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Vice President meets Guv, CM; discusses situation
*To address Science Congress in KU on Monday

Excelsior Correspondent

SRINAGAR, Sept 14: Vice President Hamid Ansari today arrived on a five-day visit to Kashmir Valley and held inter-actions with Governor NN Vohra and Chief Minister Omar Abdullah during which he discussed present political scenario and achievements in restoration of peace in the State.

The Governor, the Chief Minister and senior officials of the civil administration and police received Ansari at the Srinagar Technical Airport here. He later flew by a chopper to Raj Bhawan, official sources said.

This is Ansari's first visit to Kashmir since his re-election as Vice President of the country last month.

Ansari will visit Pahalgam tourist resort in south Kashmir tomorrow for an overnight stay while he will visit Dachigam National Park in the outskirts of the city on his return here on Sunday.

The Vice President will be the chief guest at the National Science Congress organised at Kashmir University on Monday.

Governor NN Vohra hosted dinner for Mr Ansari at Raj Bhawan this evening. The Vice President was accompanied by his wife, Salma Ansari.

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, Legislative Council Chairman Amrit Malhotra, Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand, PCC (I) chief Prof Saif-ud-Din Soz, Chief Justice of J&K High Court Justice M M Kumar, Chief Secretary Madhav Lal, GOC 15 Corps Lt Gen Om Prakash and Kashmir University Vice Chancellor Prof Talat Ahmad also attended the dinner.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah this evening had one on one meeting with Mr Ansari at Raj Bhawan here.

Matters relating to the development of Jammu and Kashmir came up for discussion in the meeting. Present political scenario and achievements on restoration of peace and tranquility were also discussed in the meeting, official sources said.

Omar apprised Mr Ansari of the historic initiatives taken by the coalition Government for empowerment of people and ensuring good-governance. He also told him of the measures his Government has taken to curb corruption, bring transparency in the functioning of administration and involving people in the process of plan formation and implementation of development schemes through empowered Panchayat Raj system.

Mr Abdullah gave resume of the historic Public Service Guarantee Act (PSGA) enacted and implemented in the State to make public service delivery time bound. He also referred to the measures taken by the Government to strengthen State Accountability Commission and implement Right to Information Act through the State Information Commission.

The Chief Minister apprised the Vice President of the initiatives of the Government to ensure holistic and equitable development in all the regions and sub-regions of the State. He also detailed measures under implementation for the inclusive development and welfare of weaker sections of the society including Schedule Castes, Schedule Tribes, Other Backward Classes, Gujjar and Bakerwals and Pahari Speaking people.

Omar expressed gratitude to the Union Government for extending all possible financial and logistic support to Jammu and Kashmir to march ahead on road to peace and prosperity.

 

All weather connectivity to Ladakh
Govt approves Rs 2,717 cr for Srinagar-Leh tunnel

Excelsior Correspondent

NEW DELHI/JAMMU, Sept 14: The Government today approved construction of a tunnel at Z-Morh in Jammu & Kashmir at a cost of Rs 2,717 crore to provide all weather connectivity between Srinagar and Leh.

The decision to give nod to 6.5 km long tunnel was taken by the Cabinet Committee on Infrastructure (CCI) at its meeting here. The tunnel will be built on build, operate and transfer (annuity) basis.

Ladakh at present remains cut off from the mainland for six to seven months during winter due to heavy snow fall on Jammu-Srinagar-Zozila-Kargil-Leh and Manali-Sarchu-Leh routes that connect Leh to the mainland.

"The CCI today approved the implementation of the construction of the 6.50 kms long two lane bi-directional tunnel on a new alignment in between Gagangir and Sonamarg, along the existing NH-1 at Z- Morh... For all weather connectivity from Srinagar to Leh on NH-1 (old NH -1D) in Jammu and Kashmir," an official statement said.

The stretch between Srinagar and Leh would not only be important for the strategic interests of the Indian Army, but also for the survival of people of Ladakh and their socio-economic development, the statement said.

"The total capital cost of the project will Rs 2,716.90 crore, out of which approximately, Rs 36.48 crore will be for land acquisition, rehabilitation, resettlement and pre-construction," the statement added.

The project is aimed at improving infrastructure in the State, the statement said.

It will also increase the employment potential for local labourers and boost the industrial growth and economic activities, with better commuting facilities in villages, towns and semi-urban and urban areas, it added.

Earlier Public Private Partnership Appraisal Committee in its meeting in July had given its nod to the project.

"This project will expedite the improvement of infrastructure in Jammu and Kashmir, and will also facilitate all weather connectivity between Srinagar and Leh. Besides enhancing the safety of road users, it will also increase the employment potential to local labourers for project activities and development of industry in the region. This will boost the industrial growth and local economic activities, with better commuting facilities in villages, towns and urban/semi urban areas, falling in, or situated close to the project highway’’, the statement said.

