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Saturday, April 17, 2010

3 CMs tell Dr Shawl: Kashmir needs brick kilns, not hospitals

World’s top cardiologist’s dream of setting up hospital in Srinagar remains unfulfilled

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Apr 17: Washington DC-based interventional cardiologist, Dr Fayaz Shawl, who has the unbeaten distinction of having performed more than 20,000 angioplasty procedures in the world, has failed to get permission for establishing a super-specialty cardiovascular hospital in Nishat area of his hometown Srinagar in the last over two years. In a desperately written letter to Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, he has finally threatened to dispose off the land he had acquired in 2008 if the state officialdom continued to sleep over his dream project by the end of next month.

Posted as a junior surgeon at a public health centre at Shahdara Sharief (Rajouri) in 1974, after completing his MBBS from Government Medical College Srinagar, Dr Shawl had joined United States of America Army in 1980. He had completed his post graduation studies and many other top degrees in interventional cardiology from UK and USA before performing the first ever angioplasty procedure in the US armed forces in 1981. Being the world’s highest profile interventional cardiologist, Dr Shawl has been the family physician of top celebrities who include former US Vice President Dick Cheney, former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharief, many Bollywood and Hollywood film icons and a number of the Indian governors, Chief Ministers and Union cabinet ministers.

Working as Director International Cardiology Washington Adventist Hospital and a Clinical Professor of Medicine at George Washington University, a born and brought up in Srinagar Dr Shawl has also the credit of having trained India’s topmost cardiologists including Dr Ashok Seth, Dr Upendra Kaul, Dr Ashwin Mehta, Dr Mathew and many others who are running cardiac centers like Maxwell, Apollo Hospitals and Medi-city.

With the dream of setting up a cardiac centre, mainly for promotion of medical tourism in Kashmir, alongwith a non-profit wellness centre for the patients of Jammu & Kashmir, Dr Shawl had returned to Srinagar after 30 years. Three Chief Ministers in succession---Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, Ghulam Nabi Azad and now Omar Abdullah---have given him assurances but not the permission he required for setting up the modern clinical facility. Plush with assurances of support from Mufti, Dr Shawl had purchased a piece of land for raising his dream project in the picturesque Zabarvan foothills in Nishat area.

Although the proposed site was far away from the restricted green belt and did not fall under forest, wildlife and other notified areas, permission of land use change was never issued by the authorities in the last over two years. Constructions to be raised on agriculture land are cleared by the municipal authorities only after a proper permission of land use change from the Minister incharge Revenue. Unscrupulous entrepreneurs, well versed with the trick of making shortcuts, often adopt the strategy of recording the area as ‘barren land’ for three years, which neutralizes the obligation of seeking permission of land use change from the competent authority. Hundreds of high pollution industrial units, including more than 400 unauthorised brick kilns, have been laid by such industrialists in Kashmir valley in the last 12 years.

“His problem is that he is a Kashmiri American. Had he been simply a Kashmiri, he would have managed to get permission in 2007 itself. He is one of the richest professionals but can not pay bribes to officers and politicians to offset the legal procedure”, one of Dr Shawl’s local promoters said. He explained that entire cost of the project was to be born by Dr Shawl out of his personal earning for 30 years besides donations from a galaxy of celebrities under his treatment. He said that India’s richest diamond merchant and a Dubai-based businessman, Harshad Mehta, whose life was saved by Dr Shawl with a Diamond Drill procedure in UAE, had contributed a large amount of money for the Kashmir hospital.

On the pattern of Shawl Cardiovascular Center at Zulekha Hospital in Dubai, Dr Shawl had planned to equip his Srinagar center with the most modern facilities including two state-of-the-art cardiac catheterization laboratories, a 20-bed Tran scare holding unit (for pre-operative and post-operative management), one fully equipped cardiac operating room, a 10-bed intensive care unit, a 10-bed coronary care unit, 50 fully incorporated telemetry beds, one echocardiography laboratory, a nuclear cardiology testing center and a non-invasive endovascular laboratory.

Dr Shawl had also planned to raise a fully equipped auditorium for 100 people besides a hostel for 50 attendants and patients arriving in from rural areas of the state. For completely free treatment of the patients from Jammu & Kashmir, Dr Shawl also proposed a wellness centre equipped with gym, swimming pool and other peripheral services.

