highly appreciated this initiative.

Friday, April 24, 2009

'False reports' of Taliban presence hurting tourism: J&K Govt

Recent media reports suggesting presence of the Taliban in Jammu and Kashmir has triggered worries in the state government which on Friday said the "mis-reporting" has hit the tourism industry, particularly when the peak tourist season is set to begin. 
Officials of the state's Tourism Department emphasised that the situation in Kashmir has improved after two decades of militancy and tourists in the valley are "as safe as anywhere else" in the country. 
The "mis-reporting" about the presence of the Taliban has already resulted in some cancellations of bookings by tourists, Tourism Secretary Tanvir Jahan told reporters in New Delhi on the sidelines of the 16th Annual South Asian Travel and Tourism Exchange (SATTE). 
She said sections of media had wrongly reported about presence of Taliban in Jammu and Kashmir even though the army, state government as well as the Centre have denied such reports. 
"The recent reports in certain section of media, particularly the electronic media, about the presence of Taliban has not only adversely affected but also given a serious jolt to the ensuing season," J and K Tourism Director Farooq Shah said. 
He said the situation in the Kashmir valley is improving after two decades of militancy

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

DIVE TO COOL: As the level of mercury continues to rise in Jammu, people started looking for different ways to cool down themselves.

Ever largest eco-friendly rally of citizens, Scouts march through Srinagar

World Earth Day celebrated in Valley

In connection with celebration of World Earth Day, the Jammu and Kashmir State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) organized 2 mega events in Srinagar today. 
To mark the day, a green march was organized by the school children drawn from a large number of Eco-Clubs and members of J&K Scouts and Guides from Nishat to Habbak. The march was flagged off by Commissioner, Srinagar Municipal Corporation, Khawaja Farooq Ahmad Renzu in presence of Regional Director SPCB, Mian Javeed Hussain and senior officers of various departments.
More than 2500 students, Scouts and Guides participated in the Green March, displaying play cards and banners with catchy slogans for protection of natural resources of the Valley, particularly lakes, rivers, water bodies, mountains, meadows and forests.
The Commissioner SMC urged the youth in particular and public in general to work for the protection and conservation of environment by making active contribution in this noble cause through their sincere and dedicated efforts.
A large number of people all along 6 km stretch witnessed the Green March.
Later, a seminar was held at Kashmir University on the theme, “Don’t over burden the Mother Earth with Polythene”.
Dean Academic Affairs, Prof. Aziz-ul-Azeem was the chief guest while Commissioner SMC, Kh. Farooq Ahmad Renzu, Regional Director SPCB, Mian Javeed Hussain and Prof. Mufeed Ahmad were also present.
In his address, the chief guest dwelt upon the hazards of polythene saying that it was the responsibility of the entire society to avoid using polythene in their day-to-day life. He said the Dal Lake is getting polluted day by day mostly due to polythene.
On this occasion, an Eco-Friendly Website was also launched. A publication of renowned Environmentalist Mr. M.S. Wadoo titled ‘Meri Khahanee’ was also released by the chief guest. The environmentalist has also the credit of having discovered the oldest chinar in the valley.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Internet can boost tourism potential of J&K: Jora

Minister for Tourism and Culture Mr. Nawang Rigzin Jora has said that tourism is the backbone of State’s economy, adding that this sector has tremendous employment potential linked with its handicrafts, handlooms and carpet weaving, which have carved out a niche at the international level. He said State government has initiated various measures for promotion of tourism sector for attracting global tourists at a large scale.
The Minister said this while launching FLYWITHKRRISH, a Jammu-based travel portal, here today.
The portal will provide online booking for air and rail travel and car rentals as well as instant e-bookings of hotel rooms, which will greatly facilitate tourists visiting the State. The portal also offers other features like easy payment system, tour packages, insurance cover and foreign exchange to the domestic and foreign tourists.  
Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Jora said that J&K has now emerged as a hot tourist destination for overseas tourists by opening of international airport at Srinagar. He exhorted upon tour and travel operators to act as envoys of their respective states to encourage people to visit J&K this season and enjoy its serene environs.
The Minister welcomed the opening of the travel portal and hoped that it will go a long way in promoting tourism in the State, adding that it will provide tourists with an opportunity to book their online packages on the Internet.
Outlining the importance and potential of tourism in Jammu region, the Minister said that it posses a huge captive market of pilgrim tourists that visit the region round the year. He, however, asked for diverting these tourists to other scenic spots of the region, adding various Tourist Development Authorities have been created in this regard. “We have upgraded facilities at TDAs to facilitate tourists,”, Mr. Jora said, adding that Mughal Road would also play a key role in increasing tourism potential of the area. He said equitable development of tourism sector in all the three regions should remain the main aim. 
Mr. Jora said that tour and travel operators have played a commendable role in the revival of tourism sector in the State and hoped that this symbiotic relationship between the government and the operators will continue in the coming tourist season also.
The Minister further said that tourism sector has tremendous employment potential and need of the hour is to involve more youth in setting up of income- generating units under this sector. He said various innovative schemes have been launched under which loans and financial assistance is being provided to the unemployed educated youth, besides diploma and degree courses in food management and other tourism-related courses have also been started.
The Minister said the situation has now improved and asked for more positive media coverage for the State.
The Minister directed tourism functionaries down the hierarchy to work with dedication and zeal so that targets set under the sector are achieved in toto. 
MLA, Gandhinagar, Raman Bhalla, who was the guest of honour on the occasion, also addressed the gathering.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

