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Saturday, October 31, 2015


Dy CM’s family interest fails to pass off as ‘public interest’
PDP’s Ministers refuse to be part of Jammu-based transfer industry; Power Secretary, Law Secretary, MoS Power, Law Minister turn down Nirmal Singh’s transfer list of 274 AEEs

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Oct 30: Deputy Chief Minister and Minister of Power Dr Nirmal Singh’s unprecedented proposal of the transfer of 274 Assistant Executive Engineers (AEEs), out of the total strength of 400 in Power Development Department (PDD), has been botched up not only by the Principal Secretary of Power Sandeep Nayak and Law Secretary Ashraf Mir but also by Law Minister Syed Basharat Bukhari and Minister of State for Power Mohammad Ashraf Mir. Both the Ministers from BJP’s coalition partner, PDP, have refused to be part and parcel of the dubious transfer industry, based in Jammu in this particular case.

Completing a four-month-long dubious exercise, which allegedly had characters spread from Jammu University to electric goods dealers in Gumat Chowk of Jammu, Dr Singh prepared a list of 274 AEEs and directed the Power Secretary Nayak on September 16 to issue their transfer orders with the postings shown against each by the Minister himself. Most of the proposed transfers were premature and in flagrant departure of the Government’s transfer policy.
While as 9 senior AEEs were proposed to be attached, all the 40 AEEs were proposed to be repatriated from Jammu and Kashmir State Power Development Corporation (PDC) to the PDD. In turn, 64 AEEs from PDD were proposed to be sent on deputation against 40 vacancies in PDC---excess of 24. In a similar order previously, PDD under Dr Singh’s command had posted even a retired engineer while as two engineers had been posted against one vacancy.
Under note para no: 655 on the file, Dy CM forwarded the entire list, with proposed postings, to Power Secretary with the written direction: “The following transfers and posting of i/c Assistant Executive Engineers is hereby ordered. Premature transfers, if any, and, departure from transfer policy, if any, are also approved in public interest”.
During examination of the proposal, PDD pointed out all the lacunae and flagged that PDC could not be burdened with excessive staff and 17 AEEs could not be deputed against only 7 existing vacancies in the Corporation.
Note para: 663 of a deputy secretary reads: “It may also be mentioned that 9 senior AEEs are desired to await further orders in the offices of Chief Engineers. As is evident, they would be without any work, and in a situation where 37 of their juniors are being given functional postings, it would be very demoralizing for our human resource in general and the affected officers in particular if they are practically attached and kept without work, particularly in circumstances when there is nothing to attribute the misfortune that is to befall them, to any deficiency in their working”.
Nayak returned the file to Dy CM with his observations and urged him to “review” the transfer proposal. He recorded that “Business Rules and the Manual of Secretariat Procedure” had to be followed. This obviously evoked Dy CM’s ire. Vide letter No: PS/HDCM/885/2015 dated 29-09-2015, Nayak was asked to explain his conduct and threatened that the matter of his recalcitrance would be complained to Government of India.
On October 5, Dr Singh again directed Power Secretary to immediately issue the transfer order “in the interest of the administration” and “as has been approved by the undersigned at note para 655-656”. On the same day, under Note para: 673, he responded to the Dy CM with the argument that sending a complaint to the Centre and seeking an explanation from him was “beyond the competence of the authority”.

