Kashmir peaceful, steps afoot to make essentials available

300 telephone booths being set up

SRINAGAR, Aug 11: Ahead of Eid-ul Azha, banks, ATMs and quite a few markets remained open today in Kashmir and restrictions were eased allowing people to come out to shop, while the administration said it was taking steps to facilitate availability of food and other items and offering of prayers in mosques on Monday.
The usual hustle and bustle of the festival was missing in the Valley where normal life has been paralysed following heavy security deployment, restrictions on movement and curtailing of communication links after the abrogation of special status to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 on August 5.

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Officials said there has been no report of violence anywhere in the Valley.
“Everything is peaceful. The restriction have eased and there has been lot of improvement in public and transport movement,” Deputy Commissioner, Srinagar, Shahid Iqbal Choudhary said.
Magistrates have been deployed at every critical place to act as facilitators for the convenience of the general public, an official spokesperson said.
Meanwhile, Principal Secretary, Planning Monitoring and Development Department, Rohit Kansal, who is also official spokesman of the State Government, said the people are coming out and shopping for Eid in the Kashmir valley.
“A large number of people came out today. Wherever there were restrictions, they were relaxed. We’re trying to facilitate people who want to travel to Srinagar to meet their dear ones,” Kansal said.
Divisional Commissioner Kashmir, Baseer Khan said all ration outlets in the Valley were open and people were purchasing rations from different locations.
“Today and yesterday in many areas restrictions were lifted and people allowed to move and make purchases for Eid festival, which falls tomorrow,” Khan said, adding: “during last 3-4 days we had made some commitments that we will ensure adequate stocks of food and essential commodities will be available all around in the Valley and that commitment has been fulfilled”.
Six ‘mandies’ and markets have been established in Srinagar city while 2.5 lakh sheep have been made available for public for sacrifice on Eid-ul-Azha on Monday. The authorities have also deployed mobile vans for door to door delivery of vegetables, LPG cylinders, poultry and eggs, officials said.
With all communication links disrupted since August 5 after the scrapping of Article 370 provisions, Jammu and Kashmir’s Governor’s administration issued an advisory saying that 300 special telephone booths are being established to help public communicate with their kin.
The district administrations are constantly reviewing the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, and they will facilitate people to offer prayers in mosques during Eid, an official said, requesting anonymity.
Last Friday, people were allowed to visit neighbourhood mosques and offer prayers there. However, large gatherings were not allowed in any part of the Valley.
Asked about the restrictions imposed on communication links, the official said these were “temporary” measures taken to maintain peace and prevent circulation of misinformation and rumours.
“The Government is conscious of the ground situation and doing utmost so that there is minimum inconvenience to the people. Everyday something or the other restrictions are relaxed. We will take decisions on lifting restrictions on phones as early as possible,” he said.
The official said all decisions are not taken by the Central Government and local administrations are taking a call wherever necessary, particularly in regard to law and order.
“We have received and made 4,600 calls during last three days,” another official said, adding they have “reached out to 150 houses to help them connect to their kin”.
District Magistrates have made elaborate arrangements for the forthcoming Eid-ul-Azha, the official spokesman said, adding treasuries, banks and ATMs have been made functional even on holiday in the run-up to the festival
The replenishment of cash in ATMs has been ensured on regular basis and people are drawing money from ATMs as and when required, said officials, adding salaries of all employees and wages of casual labourers too have been released in advance.
Ration ‘ghats’ in every district have started functioning to supply groceries to people. Out of 3,697 ration ‘ghats’ in Kashmir division, 3,557 ration ‘ghats’ have been made operational to provide essentials to the general public.
Traders, however, said they were suffering losses due to less business this Eid.
Bashir Ahmed, a livestock dealer, hailing from Poonch, had come to Kashmir with his herd of goats and sheep in the hope of making some profit through sale of sacrificial animals on the eve of Eid-ul-Azha, but he said he might have to take most of them back with him.
“Last year around this time, I had sold off all my herd and was headed home to celebrate Eid with my family. This year I have sold only 15 of the 200-odd goats I had brought along,” Ahmed said.
With curbs on the movement of people, the livestock dealer is also finding it very difficult to find food for his herd.
“As the restrictions were eased on Saturday, we were hopeful that sales might pick up on Sunday and Monday,” he said, adding he would make his way towards Poonch on Monday morning with whatever livestock is left with him.
Mohammed Yasin, a readymade garments dealer in Lal Chowk, walked three days in a row from his Hazratbal home to his shop in hopes of selling some of the stocks he had purchased for Eid.
Authorities said elaborate arrangements have been made for the safe and hassle-free returns of Hajis from Saudi Arabia, for which flights will commence on August 18.
All Deputy Commissioners have nominated their nodal officers who will be stationed at the airport from August 18 to facilitate the return of ‘hajis’ to their native places in the city and elsewhere in the Valley.
Special help-line desks will be established at the airport and Hajj houses for the convenience of ‘hajis’.
The Government has also stocked sufficient amount of various essential items.
Wheat has been stocked to suffice for 65 days, rice for 55 days, mutton for 17 days, poultry for one month, kerosene for 35 days, LPG for one month, and diesel and petrol for 28 days.
All bakery, poultry and mutton shops were kept open on Sunday and long queues were seen outside these shops, another official said, adding traffic is plying smoothly in Srinagar city.
All health institutions at primary, secondary and tertiary levels in Kashmir division are functioning fully with sufficient number of doctors and para-medical staff on duty.
Identity cards of medical staffers are being treated as movement passes, said officials, adding all medicines are also available in sufficient quantity in all health institutions.
Flights are operating as per the schedule and air tickets too are being treated as movement passes, they added.
Various Municipal Corporations and other civic bodies in the valley too have taken additional steps to ensure complete cleanliness and sanitation in their respective areas.
To ensure round the clock power supply and its immediate restoration following faults and breakdowns, sufficient staffers have been deployed in various power utilities, officials said, adding adequate transmission cables and transformers are there in the stock to meet any contingency.
Similar arrangements have been made to ensure round the clock water supply with deployment of sufficient staffers at pumping stations and water plants.
The Government has also deployed liaison officers in various places in the country, including Aligarh and New Delhi, to help students hailing from Kashmir and pursuing their studies outside the Valley, to celebrate Eid and communicate to their family members in the Valley. (PTI)