Leh is connected to the mainland via Jammu-Srinagar-Zozila-Kargil-Leh and Manali-Sarchu-Leh route. This is the only life line, not only for the strategic interests of the Indian Army, but also for the survival of the people of Ladakh and their socio-economic development. Both these routes remain completely cut off for six to seven months during winter (November to May),due to heavy snow fall and avalanche prone areas, on both sides along both routes.

The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways is responsible for development and maintenance of Jammu – Srinagar – Zozila –Kargil-Leh stretch of National Highway 1. The implementing agency for this NH is Border Roads Organisation.

Construction of the 6.5 kms long two lane bi-directional tunnel, with parallel 6.5 kms long escape tunnel on the new alignment in between Gangagir and Sonamarg along the existing NH 1 at Z-Morh between kms. 69.5 to 81.3 will facilitate the establishment of all weather connectivity in the area, the statement said.

Meanwhile, Dr. Asgar Hassan Samoon, Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir when contacted told EXCELSIOR that the two strategic tunnels ---- Z-Morh and Zojila tunnel were aimed at giving all weather connectivity to Ladakh region.

"At present, the administration has to maintain stock for nearly 14 months for the populace of Leh and Kargil district as they have little connectivity in the rest of year. At times, even helicopter sorties have to be conducted to maintain quantity of required material in the twin districts", he said.

Elaborating further, Mr Samoon said that the project was also important strategically due to its location. "In the first phase the Z-Morh tunnel is likely to be completed and subsequently the Zojila tunnel shall be taken up to provide all weather connectivity to Leh. The area is also strategically important as it provides also connectivity to troops guarding the border".

"Further, tunnel will also give a boost to overall development of Ladakh region", he added.

BJP, Left, TMC oppose
Govt approves 51% FDI in retail

NEW DELHI, Sept 14: Opting for big-bang reforms, the Government today allowed politically-risky 51 per cent FDI in multi-brand retail, 49 per cent investment by foreign airlines in aviation sector and sale of equity in four PSUs.

Battling perceptions of policy paralysis, the Government announced the surprise decisions after meetings of the Union Cabinet as well as the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA), prompting angry reactions from its key ally TMC as well as BJP and Left parties.

The slew of reforms decided upon include raising FDI cap in broadcasting from 49 per cent to 74 per cent and allowing foreign investment in power exchanges.

The UPA Government had first made an attempt to introduce FDI in multi-brand in November last year but beat a hasty retreat following stiff opposition from TMC, Samajwadi Party as well as opposition parties.

It has now decided to take the plunge within days of the conclusion of recent session of Parliament, which was disrupted over coal scam.

The decisions come on top of yesterday’s hike in diesel prices and capping of supply of subsidised LPG to cut oil subsidises which has already invited protests from allies and opposition.

"Let us not confuse consensus with unanimity. For unanimity we will have to wait in eternity. This (today’s decision) has consensus," Commerce Minister Anand Sharma told a press conference here clearly conveying the message that the Centre has decided to go ahead with the reforms despite opposition.

Sharma said they respected West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s position on multi-brand retailing. "It is her prerogative to implement or not. It is equally our prerogative to implement in the other States (which are keen on it)".

The Cabinet also diluted local sourcing norms for 100 per cent foreign direct investment (FDI) in single brand retail by dropping the provision of 30 per cent compulsory sourcing from Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).

For multi-brand retailing, a minimum investment of USD 100 million has been fixed, half of which necessarily has to be in creating storage and warehousing facilities in rural areas.

Front end retail stores would be allowed to be set up only in cities with a minimum of one million population. However, this norm has been diluted for hilly States, which have been authorised to decide on criteria for choosing big cities.

While the Government had previously permitted 49 per cent in aviation sector, the Cabinet today allowed foreign carriers to investment in domestic airlines. The move would help cash-strapped carriers like Kingfisher and SpiceJet to bring in strategic partners.

Permission has now been granted to foreign airlines to invest under the Government approval route in Indian carriers operating scheduled and non-scheduled transport services.

A scheduled operator’s permit can be granted only to a company that is registered and has its principal place of business in India with its Chairman and at least two-third of directors who are Indians.

Substantial ownership and effective control should be vested with Indian nationals.

The companies which will divest their equities are Hindustan Copper Ltd (9.59 per cent), Nalco (12.15 per cent), Oil India Ltd (10 per cent) and MMTC (9 per cent). The sale of shares is likely to fetch in about Rs 15,000 crore, half of the budgetary disinvestment target set for the current fiscal year.

Another major decision covers the broadcasting sector by enhancing foreign investment that is expected to expand the reach of broadcasting services.

Under this decision, teleports, DTH and cable network services can attract foreign investment up to 74 per cent over the present limit of 49 per cent, which will be through the automatic route. Beyond 49 per cent would come through the Government route.

At present, there is no specific dispensation under FDI for mobile TV. It has now been decided to permit FDI up top 74 per cent.

However, the existing limit of 74 per cent foreign investment in the Headend-in-the Sky Broadcasting Service would continue.

The CCEA also decided to permit foreign investment up to 49 per cent (FDI 26 per cent and FII 23 per cent) in power trading exchanges.

FII investment would be permitted under the automatic route and FDI under the Government approval route.