Power Secretary threatened

Power Secretary Nayak wrote: “It is an attempt to browbeat the undersigned into doing things which are in violation of standing law/rules”. He pointed out that on one hand Dr Singh had slapped an explanation on him but, on the other hand, he had on the same date ordered him to appoint directors in the four PDD-controlled companies.
“The Minister i/c Power (HDyCM) is not the competent authority to decide the issue under the Business Rules and to ask the undersigned to issue orders, as the competent authority to decide the issue is Hon’ble Chief Minister”, wrote the senior IAS officer. He added that Dy CM’s letter dated September 29 “is perceived as a threat to the undersigned and the undersigned is obliged to act only in accordance with the Rules of Business and no threat whatsoever, masquerading in whatever form, can force the undersigned to act in any other manner”.
In the concluding Note para: 675, Nayak recorded for Dy CM on October 5: “The mass scale transfer (note para 655-656) has been framed by Minister i/c Power (HDyCM) himself. No proposal was submitted by the administrative department and mass scale transfers in an essential service department like PDD is not and cannot be in the interest of administration as it has the potential to derail the smooth functioning of the department”. He recorded that Dy CM’s transfer proposal is in violation of the existing transfer policy approved by the Cabinet and notified by GAD vide Government Order No: 861-GAD of 2010 dated 28-10-2010.
In note para: 676, Nayak proposed that administrative department “shall submit a duly considered proposal in accordance with the requirements of the Department and by following the extant transfer policy”.
MoS Power Mohammad Ashraf Mir agreed verbatim. On October 7, he wrote on the file: “Agreed with para 676 there shall not be any departure/deviation from existing transfer policy”. He proposed: “Regarding issue of Business Rules and Manual of Secretariat procedure raised by Administrative Secretary, clarfification from Law department be sought before proceeding further”.
On October 12, Law Secretary Ashraf Mir recorded: “We may advise the department to settle the issue in terms of the policy laid down by the Govt”.
Significantly, after Deputy CM’s threat of resignation to Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, Nayak was unceremoniously removed and posted in Relief and Rehabilitation Department on October 19.
Most importantly, even after Nayak’s transfer, Law Minister Basharat Bukhari gave the final opinion on October 23 and dismissed Dy CM’s transfer proposal list “a random exercise". He observed : “Para 655 of the departmental file suggests/ indicates in the open lines that, (“Premature transfer, if any, and departure from policy (transfer) if any, are also approved in the public interest”), the department is not itself sure whether there are any premature transfers/ deviation of transfer policy in the said list, so how it can be treated or termed as public interest. Hence seems a random exercise”.
Bukhari added: “Department must apply full mind and follow set procedures already notified by the govt from time to time in such matters. Even if there arises a need to affect premature transfers in the interest of administration, the reasons should be recorded for such urgency/ act by the competent authority”.
With that the chapter stands closed.
[Published in today's STATE TIMES ]

Friday, October 30, 2015

LeT’s J&K chief Abu Qasim killed in Kulgam

Massive funeral procession, shutdown, clashes, pro-Azadi slogans, Pak flags in Jamaat-PDP stronghold

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Oct 29: Within a month of his masterstroke on the State’s most important counterinsurgent Sub Inspector Altaf Dar, who was killed by him in a dramatic assault in Bandipora on October 7th , Lashkar-e-Tayyiba’s Jammu and Kashmir operational chief Abdul Rehman alias Abu Qasim has been killed in a joint operation by Police and security forces in Kulgam area of South Kashmir on Thursday.

Inspector General of Police Kashmir, Syed Javaid Mujtaba Gillani, told STATE TIMES that Qasim’s elimination had become “a great challenge” for J&K Police after Altaf’s killing. Qasim himself was killed at Khandeypora, not far away from Altaf’s residential village of Zanglipora.

“We had specific information about two militants including Qasim. We laid a cordon at 1700 hours yesterday and tightened it to ensure that no militant escapes. At 0200 hours, Qasim, along with another militant came out of the hideout and attempted to escape while breaking the cordon. He lobbed grenades and fired volleys of AK-47 fire. However, the Police and troops on vantage positions shot him dead in retaliation”, Mr Gillani said.

IGP said that involved in scores of subversive and terrorist strikes on Police, security forces and civilians, Qasim, who was from Punjab Pakistan, had remained elusive in the last five to six years. He had escaped from over a dozen cordon-and-search operations. Kulgam District Police, CRPF 18th bn and Rashtriya Rifles 9th bn participated in the operation.

IGP said that J&K Police and National Investigation Agency (NIA) had declared Qasim as the most wanted militant and announced cash reward of Rs 20 lakh on his head. “It was exclusively the Police operation. This is our most important achievement in the last several years”, Gillani asserted.

DIG South Kashmir Nitish Kumar described Qasim as LeT’s most important militant of current times. “He had meticulous guerrilla training and exceptional organisational capabilities. Thus, he was the most dangerous terrorist. He had escaped from dozens of operations and carried out successful militant strikes. Besides, he had recruited dozens of youths as LeT cadres”, DIG said.

Massive funeral

Reports from Kulgam said that hundreds of people converged on Khandeypora village and they forced the Police and security forces to call off the operation. Officials, seeking anonymity, said that one or two holed up militants managed to escape after mingling with the supportive crowds. Police handed over Qasim’s body to the local Auqaf which was subsequently carried in a funeral procession from DPL Kulgam to Bogam village. Residents of Khandeypora insisted that the body be buried in their village but residents of Bogam took the coffin forcibly to their village.

An intelligence arm of J&K Police put the number of the participants in Qasim’s funeral procession as “8,000 t0 9,000”.  A resident, Sabzar Ahmad, insisted that “over 20,000” people attended the militant’s funeral. However, DIG Nitish Kumar claimed that “not more than 2,500” people formed the procession at Bogam. This area of South Kashmir is a stronghold of the separatist Jamaat-e-Islami and the mainstream Peoples Democratic Party.

