2020 Year of Pandemic and Problems

Rajan Gandhi
Year 2020 has been the year of turmoil for whole world and our Jammu and Kashmir also witnessed unprecedented sufferings due to COVID-19.Pandemic was sudden and before public realised it engulfed the entire country. On January 9, WHO announced mysterious Corona virus- related pneumonia in Wuhan, on January 2 Chinese Scientist Confirms COVID-19 Human Transmission, January 31 WHO issues global health emergency, February 2 global air travel is restricted, March11 WHO declares COVID-19 as Pandemic. India ignored the initial warning signs and did not screen all the international passengers until March 6. PM Modi himself took the initiative and on March 19 requested for a one-day ‘Janta Curfew’ for March 22. The first national containment measure in the form of a nationwide lockdown was introduced on March 25.
In UT, first two suspected cases with high virus load were detected and isolated on March 4 in GMC, Jammu. One of them became the first confirmed positive case on March9. Both individuals had a travel history to Iran. Proactively On 7 March, primary schools in Jammu and Samba districts were closed down until 31 March. On 15 March, Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board asked non-resident Indians and foreigners not to visit the temple for 28 days after landing in India. On 18 March, Jammu and Kashmir banned entry of all foreign tourists. Time to time our UT administration announced a slew of relaxations in accordance to MHA guidelines during Lockdown 3.0followed by more relaxations in Lockdown 4.0.On 5 June, UT administration ordered its employees to attend offices on regular basis beginning 6 June. Interstate transport is still suspended despite repeated MHA directives and all train services remained suspended to UT due to farmers’ agitation.
Jammu and Kashmir Health department failed to live up to the expectations despite best efforts from doctors as no planning, lack of oxygen remained bottlenecks throughout the year. Non functional ventilators, dialysis machines, manpower added to the sufferings of general public.MCI increased 67 seats of PG (MD/MS) in three premiere health institutions of Jammu and Kashmir-GMC Jammu, GMC Srinagar and SKIMS Soura, total now 560. VIPs kept at Narayana hospital whereas ordinary public at Yatri Bhawan, CD/Psychiatric, GMC or Gandhi Nagar hospitals. Renal transplant remains non functional despite spending 15 crores. 3 GMC Jammu Principals during COVID time affecting working. Health insurance scheme extended to entire J&K population.
Terrorism and cross border shelling remained unabated even during pandemic, two terrorists encounters at Ban Toll Plaza, one in January and one in November and numerous other in Kashmir kept security forces on tenterhooks. Absence of full body scanners at Ban Toll Plaza is just inexplicable. Galwan valley incident and martyrdom of security men deserve salute from entire nation. JKP received highest 126 gallantry awards for the bravery and sacrifices. ‘Operation All Out’ launched in 2020 and as many as 250 terrorists neutralized by security forces so far, completely wiping out top commanders including Riaz Naikoo, Dr Saifullah. There was practically no stone pelting in entire Kashmir this year. Mobiles and Sims recovered from Kot Bhalwal jail. Pakistan border remained hot entire year and in Ladakh China-India standoff continuing. Pakistan continues to be in Grey list of FATF. J&K airports security handed over to CISF.
Transformation of J&K from state to UT also went on with numerous roadblocks which GoI tried to overcome from time to time, be it 15 years stay for domicile, new domicile laws, implementation of various Central laws to UT, on the other hand for the first time after suffering for 72 years WPRs, workers, daughters of soil married outside got their due rights legally. Ex CMs of J&K not to have special perks /facilities, to pay income tax from own pockets now. Warrant of precedence issued, LG of UT at 10, CM at15 and ministers at 18 place. The J&K administration withdrew a 1971 circular for an NOC from its home department for acquisition/requisition of land in favour of Army, BSF/CRPF.
UT also underwent tremendous political turmoil as LG G.C. Murmu was suddenly replaced by Manoj Sinha, seven administrators in as many years of BJP rule. Farooq Abdullah was released after 7 months, Omar after 8 months and Mehbooba Mufti after 14 months of NSA detention. Gupkar Alliance got in shape and 7 parties fought DDC elections under banner of People’s Alliance of Gupkar Declaration in which it got 110 seats, while BJP 76, and independents 44 Both Farooq and Mehbooba tried to flare up passions, Farooq asking for China’s help and Mehbooba refusing to hold Indian tricolour. Terrorists continued to target political leaders in the valley, specifically Sarpanchs/Panchs and BJP leaders. LAHDC elections witnessed threat of boycott but ultimately BJP won 15 and Congress 9. Foreign envoys visited Kashmir.
JMC continued with its dismissal past record with a ranking of 224 while SMC improved dramatically to 36 rank. Jogi Gate Cremation ground remained in dilapidated condition with illegal construction of shopping complex which ultimately was demolished. JDA also hogged limelight with Panjbhakthar Temple Parking row, non-operational new bus stand complex, encroached land near Shankutla Theatre.JMC reprimanded by HC over 191 Municipal flats, 587 shops allotted without any criteria. Pollution remained a non-issue as UEED, ULB, DHS, JMC, JDA remain just mute spectators. MC Udhampur even fined 1.39 crore as compensation for polluting the environment by resorting to illegal and unscientific dumping and disposal of solid waste at the bank of river Tawi near Jekhani. UT gets 13 more Municipal Committees upgraded to Councils, 7 in Kashmir and 6 in Jammu, total now stands 19. Panjthirthi matador stand renamed as Atal Chowk and City Chowk as Bharat Mata Chowk. Only two towns, Jammu, Udhampur and one city Katra have Master Plan in place in Jammu Division.
