Year 2018 was a year of uncertainty, turmoil, conflict and surgical strikes on political front. Daily Excelsior takes its readers through the events that unfolded during the year, and made it a year of happenings.
Jammu and Kashmir witnessed unprecedented political upheaval after decades, first six months witnessed the see saw balancing between alliance partners BJP and PDP, both testing each other’s patience with administration at stand still and finally after one month of reshuffle in ministry along with BJP getting a new State Chief- Ravinder Raina, first woman CM of J and K, Mehbooba Mufti lost power as BJP withdrew its support and Governor rule was imposed. Alliance
Government faced multiple problems, some self made and others beyond their control. PDP tried to put Centrally RUSA funded UIET engineering college under State Government’s control, vociferously opposed by students and ultimately restored back after Governor intervened. Similarly Nowshera, Sunderbani, Kalakote were on boil over the issue of ADC with Nowshera, constituency of State BJP President Ravinder Raina, witnessing complete shutdown for almost two months over demand of district status. Kathua region witnessed turmoil over the issue of Rasana rape case with people migrating from there alleging discrimination by Crime Branch and demanding CBI enquiry. In the whole process two BJP ministers, Ch Lal Singh and Chander Prakash Ganga, lost their ministry, BAR Association Jammu jumped into the controversy but was ultimately made to retract as Supreme Court intervened and transferred trial of the case to Pathankot for trial on day to day basis. For the first time in history of Jammu and Kashmir NC MLA, Mohammad Akbar Lone shouted pro Pakistan slogans inside the Assembly and Assembly also witnessed breach of protocol controversy between Speaker and Deputy CM. Governor N.N. Vohra got replaced with SP Malik, ending his long tenure in Jammu and Kashmir. To strengthen the administration, CS and one advisor from outside state were appointed.
On terrorism front, continuing from where they had left, terrorists struck on the first day of the new year in South Kashmir at CRPF camp and the encounters continued throughout the year in the valley as terrorists even attacked Military Station Sunjwan at Jammu, again
struck at Jahajjar Kotli Jammu and assassinated BJP leader Anil Parihar and his brother at Kishtwar. Kidnappings / killings of belt men and their relatives were a common phenomenon throughout the year, be it the occasion of Diwali or Ramzan. On one hand school bus got stone pelted while on other hand a young Chennai tourist lost his life in an unfortunate stone pelting incident. FIRs were also registered against army men despite AFSPA. Jammu bore the brunt of across the border shelling as the entire IB and LOC was active throughout the year with Indian army / BSF giving Pakistan a befitting reply from time to time. With missing bunkers, crumbled health services, thousands migrated from borders in peak summer.
Another area of tragedy was repeated major accidents on Ramban, Doda, Kishtwar, Bhaderwah highway along with Poonch – Rajouri highway. Among the dead were pilgrims of Amarnath and Chandi Mata. Eight local tourists also lost their life as huge boulder fell on them at Siar Baba water fall. All the accidents once again exposed the state of trauma centres along with district hospitals though work on five new medical colleges was taken up a step forward with appointment of principals. J and K also witnessed Basant mania for a brief period with IGP Traffic becoming hero for some while villain for others and finally got transferred.
Power segment remained affected throughout the year as Jammu division suffered in summer and Kashmir in winter with no serious efforts by the authorities to upgrade the infrastructure despite repeated reminders/ reprimands from Central PMDP team. On the development front historic Raghunath Mandir and Mubarak Mandi projects proved hype only along with Smart City projects as no substantial progress could be noticed this year. Baramullah to Kupwara railway line got approved and the first phase of the survey for the Bilaspur-Manali-Leh railway line project also got completed as initial estimates put the cost of the 465 km line at ?83,360 crore and even Jammu-Rajouri-Poonch railway line got approved .