Independent reports said that the participants in the funeral procession shouted anti-India, pro-Pakistan and pro-Azadi slogans. Some of them carried Pakistani national flags and black mourning flags. The participants clashed with Police and CRPF at several places while carrying the slain militant’s coffin from one village to another.

Qasim’s Namaaz-e-Janazah was conducted at Government Higher Secondary School of Bogam by Hurriyat (Geelani) activist Shabir Ahmad Dar. Without any organisation’s call, shutdown was observed in Kulgam, Shopian and Pulwama districts besides parts of Anantnag district.

Sources said that Police in Shopian arrested 67 people of Pulwama and seized five of their vehicles on the allegation that they were enforcing shutdown over Qasim’s death in the encounter.

Woman claims body

Minutes after the funeral prayers, one middle-aged woman, Nasreena, appeared at Bogam and claimed that the slain militant was her brother Yaqoob and not the LeT chief Abu Qasim of Pakistan. She told the gathering that one of her brother’s ears was bigger and another smaller and he had left his home 15 years back to become a militant. She claimed that she had recognised the body as her brother as it had one bigger and another smaller ear.

Even as the dispute on identification continued for two hours, two militants armed with AK-47 rifles pronounced their decision that the body would be buried only in Bogam. They asserted before the gathering with several gunshots in the air that it was none other than their Pakistani commander Abu Qasim. Thereupon, the body was buried in the local “martyrs’ graveyard” in Bogam.

IGP Kashmir said that Abu Qasim was involved in dozens of terrorist attacks and killings including planning of Udhampur fidayeen attack in which two BSF soldiers died and 12 others got injured on August 5, 2015.

In addition to killing SI Altaf Dar, Qasim with other militants had attacked an Army vehicle killing eight soldiers at Hyderpora on the eve of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit in August 2013. On his direction, two LeT militants had attacked noted cardiologist and former Director of SKIMS Dr Sheikh Jalal and killed two of his PSOs in Pampore in July 2013. Later critically injured Dr Jalal died at AIIMS in New Delhi.


Thursday, October 29, 2015

IAS officer was put under pressure to buy a favoured firm’s power without tenders

Hasty exercise to sign PPA before formulation of power purchase policy draft hits a rock

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Oct 28: Efforts of a Rs 700 crore joint venture, comprising a Chennai-based firm and a Jammu-based business group, to sign the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) for selling 100 mw of solar power to the Government of Jammu and Kashmir while bypassing the mandatory bidding route have run into rough weather, notwithstanding the unceremonious exit of the Principal Secretary Power Development Department (PDD).

In his note, flagged as ‘MOST URRGENT’, Shakti Pathak, Officer on Special Duty with Deputy Chief Minister Dr Nirmal Singh, had made it clear to Mr Nayak that his boss had taken the delay in signing the PPA with the firm “seriously”.

OSD’s note No: PS/HDCM/627/2015 Dated 06-08-2015 reads: “After lapse of more than three months in which the decision was taken, i.e. April 2015, no action seems to have been taken by the Power Development Department and Hon’ble Deputy Chief Minister has taken view seriously. As desired by the Hon’ble Deputy Chief Minister, Principal Secretary to Government is requested to take immediate necessary steps regarding signing the Power PPA with the developer so that work on 100 mw SPP at Chann Arrorian, Kathua, is executed by the agency”.

After the 1988 batch IAS officer Sandeep Nayak refused to sign the PPA with some influential politician’s favoured firm without determination of the rate through open tenders, he was transferred to the insignificant Relief and Rehabilitation department on October 19.

Dheeraj Gupta, who succeeded Nayak as Commissioner-Secretary PDD, told STATE TIMES that no PPA was signed with the joint venture promoters “Thein Venayak Energy”. Asked about its latest status, Gupta said “the proposal is where it was early this month”. “I was told that the department has taken the view that no such PPA could be signed without the obligation of competitiveness”, he said.

Chief Engineer Commercial & Survey Wing of PDD, Ms Shehnaz Goni, who is a key member of the Government’s Comprehensive Power Purchase Policy draft, revealed that the draft had been completed but it was being fine-tuned with certain additions. “We will be submitting the PPP draft to the Government after opening of Durbar in second week of November in Jammu. It will be adopted if approved by the Cabinet”, she told STATE TIMES.

