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Friday, March 11, 2016

Loot of exchequer by R&B Xens in Governor’s rule unabated

Official vehicles dumped, private vehicles hired at Rs 50,000 to Rs 60,000 per month

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, March 10: Executive Engineers (EEs) of different departments, particularly those of R&B Department, are looting the State exchequer with impunity even in Governor’s rule without any fear of accountability as most of them have dumped their official vehicles and engaged private vehicles and drivers for Rs 50,000 to Rs 60,000 a month. STATE TIMES discovered during an investigation that the vehicles engaged without any justification by the EEs actually belong either to their own families, friends or relatives.

During a survey, this newspaper observed that in Kashmir valley 25 EEs, particularly those on deputation with Tourism Development Authorities and other departments, had dumped the official drivers and were themselves driving the same for official and private purposes. “They draw inflated bills on account of fuel and earn an average of Rs 10,000 to Rs 15,000 a month out of it. They are not content with the embezzlements done in regular bills of works which run into crores”, said an insider on the condition of anonymity. He said "just some exceptions" do not indulge in this kind of brazen loot of exchequer.

When this newspaper brought it to the notice of Commissioner-Secretary R&B, Rohit Kansal last month, he immediately ordered an enquiry. Within a few days, many of the EEs returned the official vehicles to the regular drivers. SE R&B Pulwama and SE R&B Baramulla, Farooq Ahmad Najar, who had engaged private Scorpio JK01N-5151, also disengaged the vehicles.

However, STATE TIMES proceeded with the investigation while making Baramulla and Kupwara as the sample districts. It observed that almost all the EEs have dumped their official vehicles, including brand new and operational vehicles, either in their own offices or those of Superintending Engineers or Chief Engineer. They have hired their own or their relatives’ or friends’ private vehicles and have been paying them average of Rs 50,000 to Rs 60,000 a month without any justification from the State exchequer. At an average each division has spent Rs 6 lakh a year on account of illegal and unauthorised payments made to such vehicles.

It is suspected that the money drawn from State exchequer is shared between the EEs and owners of the private vehicles. A percentage of the billed amount goes to the Accounts Officers and other officials. There is a huge mismatch between the entries made in the log books and the actual official travelling. Some of the EEs claim to have travelled 100 to 200 Km every day.

It was observed that Shah Jehan, EE R&B Division Kupwara has dumped his official vehicle and driver and hired private Scorpio, JK05D-6955, which belongs to one of his acquaintances.

EE of R&B Division Handwara, Abdul Aziz, has dumped his official vehicle and hired private Zylo, JK13B-8590, which is being operated by a private driver.

EE of R&B Division Uri, Ajit Singh, has dumped his official vehicle and driver and engaged private Scorpio, JK05D-4330, which is being operated by a private driver.

EE of R&B Division Baramulla, Shabir Ahmad, has dumped his official vehicle and driver and hired private Scorpio, JK01R-2591, which is being operated by a private driver. Previously, for several months, this EE had similarly hired another private vehicle bearing number 8181. It ferried him between his home in Pulwama and office in Baramulla.

EE of R&B Division Sopore, Gurdeep Singh, has dumped his official vehicle and driver and hired private Scorpio, JK05D-3822, which is being operated by a private driver as a routine between the Divisional Office in Sopore, SE’s office in Baramulla, CE’s office in Srinagar and EE’s home in Chogal, Handwara.

It was observed that some EEs have been drawing Rs 1200 a day for the private driver plus Rs 500 to Rs 1,000 as cost of fuel.

Commissioner-Secretary R&B, Rohit Kansal, told STATE TIMES that he has ordered separate enquiries, one being headed by CE R&B Kashmir and another by DC Baramulla, Yasha Mudgal. “I am expecting their detailed reports within a few days. We will initiate appropriate action under rules against the officers who will be found indulging in this kind of unauthorised expenditure”, Mr Kansal said.

Officials in Finance Department said that a private vehicle can be hired by a competent government officer for maximum of two or three days a month if such an exigency occurred for discharge of duty. “Hiring private vehicles and dumping the official vehicles and drives for the purpose of looting the State exchequer is completely illegal. It warrants stringent action including recovery of the money paid from the account of the Drawing and Disbursing Officer”, said a senior official.