Karan Singh retired from Rajya Sabha and Gulam Nabi Azad was declared best parliamentarian for the year 2015. Mehul Chowksi defrauded J and K Bank of 152 crores. Both JU and KU got their new VCs but simultaneously SKUAST(J) rating nosedived from 15 to 24.Aircel and Reliance Communications shut down their operations leaving lakhs of subscribers high and dry. This year, FM Drabu’s statement on Kashmir situation cost him his ministry. BJP blocked revised militant rehabilitation policy though it diluted its stand on Article 370 and 35 A. J and K’s KAS exams adopted UPSC pattern and 23 ETT colleges were sealed in the this year. Deficit of IAS, IPS continued and even judges’ strength of HC reduced to 50% despite J and K getting its first woman Chief Justice Geeta Mittal. Daughter of soil, Professor Neelu Rohmetra, Director IIM Sirmaur, HP received the ‘First Ladies Award’ for being the first woman to head an IIM.
This year also NIA kept its pressure on hawala operators and even raided central jail Srinagar from where number of mobiles, SD cards and other material got recovered. For a change 150 bungalows by politicians also got vacated this year. Print media also suffered this year as Shujat Bukhari, Editor in Chief of Rising Kashmir, was shot dead by terrorists. Chief Secretary BB Vyaas got the extension but later on under Governor’s Rule was appointed as an Advisor to Governor, later on as member UPSC. DGP SP Vaid was replaced by Dilbagh Singh under Governor’s Rule. Border residents got major relief as reservation was extended to residents of IB on the pattern of LOC residents.
In last six months with new Governor came the fresh breeze, things started rolling as long delayed projects like AIIMS, Jammu-Akhnoor road widening got much needed flip, corruption was taken seriously by new Governor with the cancellation of state employees insurance with Reliance as well as talks with AFCONS for two 10 kms tunnels for 1000 MW Pakal Dul hydro-electric project were shelved. Panchayat and Municipal elections were successfully conducted despite boycott by both NC and PDP and power equations took interesting turn with NC rebel spokesperson Junaid Azim Mattu got elected as Srinagar Mayor with BJP support. Final tally of both Jammu and Kashmir were very interesting , out of total 1144 seats BJP got 312 (Jammu 212, Kashmir-100), INC 267 (Jammu-110, Kashmir -157) and independents whopping 363 ( Jammu-185, Kashmir-178). Three candidates got elected with lottery system and Soura in Srinagar had a distinction of not casting a single vote though 11,265 voters were there with three candidates in fray. On the similar pattern Panchayat polls were also successfully conducted leaving a big question mark on boycott call of NC and PDP. Under the Governor SAC took some long awaited decisions like increase of honorarium of thirty thousand SPOs, setting up Anti Corruption Bureau, damage to horticulture sector due to untimely snowfall causing hundreds of crore loss as such was declared natural calamity, reservation for disabled, scholarship for specially able students to name a few. Major inter-state agreement of Shahpur – Kandi was signed this year. Ujh multi-purpose project also got cleared. Valley saw its first ever mass wedding as 105 tied knot at one place.
Kashmir got new IGP in SP Pani and many prominent terrorists were eliminated including Naved Jat , killer of Shujat Bukhari but the most disturbing news was arrest of engineering students with arms and ammunition from Punjab colleges, PhD scholars joining militancy under the influence of radicalization. CEC LAHDC, Dr Sonam Dawa Lonpo , passed away and Ladakh MP, Thupstan Chhewang resigned from Parliament as well as BJP on account of alleged neglect by BJP on issue of UT status. Initiative of 23 GW ultra mega solar power project got a flip as under phase one of the project, 2,500 MW Solar PV Capacity for Kargil region and 5,000 MW for Leh district got sanctioned. Prime minister once again visited Jammu and Kashmir for stone laying of Zojilla tunnel project and also dedicated the 330-MW Kishenganga Power Project constructed in Gurez area of Kashmir to nation.
Jammu and Kashmir was fined one lakh rupees by Supreme Court for not furnishing details on mid day meal scheme in the state and noticeably two from our state got Sahitya Academy Award, Dogri writer Inderjeet Kesar for novel ‘Bhagirath’ and Mushtaq Ahmad Mushtaq for his collection of short stories ‘Aakh’. Ladakh got its first University after 71 years and J and K got Special Industrial Package. HC directs removal of encroachments and illegal constructions in and around Tawi river from Nagrota to Mandal Phallian.
With President’s rule now prevalent in State, administration is in full throttle, daily reformative progressive decisions taken, one can feel the much needed flip of development which people of Jammu and Kashmir hope will continue in the ensuing year and on this positive note we wish all our readers ‘A Happy New Year’.