According to the well placed bureaucratic sources, some of the influential politicians, including Ministers of BJP, were keen to have the PPA signed with the Government without going through the competition route and before the Comprehensive Power Purchase Policy draft would come into force. They disclosed that the vendor demanded the rate Rs 6.08/per unit to be fixed for the term of 10 years. Without waiting for an official draft, he had reportedly obtained a draft from West Bengal and wanted the PDD to sign the same with him without going for bidding.

Rate of Rs 6.08/per unit is in fact the benchmark capital cost fixed by Jammu and Kashmir State Electricity Regularity Commission (SERC) as per the Central Electricity Regulatory Commissions General Levellized Tariff which, for all private power purchases, is subject to competitiveness. Section 57 of SERC mandate ‘Determination of tariff by bidding process’ says: “Notwithstanding anything contained in Section 56, the Commission shall adopt the tariff if such tariff has been determined through TRANSPARENT PROCESS OF BIDDING in accordance with the guidelines issued by the Government.

J&K State’s annual power bill is around Rs 5,000 crore.

The company wanted to sell 100 mw of solar power to the State government from its Rs 700 crore 100 mw solar photovoltaic power plant at Chann Arrorian, Kathua. The company claims to have purchased 5,000 Kanals of land in Kathua and set up the plant after it was “sanctioned” by Department of Science and Technology on April 9, 2013.

A senior official of S&T Department said that sanctioning a private solar power plant as per the guidelines of Ministry of New and Renewable Energy of Government of India does not mean fixation of contract for buying the unit’s product. “The State gets involved only when it buys power from such a plant. If the company generates power and sells it to other clients or other governments, what’s our problem? They are free to sell it to anybody. We will buy only when we get it at the lowest price”, he said.

In July this year, Madhya Pradesh government invited bids for buying 300 mw of solar power. One hundreds bidders including Reliance Power, Adani Power, MK Welsun, Sun Edison and NHDC participated in the competition. The contract was allotted to Sky Power South East Asia Holding Ltd Mauritius which offered the country’s lowest rate of Rs 5.05/ per unit.

It was immediately after the PDP-BJP assumed office and Dy CM got the power portfolio that Thein India Energy Chennai’s local promoter Anirudh Chandel started efforts to get the PPA signed. He, according to sources, met among other Dr Singh and Minister incharge S&T Sajjad Gani Lone. PDD’s review meeting was fixed on April 21.

In the meeting which was chaired by CM and attended by Dy CM, Minister of Finance Haseb Drabu, Minister of S&T Sajjad Lone, Minister of Information Technology Imran Ansari and MOS IT Pawan Gupta, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed was told that the TIE’s solar power plant in Kathua had got “stuck” as the developer has not been able to sign PPA with the PDD. According to minutes of the meeting, CM desired that “PDD may facilitate signing of the PPA with the developer at the rates issued by SERC so that 100 mw solar power plant comes up without further delay”.

Interestingly, CM’s “desire that PDD may facilitate signing of PPA” was misinterpreted repeatedly by Ministry of Power. Not only the company in its communications to S&T Secretary Satish Nehru on June 30 but also Dy CM’s OSD in his note dated August 6 to Power Secretary sought to project CM’s “desire to facilitate” as the “CM’s Order”.

The company director had submitted a representation to CM. It was forwarded by Deputy Director (P) in CM’s Secretariat Madan Gopal Sharma to Power Secretary with the advice “to kindly take necessary steps for addressing the issues highlighted by the developer so that the first SPP in the State is set up as per schedule”. This communication No: FC/PRS/HCM/05 Dated 31-07-2015 was also misinterpreted by Ministry of Power as “CM’s Order.

Interestingly it was in the middle of the process that TIE Chennai entered into joint venture with Venayak Energy, Jammu. The agreement executed on July 21, 2015 says that TIE would invest 10% of the project expenditure and Venayak 90%. Profit distribution was also fixed in the same ratio. Thereafter one Adil Mustafa Khan, described as Venayak’s “representative” started pursuing the file. It was he who got a PPA draft from West Bengal, signed it on behalf of TIE-Venayak and pressed Power Secretary to sign it.

The most significant decision of the CM’s review meeting on April 21 was direction to constitute a Comprehensive Power Purchase Policy committee that would make a draft and submit it to Government in six weeks.
Rather than signing the PPA, Mr Nayak sought the views of CE Commercial & Survey who returned the file with some key recommendations. “The rates fixed by SERC are worked on various parameters and are quite high and do not represent the current market rates either for medium or long term basis unless a transparent bidding mechanism is adopted in the interest of State”.

