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Board to introduce several new initiatives
Home Deptt, SASB to finalize detailed Action Plan for
Yatra 2013 by Dec 31

Neeraj Rohmetra

Jammu, Nov 25: The State Home Department in consultation with Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) will finalize a detailed item-wise Action for Yatra 2013 by 31st December this year for the smooth conduct of pilgrimage. These assurances were given by the top State Government officials in an affidavit before the Division bench of Justices B S Chauhan and Justice Swatanter Kumar of the Supreme Court, which has been hearing the case pertaining to the pilgrimage. The State Government has constituted a High Level Committee (HLC), which is convened by CEO SASB and chaired by the State Principal Secretary, Home and the purposes of Committee is to overview the problems of the Yatra and ensure better management of the pilgrimage. The Apex Court backed Special High Powered Committee (SHPC) in its recommendations had categorically stated that for the smooth conduct of the Yatra, the necessary arrangements need to be reviewed from time to time. In this context, the HLC has served a useful purpose this year and it was recommended that the same body should continue to function in 2013 to overview the entire Yatra arrangements.

Responding to this recommendation, the State Government has submitted in a written documents that HLC would prepare a comprehensive item-wise Action Plan for the Yatra 2013 while identifying the gaps to be filled, the implementing agency, ensure provision of sufficient funds and also decided the time-frame for implementation of the plan.

"The State Home Government has also submitted that it shall deploy at least four Mountain Rescue Teams (MRT) during the pilgrimage next year. Also, the State Director General of Police (DGP) in consultation with the Union Ministry of Home Affairs will take necessary steps for arranging specialized training and the latest equipment for these teams", says the affidavit.

As far as the decision regarding the duration and schedule of the Yatra, the document says, "By middle of February, 2013 the SASB will determine the maximum number of pilgrims to be allowed to embark on the tracks, after taking into consideration the weather conditions and forecasts, track conditions, infrastructure available in the enroute Camps and at the holy cave, other required facilities. The Home Department shall ensure that only such pilgrims are allowed to cross the access control gates, who possess the Yatra permits for that date and the route".

The SASB has also decided to introduce several measures for smooth management of the Amarnath Yatra. "The Board shall redesign the Yatra permits to be used for Advance/ Spot Registration of Yatris, which clearly mention the specific date and route of the pilgrimage. To ensure that all on-spot registration is within the total number of pilgrims to be registered for a particular date/route and doesn't exceed the registration ceiling prescribed by the Shrine Board", says the document.

The Home Department will ensure that only such pilgrims are allowed to cross the access control gates, who possess the Yatra permits for that date and the route. The Shrine Board shall also decide on the feasibility of providing wristbands along the Yatra Permits and also about the colour coding of these permits.

While recognizing the vital need to protect the integrity of the environment, SASB has decided slew of measures to make sure that the pilgrimage has minimal affect on the environment and several teams are likely to be constituted to monitor all concerns related to the issue.

The Sewerage Treatment Plants (STP) at Baltal and Nunwan base camps are likely to be technically upgraded as required. As the land where the STP is proposed to be upgraded at Nunwan belongs to the Government, the necessary statutory clearance is being obtained by Tourism Department on urgent basis. Permission for construction under the J&K Control of Building Operations Act has been sought. Thereafter, application will be filed before the J&K High Court as no construction activity can be taken up in Pahalgam area with its permission. The work on Nunwan STP is likely to be completed by June 2013.

Chairman, Pollution Control Board (PCB) will depute special teams for collection of water samples for analytical studies to monitor quality of water before the start of Yatra 2013, during the Yatra and after the conclusion of the pilgrimage. Further, Environment Impact Assessment Studies will be commissioned whenever mandated and required under the relevant statute by concerned agencies.