A renowned philanthropist, Dr Shawl has spent an amount of over Rs 2 Crore on the high risk interventional procedures he conducted on the Kashmiri patients in 2007 and 2008 at SKIMS, Soura. During these operations, normally possible in Delhi, Mumbai and other metropolitan cities, Dr Shawl contributed and planted nearly 100 imported balloons (stents) on the economically poor patients at SKIMS. He is scheduled to arrive in Srinagar on May 31st with similar equipment worth Rs 1.25 Crore which he will be implanting on J&K patients on his third trip at SKIMS.

Dr Shawl revealed to Early Times in an email from Washington DC that Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s response to his request was highly reassuring. He said that Chief Minister had immediately issued instructions to his bureaucracy for processing the permission of land use change on urgent basis. He said that the ground breaking event would he held on the site on June 4th. He, however, made it clear that if he failed to get the permission, he would dispose off the property fully and give it to a charity.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Shopian whistleblower doc now himself in the dock for rape

Victim woman’s statement recorded, investigation completed, challan produced in court

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Apr 15: Having completed investigation in less than a month with recording of statement of the sexually exploited woman before Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) of Pulwama, Police today produced challan against the suspended Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr Ghulam Qadir Sofi, in the court of District & Sessions Judge of Pulwama. With scientific evidence and corroborative statements recorded before a judicial magistrate, Pulwama Police claimed to have established in 25 days of the investigation that 57-year-old Dr Sofi had committed rape on a female patient at his clinic in Pulwama township of south Kashmir in September 2009.

Interestingly, Dr Sofi and two of his colleagues had achieved the image of ‘bold whistleblowers’ in Kashmir valley last year as it were they who had confirmed ‘rape-cum-murder’ of two young woman in Shopian. Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has already found Dr Sofi, his subordinate gynecologist Dr Nighat Shaheen and four other Kashmiri doctors guilty of manufacturing a rape-cum-murder case with fudged and fabricated evidences with the motive of implicating four Police officials in a criminal matter that would have made them liable to capital punishment.

Informed sources in South Kashmir told Early Times that Pulwama Police produced challan of case FIR No: 121 of 2010, under section 376 (d), in the court of District & Sessions Judge, Mr Aijaz Ahmed Mir. Police investigation has held suspended CMO, Dr Sofi, guilty of having sexual intercourse on one of his female patients at his illegally operating clinic in September 2009. This type of act, notwithstanding consent of the victim, makes doctors and other hospital staff liable to rigorous imprisonment of five to seven years. Investigation completed in the record time of 25 days, has observed that Dr Sofi had committed the crime in an afternoon in the holy month of Ramazan, around the same time when government had promoted him ton the senior position of CMO and continued his posting in his hometown of Pulwama.

Government had removed Dr Sofi, from his duty on March 20th, placed him under suspension and ordered a departmental inquiry into the allegations against him after a video clip, showing him committing rape on a woman, came into wide circulation in Srinagar, Pulwama and Shopian districts. Taking criminal cognizance of the matter, Police Station Pulwama had on the same day registered case FIR No: 121 and begun questioning of the accused.

During the course of investigation, Police questioned the accused as well as the people associated with the act of filming Dr Sofi’s immoral act. On their disclosures, Police got the victim of the rape identified. Dr Sofi initially pleaded innocence and claimed that some people were, in fact, blackmailing and defaming him. However, during the course of sustained questioning, he spilled the beans and revealed details of his criminal act. He was formally arrested on March 25th and produced before CJM Pulwama, who initially granted his Police remand. Later, he was remanded to judicial custody and shifted to Srinagar Central Jail. His judicial remand is valid till April 17th.

Proceeding with the investigation, Police had seized a video clip in the form of a Compact Disc as also a Nokia mobilephone that had been used by two men for visual recording of the criminal act. These evidences had been sent for forensic examination to Chandigarh-based FSL of the central Crime Detection Training School (CDTS). Sources said that the CDTS report was still awaited but it had become irrelevant for the fact that the videographers have deposed before a judicial magistrate, under Section 164 CrPC, that they had filmed the fact. Mobilephone used for the secret shooting has also been seized. Besides, victim of the rape has herself revealed details and got her statement recorded before CJM Pulwama under Section 164 CrPC. With all these developments, Police have completed the investigation and produced the challan for trial in the court of District & Sessions Judge Pulwama.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Valley observes shutdown against Behanji’s conviction

Petrol bombs, stone pelting on Police after boy drowns in Sopore

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Apr 13: Kashmir valley today observed shutdown on the hardliner separatist Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s call against a Delhi court’s conviction to six Kashmiris in the Lajpath Nagar bomb blast, in which 13 people had got killed and nearly 40 others had sustained injuries on May 21, 1996. Trouble flared up in the apple township of Sopore where scores of people threw petrol bombs and engaged Police in stone pelting with the allegation that a teenager had drowned to death in Jhelum after being chased by Police and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF).