Thursday, March 10, 2016

Two LeT militants killed, 4 trapped in Pulwama operation

Wanted by NIA for Udhampur recce , Abu Ukasha killed; UAVs track fleeing militants, 6 villages put under cordon

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

JAMMU, March 9: A cluster of six villages bordering Awantipora and Pulwama Police districts was put under cordon after Army’s Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) tracked four heavily armed militants fleeing into Galbugh village following the death of two top wanted militants of Lashkar-e-Tayyiba during a major cordon-and-search operation in South Kashmir on Wednesday.

Authoritative sources told STATE TIMES that units of Rashtriya Rifles 50th and 55th battalions, CRPF and Special Operations Groups of Awantipora and Pulwama district Police launched a major crackdown in an area between Awantipora base of the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Awantipora headquarters of Army’s counterinsurgent division, Victor Force, after receiving intelligence inputs about the movement of six hardcore militants of LeT in the afternoon.

Trapped in Wandakpora, the militants engaged the security forces and SOG in a fierce encounter for several hours. Two militants were killed and, according to eyewitnesses, another militant sustained critical injuries. However, the residents gathered in large numbers and they provided a shield to the militant while pelting stones and shouting anti-India, pro-Pakistan and pro-Azadi slogans.

Apprehensive of collateral damage, troops called off the operation but put in place an aerial surveillance system. Senior Defence sources said more than one UAVs were put in place, besides other technological support, which tracked the four militants’ passage from Wandakpora to Galbugh village in the evening. Sniffer dogs were also employed to trace the four militants after the security forces spotted a trail of blood from Wandakpora to Galbugh.

Officials associated with the operation revealed to STATE TIMES late in the night that the security forces were trying to zero in on the houses where the four militants were believed to be holed up. However, there was no fresh exchange of gunfire till round midnight. “We are sure to get them all but a possible law and order problem is a major hindrance. It has become a routine since last year that wherever we get the militants trapped, residents create a disturbance to help them hide or escape”, said a senior official supervising the operation.

DIG South Kashmir, Nitish Kumar, said that the two militants killed in the encounter at Wandakpora were identified as Abu Ukasha and Abu Zaid, both from Punjab, Pakistan. Two AK-47 rifles and quantity of other arms and ammunition were recovered along with the two bodies.

Significantly, Ukasha was wanted by National Investigation Agency (NIA) for having reconnoitred the areas on Srinagar-Jammu highway, around Udhampur, headquarters of Army’s Northern Command, before a fidayeen attack on the BSF convoy, near Samroli, on August 5, 2015. LeT militant Naveed was captured alive even as his accomplice was shot dead in retaliatory fire by BSF.

According to sources, Naveed later revealed to his investigators that his LeT colleague Abu Ukasha had carried out reconnaissance of Udhampur area before the militants travelled all the way from South Kashmir and launched a suicide strike. Two BSF men had got killed and 10 others injured in the attack allegedly planned by LeT’s J&K chief Abdul Rehman alias Abu Qasim who was later killed in an encounter with security forcs in Kulgam area of South Kashmir in December 2015.

Meanwhile, Police and security forces launched a search operation in Khimber area on outskirts of Srinagar. They spotted and chased away two militants. Both managed to escape, even as one of them left behind his AK-56 rifle that was seized by Police.


Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Mehbooba says ball of government formation is in BJP’s court

‘As soon as BJP will give traction to Agenda of Alliance, I’ll come forward to fulfil Mufti Sahab’s objective’

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

JAMMU, March 7: Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) President Mehbooba Mufti reiterated on Monday that the ball was in BJP’s court with regard to formation of the new government, after her father and Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s death, in Jammu and Kashmir.

“Mufti Sahab took a bold decision of forging an alliance with the BJP and the NDA in March 2015 for the larger interest of the promotion of brotherhood and peace, for the purpose of providing employment to the unemployed. We the Kashmiris often face accusation of not being loyal to the word. My father was true to his word, so am I. But the fact is that the Agenda of Alliance he made with the BJP needs traction. As soon as BJP will give traction to the Agenda of Alliance and there’s a tangible progress, I’ll come forward to fulfil Mufti Sahab’s objective”, Ms Mufti said in her interaction with media after addressing the party workers conference at Tourist Reception Centre at Kupwara.