CE C&S Wing concluded: “ In view of the above state facts, it is neither advisable nor in the interest of government to enter into such power purchase agreement with ‘M/S Then India Energy Pvt Ltd” binding the State for such a long term of 10-12 years with uncertainty of rates”.

On CE’s note, Mr Nayak sought the view of Commissioner Secretary Finance Naveen Choudhary. After thorough examination, Finance Department returned the file with the note that such an agreement could not be made with the vendor with going for bidding.

Escorted by BJP leaders, Then-Venayak rep denies ‘favour’ by Dy CM

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Oct 28: Promoters of the 100 mw solar power plant at Chann Arrorian Kathua, Then-Venayak Energy on Wednesday claimed that the firm had got no undue favour by Dy Chief Minister Dr Nirmal Singh or any other Minister or politician in establishment of its plant.

“We have no association with or support from any political party, be that NC, Congress, PDP or BJP”, Adil Mustafa Khan, representative of the joint venture said at a press conference held at a hotel in Lalchowk. However, Mr Khan was escorted by a number of BJP leaders and workers including the BJP’s Media Head Altaf Thakur. All the BJP workers later enjoyed kabab and kanti with Mr Khan in presence of mediapersons.

Mr Khan with another associate claimed that the solar plant had been “sanctioned” to ‘Then India Energy’ at Kathua in 2013 when Omar Abdullah was Chief Minister and Minister of Power and Aga Ruhullah was Minister of Science & Technology. Now NC’s chief spokesman, Aga Ruhullah had on Tuesday lashed out at the BJP-PDP government for extending undue favours to a particular firm in establishing its 100 mw solar power plant at the cost of Rs 700 crore.

Mr Khan held former Principal Secretary Power Sandeep Nayak squarely responsible for the “delay” in signing of Power Purchase Agreement. “Every IAS and KAS officer should respect his chair. When Mr Nayak heard of Rs 700 figure, he thought a part of it would go to his pocket”, Khan said. He said that he had obtained a PPA draft from West Bengal but Mr Nayak did not sign it.

When mediapersons pointed out some BJP leaders’ presence and asked him why he was being escorted by the workers of a political party, he claimed that none of them was from BJP. However, BJP leader Mr Thakur remained unmoved.


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

J&K Dy CM directed Power Secretary to allot Rs 700 cr project to a favourite without tenders
IAS officer Sandeep Nayak was removed after he resisted Nirmal Singh’s diktat to allot Kathua’s 100 mw solar plant to Chennai-based firm ‘Then India Energy’
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
SRINAGAR, Oct 26: Principal Secretary Power Sandeep Nayak’s transfer from the all-important Power Development Department to the least significant Relief and Rehabilitation on October 19th was sequel to his refusal to allot a Rs 700 crore project without tenders to one of the favourites of the Deputy Chief Minister and Minister of Power Dr Nirmal Singh.
Documents accessed by STATE TIMES make it unambiguously clear that the Deputy Chief Minister, who has previously had a stake in power projects along with another senior J&K BJP leader and now a Member of Parliament, during the BJP government, in Himachal Pradesh, wanted to allot a solar power project in Kathua district to a Chennai-based firm through a Jammu-based agent without tenders. Huge kickbacks behind such allotments during Congress regime have been a tradition.
The Chennai-based firm ‘Then India Energy Pvt Ltd” had established contact with Mr Nirmal Singh after his taking over as Dy Chief Minister and Minister incharge Power through one Anirudh Chandel of Pacca Danga, Jammu, and started efforts to get the allotment of the Rs 700 crore solar power project in Kathua without facing competition by other contenders. The project, that would generate 100 mw of solar power and sell it to State government at high-profit rates, was proposed to come up at Chan Arorian, Kathua.
After Principal Secretary PDD Sandeep Nayak refused to act on the Dy CM’s verbal orders, also conveyed to him through his staff, Mr Singh’s Officer on Special Duty sent a written note of the Minister’s direction to the IAS officer on August 6, 2015.
The OSD’s note reads: “As desired by Dy CM, Principal Secretary Power Department is requested to take immediate steps for signing the power purchase agreement with the developer so that 100 mw solar power plant at Chan Arorian Kathua is executed by the agency”.
Interestingly, apart from infringement of a constitutional obligation, such kind of allotment would have been also deficient for the fact that Dy CM’s illegally favoured firm had no experience of such an execution.
Rather than taking the Minister’s diktat, Nayak forwarded the proposal to Principal Secretary Finance Naveen Choudhary for his advice in the matter. Finance Secretary categorically turned down the proposal with the observation that no such government work could be allotted to any agency without calling tenders from the bidders through a competition.
After Nayak’s resistance, Dr Singh exerted considerable pressure on Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed to remove the Power Secretary. However, Mufti resisted Dy CM’s sustained pressure for about two months. On one point of time, Dy CM even threatened to resign in case Nayak was not removed as Power Secretary.
Finally, in the Cabinet meeting on October 19th, Dr Singh managed Nayak’s transfer to an insignificant department. He was replaced by Commissioner-Secretary Relief and Rehabilitation Dheeraj Gupta. Within months of his return to the State from Central deputation and his appointment as Principal Secretary PDD, Nayak was shifted prematurely.
According to highly placed bureaucratic sources, Nayak narrated everything in detail to Chief Secretary B.R. Sharma who was perturbed over the development but could not put his foot down as Dr Singh was “terribly adamant” on the IAS officer’s transfer.
With two successful stints as Commissioner-Secretary Power and Principal Secretary Power and two more as MD of Power Development Corporation, the 1988-batch IAS officer has maximum of his achievements in Power sector alone. Major power projects he got executed include Baglihar-1 (450 mw) and Baglihar-2 (450 mw) which is likely to be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 7t. Baglihar generates revenue of Rs 1,400 crore a year for the State government.
Attempts to seek Dy CM’s reaction did not succeed as he and his aides did not respond to phone calls from this newspaper.
JCO, 2 Burhan group militants killed in Pulwama encounter