The SASB shall also revise the existing Terms and Conditions of the permissions given to Langar organizations and devise suitable monitoring mechanism to those conditions. There will be adequate monitoring of the implementation of these conditions and all cases of non-adherence will be penalized. The CEO, SASB shall also initiate consultations regarding the effective treatment of the Langar waste and finalize an approved Action Plan for implementation during the Yatra.

The document also states that Secretary Forest will issue necessary directions for effective enforcement of ban on use of plastics and put in place a mechanism for reviewing its implementation from time to time.


CCS to take final call
Centre to depute experts to J&K for all weather fence

NEW DELHI, Nov 25: Taking another step towards permanent fencing along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir, Government will send an expert team of engineers from Army and civilian organisations next month to work out a plan for erecting a barrier that can withstand even heavy snowfall. A decision in this regard was taken at a recent meeting chaired by Union Home Secretary R K Singh here and attended by Director General of Jammu and Kashmir Police Ashok Prasad and other senior State and central officials, official sources said here today. Erection of a permanent fence along the LoC, a brainchild of the State police chief, is aimed at achieving zero-infiltration of terrorists from Pakistan and Pakistan- occupied Kashmir(PoK).

The team, which will comprise engineers from the Army and organisations like Central Public Works Department and National Buildings Construction Corporation, will study the feasibility of erecting an all-weather fence that can withstand snow avalanches and heavy snowfall, the sources said.

Out of the 740-km length of the LoC with Pakistan, India has built fence of around 550 km, work for which was completed in 2004. Out of this, more than 80 kms of fencing is damaged due to snowfall or avalanches as a result of which terrorists are able to infiltrate into J and K with ease.

The team will carry out a detailed feasibility study of erecting a permanent fence and submit its report to the Union Home ministry which will prepare a Cabinet note for final clearance from the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) headed by Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh.

The focus of the team will be on fencing plans at around 40 places mainly from North Kashmir like Kupwara, Gurez, Uri, Keran and Doda district in the Jammu region, which have been traditional routes for terrorists to infiltrate into the Valley.

A presentation to the Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde was also made last month during which the State police reasoned out that infiltration was curtailed to 80 per cent with the erection of a temporary fence in 2004 and that the remaining could also be eliminated once a permanent structure comes in place.

Army had been objecting to such an arrangement saying that erection of a permanent fence would leave some of the villages in North Kashmir outside it raising concerns among the people but the civilian administration opined that a gate could be constructed at such places which would be exclusively open for the ingress and egress of the people of this area.

Army had earlier objected even to the temporary fencing of the border in early 2000 but later agreed after the then Government under the UPA-I gave a go ahead.

The present fencing consists of double-row of fencing and putting in a wire which is electrified and connected to a network of motion sensors, thermal imaging devices, lighting systems and alarms. (PTI)

Major fire in Valley, 46 structures gutted

Excelsior Correspondent

Srinagar, Nov 25: A major fire in South Kashmir's remote village destroyed 46 structures in the wee hours today. Deputy Commissioner Anantnag, Farooq Ahmad Shah, while giving details said that the fire broke out at around 3 a.m. at village Frislan in Pahalgam area of Anantnag district and quickly engulfed the nearby houses damaging 46 structures. Fire tenders reached the village but not before major damage was caused. Around 15 fire tenders fought the flames and doused them at around 6 a.m. The houses, mostly made of wood, were completely gutted in the fire. There was no report of any loss of human life. However, over two dozen cattle perished in the blaze.

The cause of fire is being said to be charcoal that was stored by a villager in his house for winter. In Kashmiri villages, charcoal is being stored for heating and cooking purposes during the winter months.

Shah said that cash relief of Rs 10,000 was distributed among each family out of Red Cross Fund, while as Rs 40,000 to each family would be provided at an earliest. He said that the sufferers will be provided free ration for two months and besides this, IAY cases will also be sanctioned in favour of the fire victims for speedy construction of houses.

Shah said that the district administration will also provide the victims temporary housing till they construct their own houses. He said that Department of Forests will supply timber from next week to the victims for early construction of the houses. "Two water tankers shall remain available in the village while as electric transformer will be installed within a day's time to restore the electricity", he added.