Government offices, educational institutions and private businesses, including commercial traffic, remained closed today in Kashmir as the Valley observed shutdown to register a strong protest against a Delhi court’s conviction to six Kashmiris in the Lajpath Nagar explosion of May 1996. Hardliner separatist leader and Chairman of Hurriyat Conference (G), Syed Ali Shah Geelani had called for a daylong shutdown. In a statement, Geelani had charged the Indian judiciary with punishing the “innocent Kashmiris” on false and fabricated charges and, thus, taking the side of the establishment. On April 8th, Court had exonerated four of the accused but held six others, including Chairperson of the separatist outfit Fareeda Behanji, guilty of their involvement in the bloodbath.

With the conviction yet to be pronounced, life was crippled in entire Kashmir valley in the wake of near-total shutdown. In Srinagar downtown, Police and CRPF imposed restrictions on free movement of the people and allowed the light motor vehicles to ply only after checking photo-identity cards. Quite a number of people traveling in motor cars and pedestrians were frisked at several places.

Reports said that most of the shops, business centers, educational institutions and government offices remained closed for the whole day in the summer capital and most of the rural district headquarters. Commercial traffic did not operate due to the shutdown and for fear of stone pelting. Reports said that attendance was extremely thin in the offices that chose to function in defiance to the call and the ongoing strike of government employees.

Though no reports of any major disturbance came in from any place till late tonight, scores of youth engaged Police in stone pelting at about six spots in Srinagar downtown as also in the uptown localities of Maisuma and Batmaloo. About a dozen demonstrators and Police personnel are estimated to have sustained injuries in these intermittent clashes. However, officials insisted that nobody was killed or injured.

According to the reports available, groups of youth in the north Kashmir townships of Baramulla and Sopore shouted anti-India and pro-Azadi slogans. They also resorted to heavy stone pelting on Police. One ASI and an SPO sustained injuries in such clashes in Baramulla.

Informed sources in north Kashmir told Early Times that hundreds of the residents resorted to heavy stone pelting and lobbed at least four petrol bombs on Police with the allegation that a teenager had drowned into the Jhelum and died as, according to them, Police and CRPF personnel had chased away a group of the youngsters. Dead body of 16-year-old Zubair Hassan Bhat S/o Ghulam Hassan Bhat of Jamia Qadeem locality of downtown Sopore was recovered from the river at around 1745 hours. Large number of the residents alleged that he had drowned into the river when he and four other youngsters of his group had been chased away by Police and CRPF in Hathi Shah locality.

SP Sopore, Altaf Khan, insisted that there was no question of the boy having drowned due to Police or CRPF action as, according to him, there had been “absolutely no deployment of Police and the paramilitary forces” in Hathi Shah and Jamia Qadeem localities till 1700 hours today. Quoting preliminary reports available with the authorities, SP Sopore maintained that a group of four to five youth swam to the other side but one of them, namely Zubair Hassan Bhat, drowned and died under the waters. He said that the drowning had taken place nearly 400 meters from the nearest Police and CRPF post. “There was no stone pelting or clash in that area and, as such, no question of the Police or CRPF deployment”, SP Sopore asserted.

Residents, however, disputed the official version and insisted that the teenager had drowned when he and his associates were being chased by a CRPF party. They assembled in the locality after learning about the teenager’s death and engaged Police and CRPF in ding dong clashed till late this evening. Eyewitnesses said that the demonstrators in Jamia Qadeem and Hathi Shah localities in downtown Sopore lobbed at least four petrol bombs on Police parties and engaged them in clashes till late this evening. They also attempted to ransack Police Station and dismantle a CRPF pillbox near Town Hall.

SP Sopore confirmed that the mobs attacked Police and CRPF bunkers but claimed that these were repulsed with the use of baton charge and tearsmoke. He said that four Police personnel sustained injuries and three to four Police vehicles were damaged in the clashes that erupted in an hour of the recovery of the teenager’s dead body. Residents insisted that about a dozen demonstrators and civilians were injured in these clashes. They said that one you had sustained critical injuries and he was rushed to a Srinagar hospital for specialized treatment.