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
SRINAGAR, Oct 26: A junior commissioned officer of Army and two militants of Hizbul Mujahideen’s Burhan group died in a fierce encounter in Pulwama district of South Kashmir on Monday.

Informed sources told STATE TIMES that Special Operations Group (SOG) of Pulwama District Police and troops from a unit of Rashtriya Rifles 44 Bn. Swooped down on a militant hideout at Drobgam in Rajpora area of Pulwama on Monday evening. Operation was launched after SSP Pulwama learned from a source that one militant of Karimabad was hiding in the village.

SOG and Army laid a tight siege to the neighbourhood but the holed up militants opened fire and made unsuccessful attempts to escape. Suddenly, someone from the public address system of the village mosque called the residents to come out and resist the advance of the troops. Hundreds of people gathered and attempted to spoil the operation while shouting slogans and engaging the Police and paramilitary forces in ding dong clashes.

Troops nevertheless persisted with the operation, denying the holed up militants any chance to escape. Subedar KVS Reddy sustained critical injuries in the beginning of the encounter. He was evacuated and airlifted to Army’s 92 Base Hospital in Srinagar where he succumbed to injuries late in the evening.

Sources said that two local militants of Hizbul Mujahideen’s Burhan Wani group got killed in the gunfight. They were identified as Afaqullah Bhat S/o Abdul Rashid Bhat R/o Karimabad and Abdul Manan Dar S/o Bashir Ahmad Dar R/o Amarbugh. Troops did not call off the operation as they could not carry out full search of the hideout.

DIG South Kashmir Nitish Kumar confirmed the death of two militants and one JCO. He said that since the residents had also spotted an injured militant, forces did not wind up the operation even after the exchange of gunfire subsided. “We had information only about one militant. But two militants died and one more was believed to have got injured and could be hiding somewhere. We will resume searches in the morning tomorrow”, DIG said.

DIG confirmed that both the slain militants had joined Burhan’s group earlier in 2015 when he started to emerge as an icon for youngsters “on account of the wide coverage he got through media”. Burhan was the first Kashmiri militant who clicked pictures and shot videos with over a dozen of his armed militants---all without masks---and got them widely circulated through social media including Facebook, WhatsApp and YouTube.

Many of Burhan’s associates are residents of Afaqullah Bhat’s Kareemabad village of Pulwama district. They include Constable Naseer Ahmad----Personal Security Officer of senior PDP leader and Minister of R&B Syed Altaf Bukhari. He had deserted his duty and escaped with two AK-47 rifles.


Monday, October 26, 2015

Vigilance probing multi-crore e-ticket scam in Gulmarg Gandola

Picked up by Talat Parvez Rohella for e-ticket contract, Afford Infocom is alleged to have swindled crores in truck with officials

Ahmad Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Oct 25: Enjoying high political and bureaucratic clout during Omar Abdullah’s NC-Congress coalition, tainted KAS officer Talat Parvez has managed his return to the bureaucratic mainstream and appointment as Director of Floriculture on October 19th despite the fact that the Departmental Inquiries pointed out large scale irregularities and brazen violation of laws and rules during his tenure as Managing Director of Jammu and Kashmir Cable Car Corporation  (JKCCC) and Director of Tourism Kashmir.