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has expressed deep sorrow over the fire incident and sent a team of Ministers and officers comprising Minister for Forests, Mian Altaf Ahmed and Minister for Social Welfare, Sakina Itoo to visit the spot, meet the affected families and assess the loss to the property.

The Ministers while expressing sympathy with the sufferers assured them every possible support from the Government for their rehabilitation.

The Ministers on the occasion directed the district administration to constitute of team of officers for monitoring the rehabilitation work in the said village.

The opposition People's Democratic Party president, Mahbooba Mufti along with MLA Pahalgam Rafi Mir visited Frislana expressed and sympathies with the families. She also emphasized on the Government to go beyond routine scale fixed for such losses and provide generous financial assistance to the affected families.

Mehbooba urged the district administration to ensure hassle free transportation of timber, tin sheets and other building material to the village so that re building process could be started urgently.

Dozens arrested, 15 injured in clashes
Curfew like restrictions in Srinagar to
prevent Moharram processions

Fayaz Bukhari

Srinagar, Nov 25: Curfew-like restrictions were imposed in parts of Srinagar city today to prevent Shia mourners from taking out Moharram processions while police arrested over a dozen Shia mourners who tried to carry out processions in restricted areas of the city. Over one dozen protesters were injured in clashes that broke out in parts of Srinagar this afternoon. Authorities imposed curfew like restrictions in the areas around Lal Chowk, Abi Guzar, Regal Chowk and Kahanyar and parts of the downtown area of Srinagar city to prevent Shia mourners to take out Moharram processions in these area. The restrictions were imposed following apprehension that separatists might convert the religious gathering into political assembly. Early in the morning large contingents of police and para-military CRPF were deployed in the sensitive areas of Srinagar to prevent Shia mourners from taking out Moharram processions. The restrictions in these areas were imposed due to apprehensions that separatist groups might attempt to stage anti-national protests during the 10th Moharram processions today.

The Police and CRPF had sealed the restricted areas with the concertina wires and no movement was allowed in the areas of the city. In other areas of the city there was also heavy deployment of police and CRPF to prevent disturbances on the occasion of the 10th Moharram.

Despite restrictions a group of Shia mourners led by Anjuman e Sharyi Shiyaan Aga Syed Mujtuba appeared on Moulana Azad road near Lal Chowk. A large contingent of Police immediately swooped on them and arrested over a dozen of Shia mourners. They were bundled in police vehicles and taken to nearby Police Station Kothi Bagh.

Another group of Shia mourners led by Shia Youth Revolutionary leader Aga Mujahid Tanha appeared with a few mourners in Hari Singh High Street area of Srinagar. He along with his few supporters was also arrested by police.

In Hawal and Gojwara areas of downtown Srinagar, a group of youth pelted stones on Police leading to ding dong battles that continued till late in the evening. Police fired tear smoke to disperse the protesters. Over a dozen protesters and three policemen were injured in the clashes.

The restrictions and clashes led to closure of shops in Lal Chowk and old city areas of Srinagar. The Sunday market that attracts large number of shoppers on two kilometre road stretch between Lal Chowk and Radio Kashmir also remained shut due to restrictions. The traffic in these areas remained suspended.

Last Friday, clashes broke out in several parts of Srinagar city after police and CRPF tried to stop Shia mourners from taking out Moharram processions and a Shia mourner even attempted self- immolation against curbs.

Before the onset of militancy, the Shia community used to take out processions from Abi Guzar in uptown locality and Guru Bazaar in old city which culminated at Dalgate in Ram Munshi Bagh area to mark the 10th day of Muharram.

Authorities banned Moharram processions in sensitive areas in 1990 as they feared that militants might attack the processions. After the improvement in the situation the authorities apprehend that separatists might cause disturbance and use the processions for political ends.

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