JUMP TO BEAT THE HEAT: A Kashmiri swimmer boy jumps into the world famous Dal Lake on Sunday as the level of mercury rises

Wildlife census shows increase in Hangul population

There has been an increase in the population of Hangul deer, according to a latest census conducted by the Wildlife Department. The census has been conducted in collaboration with the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun and Wildlife Trust of India, New Delhi. 
The Census was initiated on the Hangul to identify threats to the species and formulate a strategy to save them. The Hangul is characterized by impressive spreading antlers of the adult male and its rich brownish red coat. Female Hangul does not have horns.
The estimated population is now between 201 and 234, compared to 117-199 in March 2008. The male-female ratio and female-fawn ratio have also shown an upward swing in the current census.
The increase in population is being attributed to the effective measures which include protection and control on poaching taken by the Department, besides involvement of independent volunteers, researchers, students and the NGOs.
Hangul or Kashmir stag is a critically-endangered species found in J&K mainly in the Dachigam National Park and its adjoining areas. Conservation of this species assumes great significance as this is the only survivor of the Red Deer group in the Indian Subcontinent. The species is placed under Schedule I in the J&K Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1978 and the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972. It is also listed in on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES).
The Department of Wildlife Protection, in collaboration with the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), has been regularly monitoring Hangul population in Dachigam National Park and its adjoining areas since 2004 through involvement of researchers, university students and the NGOs.
In order to conserve Hangul, a Species Recovery Plan has also been prepared by the Wildlife Department through the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun for a period of five years and submitted to the Union Ministry of Environment & Forests for approval. 
Launching of the Species Recovery Plan for Hangul will help not only in conservation of this critically endangered species but also enrich the biodiversity of the habitat where Hangul is found. The project will be implemented with the active involvement of the local communities. The current census data will form a valuable input for the planning and implementation of the Species Recovery Programme.
The recent Hangul population estimation was conducted in March 2009 in Dachigam National Park and its adjoining areas like Dara, Nishat, Braine, Cheshma Shahi, Khonmoh, Khrew, Wangath Conservation Reserves and the adjoining forest areas of Akhal, Najwan, Surfrao, Kulan, Mammar, Ganiwan. 
The Department has also started construction of a Conservation Breeding Centre for Hangul at Shikargarh, Tral with financial assistance provided by Central Zoo Authority, Ministry of Environment and Forests.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Systemic approach to promote Kashmir tourism

Secretary Mr. S. S. Kapur today said the government is following a systemic approach for the promotion of tourism in the State. He said the approach has yielded results and trade enquiries are coming from a number of areas. In an informal chat with the electronic media, here today, the Chief Secretary said though due to elections in the country, the tourist arrivals have been slightly lower than the previous year, the last few days have shown increased arrivals. He said a high-level official team headed by Secretary Tourism is going to Jaipur to attend an interactive meet for boosting tourism in the State. On the improvement of Dal Lake, Mr. Kapur said the project will receive attention from the State government and would welcome positive and constructive suggestions from people including media. He urged the media persons to report things correctly and in proper context. He said the Dal Lake and houseboats are interconnected and hoped soon the houseboats would put in place necessary sanitation mechanisms. He said in this regard, 3 or 4 sanitation mechanisms have already been tested. The Chief Secretary said in the long term, Kashmir rail, four-lanning of the National Highway and Mughal Road are the projects which can provide critical infrastructure base for the tourism industry in future. Stating that State government has pursued early-completion of Qazigund-Udhampur rail link with the Centre, Mr. Kapur said the government has also requested the Centre to consider the Mughal Road project on cent percent funding on the pattern of Prime Minister’s Reconstruction Plan projects. He said the road is already trafficable for light-motor vehicles.