Prior to his appointment as Director Tourism Kashmir in May 2012, Rohella functioned as MD JKCCC. Even after his transfer, he retained JKCCC as additional charge. In January 2015, Governor's administration transferred and appointed him as DC Baramulla. However, in view of serious charges and allegations of corruption and misuse of official position, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s government attached him to General Administration Department  (GAD) in its first administrative reshuffle in March 2015.

On one hand, Government served a memo of charges on Rohella and on May 8th and on July 24th appointed Commissioner-Secretary Agriculture Mohammad Ashraf Bukhari as Inquiry Officer. On the other hand, same government picked up Rohella for induction into IAS without clearance from Vigilance and without regard to the Inquiry going on against him. The file of recommendation containing Rohella’s name was secretly carried on former Chief Secretary Iqbal Khanday’s direction by Additional Secretary GAD Khalid Majeed by hand in the morning flight one day in the middle of July when memo of charges had been served and Bukhari was being appointed as Inquiry Officer.

Mr Majeed delivered the file at Union Public Service Commission in New Delhi and returned same day by the afternoon flight.

Again, on one hand an internal inquiry found large scale fraudulent cobduct in allotment of works without tenders to the tune of Rs 15 crore in JKCCC during Rohella’s tenure besides unauthirised engagement of around 80 casual labourers, followed by e-ticket scam worth crores. On the other hand, post of Director Floriculture was reserved for the same officer for three months. Finally, even after Mr Khanday quit in protest, and after the allegations against Rohella died down due to other administrative halos, he was brought back and appointed Director Floriculture. If well placed sources are to be believed, in the second phase of his rehabilitation, he is being given a far more important posting.

Reports that a former Chief Minister advocated Rohella’s reinstatement could not be confirmed from independent sources. However, sources insisted that a senior PDP leader and Cabinet Minister came to the rescue of three blue eyed officers when they were about to be terminated as deadwood in the beginning of the PDP-BJP government. Rohella, sources said, was one among them.

While many of the real deadwood and known liabilities managed to get themselves off the hook, those terminated included a junior official who had allegedly accepted Rs 500 bribe money and an AEE of PDD who landed in Vigilance net over a transformer platform. They also included an officer who had been attending his young daughter suffering from leukemia  (blood cancer) in hospital for two years. His leave was sanctioned by GAD that terminated his services immediately after inducting him in KAS and promoting him as Additional Secretary after obtaining vigilance clearance.

As MD JKCCC, Rohella is facing charges of unauthorised allotment of works to handpicked contractors to the tune of Rs 15 crore without calling tenders besides unauthorised engagement of nearly 80 people as casual labourers, to be subsequently absorbed against Class 4th vacancies. He also allotted e-ticket contract to M/S Afford Infocom who were recently caught in the embezzlement of tickets for unknown amount of money. On a comprehensive complaint, State Vigilance Organisation has now completed secretly Preliminary Verification and many of the charges have been found correct. A criminal case has been registered against the JKCCC officials including then MD.

Rohella outsourced the online ticketing system of Gulmarg Gondola to M/s Afford Infocom free of cost just like he handed over a portion of under-construction TRC Building at Srinagar to M/S Kashmir Art Quest. These tickets were sold through the official website of Gulmarg Gondola and the amount was embezzled by bypassing the payment gateway and using the official website and database managed by the firm. The access to official website and database including payment gateway is a multi-layer password protected system administered by the officials of M/s Afford Infocom. The database can only be tampered with when all such passwords (including the administrator password which is held by head of the firm i.e Director) are entered correctly by their originators who have the authority to command the software to skip payment gateway.

An inquiry by Tourism Department reveals that the details in the database were erased by an employee of M/s Afford Infocom that is hosting the database, as a result of which the quantum of money actually embezzled cannot be established. This argument is ridiculous as every database has a backup server that can restore the data in case of database crash or other damage due to natural disaster and the details of this scam can easily be unearthed by NIC.

Further, reconciliation of money received from online booking with the number of e-tickets issued to tourists can also establish the quantum of money embezzled by the beneficiaries who manipulated the system and diverted the payments received through payment gateway into their bottomless pit instead of official account of J&KCCC. Rohella who headed JKCCC failed to ensure regular reconciliation of revenue with e-tickets issued during that particular period with counter-foil of the boarding passes as is done by airline officials.