In her 40-minute-long speech earlier, Mehbooba dispelled the impression that she was not inclined to take over as Chief Minister of the new PDP-BJP government. She said that she would occupy the Chief Minister’s chair in the interest of the people of Jammu and Kashmir but only after the BJP came forward with a tangible progress on the promises made to the PDP and the initiatives mutually agreed upon by the coalition partners in the Agenda of Alliance.

An emotionally surcharged Mehbooba said that Mufti’s decision of forging alliance with BJP was a fait accompli and she would strictly abide by it, subject to the condition that the BJP came forward with necessary confidence building measures “to fill up the trust deficit between New Delhi and Srinagar”. Like in the last two months, she did not specify what precisely she wanted BJP to do for re-stitching a coalition with the PDP. This ambiguity prompted the audiences, including mediapersons, to believe that the PDP President had mellowed down her rigidity and she would need just a vague statement from the BJP or a Central leader’s visit to give her consent to the oath-taking.

“Mufti saheb was well known for his conviction in his decisions and his commitment to fulfil them with unflinching faith and sincerity despite tremendous pressures. PDP will always honour his decision with the same unflinching faith and sincerity of purpose but it is the turn of Government of India to reciprocate its sincerity towards his vision of peace and prosperity of the state by taking tangible action on ground ” she asserted.

Mehbooba said she and her party were committed to the “Agenda of Alliance” which encompassed redresses for “almost all the facets of J&K’s peculiar challenges including internal, external, political, security, economic, social, developmental and governance issues in a comprehensive and effective manner”.

“I am sure if the measures spelled out in the Agenda of Alliance are implemented with sincerity of purpose, it will go a long way in not only addressing the trust-deficit between New Delhi and J&K but would also lay strong foundations for sustainable peace and prosperity in the State and the region,” she said. “While Mufti Mohammad Sayeed made a visionary move in March 2015 by entering into coalition with BJP to form a stable government in the State, it was and is the responsibility of the Government of India to reciprocate the same by taking tangible steps towards implementation of the Agenda of Alliance, which addresses political, economic and developmental aspirations of all the regions and sub-regions of the State”, she added.


Monday, March 7, 2016

Top wanted Hizb militant killed in Kulgam encounter

One militant escapes as residents disrupt Army’s operation with stones and slogans

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

JAMMU, March 6: In three days of killing three militants of Hizbul Mujahideen’s Burhan group in Dadsar village of Tral, Police and security forces on Sunday killed another top wanted militant even as his accomplice escaped when residents disrupted the operation while shouting slogans and pelting stones.

Informed sources said that Army, CRPF and units of Special Operations Group (SOG) of Kulgam District Police launched a cordon-and-search operation on Sunday evening at Buchroo, in Kulgam, after learning about the presence of two local militants of Hizbul Mujahideen at a hideout. While the encounter began, a number of the residents gathered and attempted to disrupt the operation with slogans and stones. Police and CRPF dealt with the crowds with baton charge and firing of tear gas canisters.

Even as one militant managed to escape, forces killed Hizbul Mujahideen’s top wanted militant Dawood Sheikh of Rishipora, Qaimoh. His body along with one AK-47 rifle, was recovered and subsequently handed over to his family members for last rites. Residents of Qaimoh told STATE TIMES that the slain militant’s burial would be conducted after funeral prayers on Monday.

DIG South Kashmir Nitish Kumar said that Dawood Sheikh, according to the Police records, had ambushed and shot dead retired Dy SP Bashir Ahmad Dar near his home at Ashmuji village on July 14, 2015. He had also shot dead head constable Gowhar Ahmad Matoo, resident of Ganjipora, on July 16, 2014. Matoo was posted in 162/ Territorial Army. Dawood had also allegedly killed Haji Gul Mohammad Bhat near his home at Wanpoh village on May 28, 2014. Bhat was Deputy Sarpanch of Panchayat Halqa, Wanpoh.

A middle-rank Police officer said that Sheikh had associated himself with Hizbul Mujahideen in 2012-13 when he was a regular student of Degree College Anantnag. On the basis of certain evidences, Police had booked him in some cases but the court bailed him out in all cases. Subsequently, he went underground.

With Sunday’s operation in Kulgam, Hizbul Mujahideen’s Burhan group has lost four of its militants in the last four days in South Kashmir.

Late night reports from Kulgam said that the authorities could impose restrictions for fear of a thick funeral congregation as Dawood Sheikh hailed from the hub of Jamaat-e-Islami, which, for years, recognised Hizbul Mujahideen as its armed wing.