Replying to questions, Sharma said the 10-month period between November last year when the Government decided to first allow FDI multi-brand retailing was used for extensive consultations with all stakeholders.

"There was never a decision to rollback the decision. It was only suspended because of reservations from some States. This is an enabling step. States which want to implement are free to implement, those who do not want need not," he said.

Dismissing the charge of policy paralysis, which he said was a media creation, he said the Government did take decisions after consultations in the interest of people.

While acknowledging that opposition from Left parties was due to their ideological blinkers, he accused the BJP of practising partisan politics to oppose the decisions.

In fact when they were in power, BJP-led NDA had prepared a Cabinet note for allowing 100 per cent FDI in multi-brand retailing without any conditions, he said.

He said the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion would come out with notifications detailing rules for all the decisions without any delay.

Eights States including Delhi, Jammu and Kashmir, Assam, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Uttrakhand, Haryana and Manipur have supported FDI in multi-brand retailing while Bihar, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Tripura and Odisha have expressed reservations. (PTI)

Sapna says she also traveled twice to Kashmir
Police may seek extradition of Daand’s wife from Nepal

Sanjeev Pargal

JAMMU, Sept 14: In another major breakthrough, police have recovered a SIM card, a fake voter identity card of Election Commission and Pakistani passport from the possession of longest surviving militant Mehard-ud-Din Wani alias Daand, who was arrested on Batote-Ramban stretch of Jammu-Srinagar National Highway a day before by a team of Kishtwar police.

Sapna, the 32 year old wife of Daand has, meanwhile, confirmed that she too had accompanied her husband to his house in Sopore in the Kashmir Valley twice after her marriage with the militant in 1998. Police authorities at Dumbarai City, close to the heart of Kathmandu, the Nepal capital, have closed down a provisional store run by Daand after the report of his arrest by Kishtwar police and disclosures that he was a dreaded militant in the rank of UJC supremo Syed Salah-ud-Din, Dawood Ibrahim and Anees Ibrahim etc.

In a telephonic conversation with the Excelsior from Dumbarai City in Kathmandu, Sapna said she met Daand in the year 1995 at Kathmandu and married him in 1998 against the wishes of her parents. However, she said her family settled down and agreed to the marriage after few months.

Mother of two daughters—Guddu, 12 and Nahida, 7, Sapna claimed that she never doubted her husband as he never discussed any such thing with her. The militant had reportedly told her that he would settle in Kathmandu for business purposes and stay with her. The couple was putting up in a rented house at Dumbarai and was running a provisional store, which now has been shut down.

Sapna said she had traveled to Sopore residence of Daand twice during 14 years of her marriage. She said her husband told her that he was traveling to Srinagar for treatment of brain tumour, which was detected by the doctors in Kathmandu. He refused to take the wife along with her on the ground that it would be difficult to take care of their 12 year old handicapped daughter, Guddu.

Sapna said she never doubted the activities of her husband.

Police claimed that Sapna might have been won over by the militants or Pakistan’s Intelligence agencies operating in Nepal and asked to marry Daand to create permanent hideout for the top most militant and his associates in Kathmandu to carry on terror activities in India from the foreign soil.

Jammu and Kashmir Police could approach the External Affairs Ministry and Union Home Ministry to take steps for taking custody of Sapna from Kathmandu to interrogate her as she was in touch with Daand for 17 years and was living with him after marriage for past 14 years.

"Sapna could be well aware of many, if not all, activities of Daand as she had been putting up with her for past quite some time. This was the period when Kandahar hijacking of IC-814 flight had taken place (December 24, 1999) in which Daand was actively involved. He had been in Pakistan Embassy at Kathmandu with Pakistan diplomat Arshad Ayub when the plane was hijacked from Kathmandu and taken to Kandahar in Afghanistan’’, sources said. Indian had released three militants including Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Moulana Masood Azhar, Omar Sheikh and Mushtaq Latram in lieu of hijacked passengers.

They added that Sapna could given vital clues to police when subjected to interrogation about the network of Daand and his activities in Pakistan, Nepal and India including Jammu and Kashmir.

Meanwhile, police have recovered a Pakistani passport from the possession of Daand, which confirmed that he was in touch with Pakistani militants and had traveled there quite often. Preliminary reports indicated that Daand had traveled to Pakistan at least six times from Nepal and India. In India, hardliner Hurriyat Conference leader, Syed Ali Shah Geelani had recommended Pakistani visa for him.

Sources said a fake Electoral Photo Identity Card (EPIC) of Jammu and Kashmir and a SIM card have also been seized from the possession of Mehraj-ud-Din.

Seizure of the SIM card was very vital as it contained identity and number of his contacts in Pakistan, Nepal and India, which could help police nail the militant and establish his role in major activities.

Mehraj-ud-Din was today produced before Sub Judicial Magistrate, Kishtwar, who remanded him to police custody for four days.

Daand was being interrogated at a safe location.

Presently, Daand has been charged with old cases pending against him while fresh charges would be incorporated in the next few days.


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