J&K High Court, despite pandemic conditions, gave historic and significant rulings of handing over Roshni Land scam and Patnitop illegal construction case to CBI, strictures against Tourism Department. JKACB and Jammu and Kashmir Police warned for shoddy and delayed investigations. LAWADA fails to develop Dole Demb for rehabilitation of houseboat owners and Dal lake dwellers despite repeated reminders from HC. New HC Judges take oath to strengthen Judiciary in J&K. Poor internet connectivity in the absence of 4G hampers Camp Courts in inaccessible areas of UT. Three-member Delimitation Commission also setup, headed by former Supreme Court judge Ranjana Prakash Desai have already compiled data without visiting UT to redraw Lok Sabha and assembly constituencies of Jammu and Kashmir.
On development front, PM Modi inaugurated strategically important Atal Tunnel to enable travellers to reach from Manali to Ladakh throughout the year reducing travel time by 4-5 hours and distance by 46 km. Measuring 9 km, the Atal Tunnel is the longest highway tunnel above 10000 ft in the world and Union Minister Nitin Gadkari also launched the first blasting for construction related work at the 14.15 km Zojila tunnel, one of the longest in Asia, that will provide all-year connectivity between Srinagar valley and Leh, work on 624 MW Kiru hydroelectric project also started. One section of Jammu Ropeway got operational and administration tried to complete roads and bridges after lockdown. 198 crore Mansar rejuvenation project got launched. All development projects suffering inordinate delay and escalation in cost due to non-availability of sand and gravel despite-auction of mineral blocks but non fixation of end user prices. New reservation policy got implemented. J&K Pharmacists registered under Central Pharmacists Act. New J&K industrial policy got deferred for one year. Restoration of Raghunath Temple Srinagar started. No domicile required for purchase of land in UT. LG Manoj Sinha paid visits at various places to ensure development of UT. J&K budget crosses one lakh crore and Ladakh budget hiked 6 times. Ladakh introduced first vision document. Back to village programme successfully conducted. Leh-Kargil police range established with territorial jurisdiction over revenue districts of Leh and Kargil. Prime Minister Narendra Modi green lighted the plan for the first Central University in Ladakh with a Centre on Buddhist Studies. On papers at least, J&K signed MOUs worth 2100 crore during Mumbai show, 2000 in Kolkata show, 850 crore in Bengaluru show.
Tourism Department performance remained dismissal as ban on boating in Thein dam, at Ujh and Chenab, no renewal of rafting licenses at Reasi, DPRs submitted but no further action to the extent that even HC passed strictures against Tourism Department. Heritage Mubarak Mandi remains neglected with less restoration and more visible destruction in 2020. Kashmir saffron gets GI tagging and is projected at UAE Food Summit. GoI, through NAFED, plan to procure 12 lakh tonne apples in Jammu and Kashmir during the current season amounting 2500 crores.
Telephonic restrictions in the beginning of 2020 affected public life tremendously. Broadband to 80 hospitals got restored in January, 2G mobile services restored in 5 Districts of Jammu in mid-January and in whole UT by end of January, however, 4G services remain suspended for now almost one and half years in entire UT except Ganderbal and Udhampur, that too after SC intervention. Students suffered mainly with restricted or no internet connectivity meaning practically no online classes. Jammu-Srinagar NH remained nemesis for public as little progress despite HC intervention, more Toll Plaza including Lakhanpur got operational. Administration failed to vacate official bungalows despite HC intervention.
CBI continued its probe in multiple loan scams of J&K Bank Ltd. along with ED. Anti-Corruption Bureau raided the head office of the J&K State Cooperative Agriculture and Rural Development Bank, while SICOP and CAPD departments also got raided. CBI and ED investigating JKCA scam attached assets worth 2.6 crores. CBI also raided many in JKPCC scam, JKEDI in multicrore scam and Jammu Municipal Corporation also raided. Jammu and Kashmir Anti-Corruption Bureau also remained in limelight, be it J&K Bank cases or Roshni Land Scam or Patnitop or Pahalgam with rap on knuckles by HC despite numerous crackdowns on different departments/individuals but the fact is fight against corruption seems a distant dream. All major pilgrimages including Shri Amarnath yatra, Shri Budha Amarnath Yatra, Machail Mata Yatra, Jhiri mela , Chamliyal mela and festivals of Dussehra, Eid=all got cancelled. This year, Ayodhaya Ram Mandir verdict was given and Shila Nayas undertaken by PM Modi himself. However, accession day of J&K celebrated with much fanfare and enthusiasm. Dogri along with English, Hindi and Kashmiri declared official languages of J&K.
Former Deputy CM Muzaffar Hussain Baig awarded Padma Bhushan, the third highest civilian award of the country, for his contribution to public affairs, Dr Tsering Landol from Ladakh conferred for medicine. Noted writer and poet from Jammu Shiv Nirmohi awarded Padma Shri for literature along with Chewang Motup Goba from Ladakh for trade and industry and Javed Ahmed Tak, a specially abled social worker from Kashmir, for outstanding social work.11 persons, including four senior Government officers, were among the winners of J&K Government Award-2020 for their outstanding performance in various fields .Rattan Lal Basotra and Ratan Lal Jauhar got Sahitaya Academy award for translation.
On sports front, a sports stadium of international repute announced, dedicated to the former Union Minister and BJP stalwart Arun Jaitley in bordering Hiranagar town of Kathua, 200 kanals of land near Dussehra ground marked.
With a request to follow the Government guidelines on COVID-19 seriously, Daily Excelsior wishes all its readers ‘A Very Happy and Prosperous 2021’, just be safe.