Incharge MD JKCCC Nazir Ahmad Mir confirmed to STATE TIMES that State Vigilance Organisation was holding an investigation but he asserted that it were the officials of the Corporation itself who got suspicious and nailed the fraud. He said that during a departmental inquiry, an employee of Afford Infocom confessed to the crime and offered to return entire amount of Rs 4.89 lakh. However, JKCCC wrote to the government, seeking direction about the further course of action. “They claim that only Rs 4.89 lakh has been swindled but only an investigation by IT and cyber crime experts can determine precisely how much of the revenue has been siphoned off”, Mr Mir said. He said that with average annual revenue of Rs 40 crore a year, Gulmarg Gandola’s income in financial year of 2014-15 was Rs 46 crore.

As Director Tourism, Rohella created further liabilities to the tune of Rs. 209.46 lacs over and above the sanctioned budget of Rs. 650.00 lacs by not adhering to budgetary ceiling and cleared under process bills, amounting to Rs. 395.98 lacs. Inspite of a ban imposed by the government, he illegally engaged 482 persons as "need-based workers". He projected additionality of Rs. 1330.00 lacs over and above the Annual Plan 2014-15, allocation whereof was Rs. 2245.75 lacs.


Sunday, October 25, 2015

Amid ban on main procession, Ashura observed across Valley

After 1988, authorities have never allowed Srinagar Zuljanah rally
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Oct 24: Ashura, the martyrdom anniversary of Prophet Mohammad’s grandson Hazrat Imam Hussain and his companions in the battlefield of Karbala in Iraq, was observed across the State of Jammu and Kashmir with traditional practice of mourning by Shia Muslims on Saturday. Even as the authorities, like every year since 1988, did not allow the main Zuljanah procession on its traditional route of Abiguzar Lalchowk-Zadibal in the capital city, quoting security reasons, thousands of devotees participated in scores of the mourning processions in Shia population areas throughout Kashmir valley.

On the pattern of a post-1988 tradition, mourners brought out the Valley’s largest attended Zuljanah procession from Botakadal Lalbazar in the forenoon braving inclement weather. It marched through different Shia-dominated neighbourhoods and culminated late in the night in the traditional Majlis-e-Shaam-e-Gareebaan at the historic Imambara of Zadibal.

Organisers as well as authorities said that over 50,000 mourners participated in the Zuljanah procession while reciting Nowha and Marthiya and paying tributes to the 72 martyrs of Karbala and Imam Hussain’s companions who survived the bloodshed.

Unlike in the last several years when intermittent clashes occurred at some places en route to Zadibal, authorities had made best security arrangements and other logistics for smooth proceedings of the procession. Restrictions were strictly imposed in vast area of downtown Srinagar. Like in the last two days, there was curfew-like situation in entire downtown, with the exception of Lalbazar-Zadibal belt, even Lalchowk area of uptown where Police had placed barriers of Concertina wire at several places to prevent human movement and traffic.

A number of the religious and political outfits had condemned the restrictions and the government’s refusal to permit the main Zuljanah procession as “interference with religion” and threatened to violate the ban.

With the restrictions strictly in place, no attempts were made to take out a procession from Abiguzar in the Civil Lines. On Thursday, scores of mourners had been thrashed and detained for violating the restrictions on occasion of 8th of Muharram and attempting to take out a procession.

In the countryside, the largest Zujanah and Alam procession came out from Imambara Mirgund and in the forenoon and concluded with Majlis-e-Shaam-e-Gareebaan at Budgam. Thousands of Shia Muslim mourners, including a large number of women, participated in the procession.

Smaller Zuljanah, Alam and Tazia processions were taken out in around 50 Shia-dominated towns from Chhatergul in South Kashmir to Kamalkote Uri in North Kashmir.

No untoward incident was reported from anywhere in the Valley.

Reports of large Ashura processions poured in also from Kargil and Leh. Ladakhi Shia Muslims thronged Imambargahs and participated in the processions while reciting Nowha in Urdu and Ladakhi languages and dialects.

In their separately issued statements, different opposition leaders including Hurriyat Chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani lashed out on the Mufti Sayeed government for disallowing the Muharram procession from Lalchowk to Zadibal. Some of them even referred to the RSS procession in Jammu which was permitted by the authorities despite the fact that nobody had sought any permission and the chalaks were allowed to march with swords and guns throughout the old city of Jammu.

The centuries old Ashura procession had been for the first time banned by the authorities after tension built up in Srinagar with the Pakistani military ruler Gen Ziaul Haq’s death in a plane crash in 1989. In the following 25 years, the main Ashura procession was disallowed as the authorities claimed that militants could attack or cause a blast and hold the Government responsible for it. However, the political parties, including National Conference and PDP, have refused to be the takers of this theory though neither of them allowed it when they were the ruling parties.