Residents in both, Sopore and Baramulla towns, told Early Times late tonight that the local population had called for four-day shutdown from tomorrow.

Govt terminating services of 40 ring leaders today

Minister: Trade union leadership’s ship will be sinking in a few days
JCC: Employees are firmly on strike and they make the Govt bow soon

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Apr 12: Minister of Irrigation & Public Health Engineering, Taj Mohiuddin, confirmed to this newspaper that Omar Abdullah’s coalition government would be terminating the services of 35 to 40 ring leaders of different trade unions any time on Tuesday as, according to him, government’s limit of leniency towards the employees on the strike had exhausted fully. Continuing to take the government’s threats of “stern action” non-seriously, trade union leaders today extended the state-wide strike of over four Lakh employees to April 17th as they threatened to include essential services in the stir and asserted that the government would be forced to bow.

Highly placed authoritative sources revealed to Early Times that the state government had compiled a list of 40 trade union leaders on the basis of reports received from their respective Heads of departments (HODs) and CID for termination of their services under Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA). Sources said that much more than the officials found absent in their offices, government had taken serious notice of a number of trade union leaders and activists enforcing the shutdown of offices while physically preventing staff from attending to their duties. With the help of Police intelligence and telecommunication companies, government has gathered material evidence of the employees being harassed over mobile phones and threatened of “dire consequences” if they continued to keep their offices functional.

Member of the 5-member Cabinet Sub-committee dealing with the employees’ strike, Taj Mohiuddin, confirmed to Early Times that the government had compiled a list of 35 to 40 “disruptionists” andb their services were being terminated by competent authorities any time on Tuesday. He said that even after invoking ESMA on April 9th last, Government had avoided to take the extreme action and had provided every possible opportunity to the employees to terminate the strike and engage it in a dialogue for redressal of their genuine grievances. “Rather than being amenable to reason and logic, they unfortunately continued to enforce shutdown and doled out threats to make the government bow. They can no more test our patience as the limit of our leniency has now exhausted fully and we are striking back with termination of the services of all delinquent ring leaders”, Taj said.

Taj said that taking stern action against those enforcing shutdown of offices with open threats had become imperative as the government was responsible for keeping the systems and services to the people functional. Besides, it had now become the question of the government’s credibility. “We have placed under suspension some defaulters and detained few others but avoided to go for the extreme action. Now that the trade union leaders have chosen to be obstinate, we are left with no option but to terminate services and initiate process of fresh recruitment”, he said.

While commenting on the trade union leaders’ fresh decision of extending the strike to April 17th, exempting the educational institutions but announcing their own timing of 0830 hrs to 1230 hrs, and threatening to go for breakdown of all essential services, Taj said: “I am telling you with full amount of confidence that the government is going to tackle this strike firmly. Take it from me that the ship of trade union leadership will be sinking in the next few days. If they are sure to enforce the breakdown of power system on April 17th, we are sure to keep it functional throughout the state”.

Taking serious note of reports that a large section of the junior employees was inclined to attend duty but their officers were more proactive in the strike, Government today ordered suspension of over two dozen officials, including a Tehsildar and Naib Tehsildar in Pulwama district. Government is understood to have directed Deputy Commissioner of Budgam to take necessary action against Chief Medical Officer, Dr Abdullah, who had locked his office and was missing since April 5th. Police today conducted a raid on CMO Budgam’s office and found him absent though a number of his subordinate officials were found present but sitting in a park outside.

On the other hand, addressing a news conference, EJAC top functionaries, Khursheed Alam, Muntazar Mohiuddin and Fayaz Shabnam reiterated that the employees’ strike would soon make the government bow. They asserted that Government’s threats of stern action could not succeed in breaking the employees’ resolve. They announced JCC’s decision of extending the strike to April 17th and said that there would complete power breakdown in entire state of Jammu & Kashmir on April 17th in case the Government chose not to revoke ESMA and release all those detained in the last ten days. They also said that essential services would be included in the strike if the stalemate continued.

On the 8th consecutive day of the JCC and EJAC –sponsored strike today, nearly 10 percent of the educational institutions were seen functional, albeit with few students and teachers in attendance. Reports said that there was reasonable increase in the employees’ attendance in other offices but the strike appeared to be imposing as few people were seen going to government officials for getting their routine works done.