Passengers fail to get taxis at Airport
As people fly back to Kashmir in time for Eid-ul-Azha, reaching home from the airport is a struggle of its own.
Passengers at the Srinagar International Airport were seen today desperately searching for taxis even as they remained apprehensive about their journey ahead in the Valley which was under restrictions with communication lines snapped since August 5.
While some buses were on standby, they were only ferrying passengers to the Tourist Reception Centre at Dalgate.
Some people tried to negotiate and request the taxi drivers, but they refused to go to areas like Civil Lines area at Lal Chowk, located 14 km from the airport, and downtown city, complaining that on their return journey they were detained or harassed by security forces.
Hameeda Bano, who arrived here in an Indigo flight along with her son and daughter, had to reach Bijbehara. Her pleas to cab drivers fell on deaf ears as no one was ready to travel to the town, which is nearly 65 km away in South Kashmir.
As one entered the city limits, concertina wires were spread across the main roads and policemen in jeeps could be seen asking people to remain indoors and shopkeepers to shut shops.
The usual gaiety seen on the eve of Eid seem to be missing as the Valley has been paralysed since the Centre on August 5 revoked provisions of Article 370 which gave Jammu and Kashmir special status.
At the Tourist Reception Centre at Dalgate, many people chose to walk towards their destinations along with their luggage as either the autos or taxis were charging exorbitant rates or they were not simply ready to travel to some areas.
Adah Bhat, who had to reach Nawab Bazar locality, six km from here, decided to walk the distances along with her luggage.
“We can’t go to that place. We may be able to drop people there but on the return journey we are either detained or harassed,” alleged Sharik Ahmed, a taxi operator. (PTI)