Mr. Kapur said in the Srinagar city, a number of roads with tourist importance are being given a decent look. He said the High Court recently passed an order making throwing of solid waste a punishable act and said culprits would be dealt with accordingly. He said the government is very serious about banning polythene for which law needs to be translated into action.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tourists enjoying a ride in Kashmir's famous Dal Lake on Wednesday

Thank God, No Taliban in Kashmir

Thank God. People of Jammu and Kashmir desiring peace would have a sigh of relief after the Indian Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor on Tuesday said that there are no traces of the Taliban in the trouble torn state which is returning towards normalcy. The Valley of Kashmir has already seen bloodshed and suffered badly in the past due to violence and now the peace is returning fast in the sate and a common man is feeling secure now.
However, he indicated that forces are alert to protect the citizens by keeping check on the expected surge in infiltration in the run-up to the elections.
Another good thing, which Indian army has done, is having put a three-tier defence system in place to check infiltration.
Indian Army expects that during the run-up to the elections there would be certain amount of calibrations from the other side but the Indian forces are able to beat the situation and ensure that the Lok Sabha elections will be as peaceful as the assembly elections in state were held.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Kashmir Festival in June: 7-Days Tulip festival concludes

The 7-Days Tulip Festival concluded here today amid great fan fare with beating of drums and display of music by JK Armed Police Pipe Band at the foot hills of Zabarwan, 7 kms away from the summer capital. The festival was organized by the Tourism and Floriculture Departments.

  Director Floriculture, Dr. Ghulam Sarwar Naqash, Director Tourism Mr. Farooq Ahmad Shah, senior officers of Information, JKTDC and other department besides media persons and tourists from country and abroad were present on the occasion. Representatives of Tour and Travel agencies, House Boat Owners and Hotel and Restaurant Associations were also present. 

  The Director Floriculture while welcoming the guests said that 80,000 tourists visited the garden last year and about 15000 tourists visited the garden during the seven day festival. Of these, about 95 per cent were tourists from country and abroad.

  Director Tourism in his speech said that the department has taken host of measures to promote tourism in the valley which is the mainstay of our economy. He said the infrastructure is being developed at the Tourist destinations to attract more and more tourists adding that this would help boost the economy of the people associated directly or indirectly with this industry. He announced that Kashmir festival will be celebrated in June this year.

  On the occasion, the Information department presented a variety cultural programme which enthralled the audience. The J&K Cultural Academy had also arranged cultural programmes during the festival week.

  Other features of the festival were special local folk and other cultural programmes and installation of stalls by the Kashmir Government Arts Emporium, Handicrafts department and Agro Industries Development Corporation Kashmir cuisine were also kept at the JKTDC stall which was liked by the tourists.

  Mr. Hilal Ahmad Mattoo, Cultural Artist of Information department presented a skit which was applauded by the audience.

  Later, the Director Tourism gave away prizes among the departments who had installed stalls during the festival.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

First Kashmiri separatist declares to contest Lok Sabha polls

Senior separatist leader Sajjad Lone has decided to contest the Lok Sabha elections. He is the first separatist leader of his stature to join the democratic process since the outbreak of militancy over two decades ago.

Separatists in Jammu and Kashmir have previously rejected the democratic process. But now, the younger son of slain separatist leader and chairman of the People's Conference Abdul Gani Lone is garnering support for his election bid from Baramullah constituency in north Kashmir thus Indian democracy another breakthrough in Jammu and Kashmir.
Gulam Mohiuddin Sofi, a former minister and a confidant of Sajjad's father, is come out in support of Sajjad Lone.
Sofi won an election from Handwara assembly constituency in 2002 and later became a minister in the coalition government of Mufti Muhammad Sayeed.
But he lost to the National Conference candidate Chowdhary Muhammad Ramzan in Handwara in the December 2008 assembly elections.
"Sajjad Lone has a lot of goodwill and support, especially in Kupwara district," said a political analyst who did not want to be identified by name because of obvious risks.
So why did Sajjad Lone's sister Shabnum, who fought as an independent from Kupwara assembly constituency last year, got defeated by the National Conference? Many feel that this happened because Shabnum never enjoyed the support of the People's Conference.
Though Sajjad Lone is yet to formally announce his decision, mainstream parties like the National Conference and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have started looking at him as a serious contender.
The PDP has decided to field a senior leader and former minister, Muhammad Dilawar Mir, from Baramullah.
Mir lost the December elections to National Conference but is still seen as a formidable candidate.
Of the six assembly seats in the Baramullah Lok Sabha constituency, the National Conference won Sopore and Rafiabad while the Congress won the Uri seat. The Gulmarg seat went to former minister Ghulam Hassan Mir, who had fought as an independent.
"The so-called Sajjad factor is likely to become evident during the Lok Sabha elections. This could be a serious challenge to both the National Conference and PDP," said Qaramat Qayoom, a resident of Baramullah town.
In the 2004 Lok Sabha elections, the Baramullah seat was won by Abdul Rashid Shaheen of the National Conference.
Though the National Conference is yet to announce its candidate for Baramullah, insiders suggest at least three names are doing the rounds. They include Shaheen and Sharief-ud-Din Shariq.
"The choice would have to be made keeping in view the fact that both Sajjad Lone and the PDP would pose a challenge to our candidate," said a senior National Conference leader here.
More than who wins and loses the seat, the participation of a senior separatist leader in the poll process will mean that Indian democracy has already won. After that, political observers will keenly watch the extent to which the Sajjad factor hurts the prospects of the major parties.