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Saturday, January 28, 2017

Loot on Republic Day: Jammu-Srinagar Rs 35,210; Delhi-New York Rs 32,961

Extortionist airlines charge Delhi-New York fair for Jammu-Srinagar travel

Mehbooba writes to Civil Aviation MinisterRaju, seeks immediate remedial action

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


JAMMU, Jan 27: Taking undue advantage of the blockage of Srinagar-Jammu national highway— the only surface communication link between Kashmir valley and rest of the country and the world—all the airlines operating in Srinagar-Jammu-Delhi sector have stupendously raised their fairs, bringing entire winter sports activity in Gulmarg and Pahalgam to a standstill.

After three days of total suspension of the operations, all the 18 scheduled flights operated at Srinagar airport on Friday.  However, those lucky to get a ticket for Srinagar-Jammu had to buy a seat in distress for minimum of Rs 10,000. Even as the incoming passengers like PDP’s MLC Zaffar Iqbal Manhas and the outgoing VIPs like Chief Minister’s maternal uncle Sartaj Madni, who flew to Jammu, and brother Tassaduq Mufti, who boarded the last flight for New Delhi, didn’t look much perturbed, the ordinary passengers complained that “extortion” by the airlines had become order of the day in Srinagar-Jammu-Delhi sector.

Informed sources told STATE TIMES that many of the domestic and international tourists, who had planned to arrive in the Valley for participation in different snow sports activities in the fourth week of January have cancelled their bookings. “Even those who had booked their tickets in advance have failed to arrive in as most of the flights to Srinagar have been cancelled due to bad weather. With total impunity, the airlines converted the commuters’ distress into an opportunity to loot. They hiked fairs stupendously, making them not affordable even for the international tourists, let alone the routine home travellers”, said a source associated with the tourism industry.

Sources in the Department of Tourism confirmed that a major winter sports event that was scheduled to be inaugurated at Gulmarg has been postponed to February 1st. Those invited by the Chief Minister’s office—but later requested to wait for the next invitation— included retired IAS officer Parvez Dewan who has served as Secretary Tourism in Farooq Abdullah’s Government and also Secretary Tourism and Chairman-cum-MD of Indian Tourism Development Corporation before functioning as Advisor to J&K Governor last year.

STATE TIMES has learned that the airline companies have meteorically hiked their fairs in Srinagar-Jammu-Delhi sector immediately after the highway was closed for traffic due to heavy snowfall and landslides at many places and many of the flights were cancelled in this sector due to bad weather and poor visibility at Srinagar airport. Some of the travel operators alleged that the “artificial crisis” was partly created by different “unscrupulous” airlines.

For the only flight between Jammu and Srinagar on January 26, which would leave via Delhi and land in Srinagar at 0950 hours on January 27, Vistara fixed fair of Rs 35,210. This was far higher than different airlines charging for Delhi-London and equal to the fair for Delhi-New York travel.

For its Delhi-London flight No: 571 on January 28, Qattar Airways fair was Rs 19,005/- For Delhi-New York, its fair was Rs 32,961/- For a Delhi-New York flight on January 28, Jet Airways offered tickets at Rs 35,291/- i.e. same as Vistara fixed for Jammu-Srinagar.

“This is brazen loot and extortion of which State Consumer Commission and other institutions should have taken serious cognizance. But the airlines do it with impunity as they don’t have an iota of fear or accountability from the State authorities. Even the Consumer Commission has been rendered defunct since last year”, said a tour operator.

Highly-placed sources privy to the development disclosed to STATE TIMES that Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti took serious notice of the extortion and sent a communication to the Union Minister of Civil Aviation P.Ashok Gajapathi Raju requesting him to pull up the extortionist airlines and discourage them against bringing the tourism industry in the State to a halt. Top officials were still waiting for a positive response from New Delhi.

Meanwhile, Srinagar-based tour operators complained that without making the airlines accountable, Directorate of Tourism teams swooped down on the poor travel agents, seized their documents and directed them to appear before the authorities in Srinagar. “This is another act of extortion and blackmailing of the poor tour operators and travel agents. The officers know it well that it is the airlines in Delhi and Mumbai who raise the rates. Our quota has been frozen several days back. We have not sold any tickets in the last four days. Customers are forced by the companies to buy the tickets online against Rs 14,000 to Rs 40,000 for Srinagar-Delhi”, said a travel agent.


Monday, January 23, 2017

Jammu beating Valley in all PSC selections since 1995

In the last 20 years, 1080 KAS feeding service officers have been selected from Jammu against 538 from Kashmir; most of the top merit positions have been bagged by the Jammu candidates

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


JAMMU, Jan 22: Attribute it to the unceasing political strife or whatever, the peaceful Jammu province has not only grabbed almost all the top merit positions but also stolen a march over the turbulent Kashmir province in nearly all the selections made by the Jammu and Kashmir Public Service Commission (PSC) in the last 20 years. This notwithstanding the fact that Jammu’s population constitutes only 42%  of the State’s total population of 125.41 lakh against Kashmir’s 55% and Ladakh’s 3%.

According to the 2011 census, Jammu’s population was 53.50 lakh while as 69.07 lakh people lived in Kashmir and 2.74 lakh in Ladakh. The population of 125.41 lakh includes around eight to nine lakh non-permanent residents---including security forces personnel, Pakistani refugees, Central government employees and labourers living in the State continuously for over 6 months---who are not entitled to State government employment. These in totality are almost equally distributed between the two principal regions of Kashmir and Jammu and do not alter the regional population ratio and proportion.

Incredulously for the Valley population, the PSC’s official statistics indicate that the meritorious candidates from Jammu region have already dominated the combined competitive services, including Kashmir Administrative Service (KAS) and Kashmir Police Service (KPS). Even if the Valley reverses the trend today or some day in future, public servants from Jammu will continue to grab most of the middle and top rung administrative, Police and bureaucratic positions for the next over 20 years.

Selections made by the PSC from 1995 to 2014 make it clear that as many as 1080 candidates have been picked up for KAS from Jammu and just 50% of the number i.e. 538 from Kashmir. Twenty-four candidates have been picked up from Ladakh. Excluding in 1995, when Rifat Jabeen from the Valley stood on top of the merit list, all the top positions in the subsequent 8 selections have been grabbed by the candidates from Jammu.

Batch-wise, 159 candidates for KAS have been selected from Jammu in 1995 against only 98 from Kashmir and 3 from Ladakh. In subsequent batches, the ratio between Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh regions was 155:58:2 in 1999, 104:30:02 in 2002, 108:28:05 in 2005, 239:152:07 in 2009, 94:92:03 in 2010, 108:32:02 in 2011, 39:25:00 in 2012 and 74:23:00 in 2013.

The KAS selections for the vacancies notified in the years 2014, 2015 and 2016 are currently in progress and likely to be completed in the next 6 months.

In all, 1956 candidates have been selected since 1995 for the posts of combined competitive services (KAS/KPS), Munsiffs, Assistant Directors in Economics and Statistics (Planning), Range Officers Grade-I and Assistant Conservators of Forest (ACF). Of them, the lion’s share of 1291 has gone to Jammu and Kashmir has got less than 50% i.e only 632 posts. Ladkah has bagged 33 posts.

As regards the Munsiff selections, 28 candidates have been picked up from Jammu, 5 from Kashmir and none from Ladakh in 1998. Subsequently, 30 candidates have been picked up from Jammy, 14 from Kashmir and one from Ladakh in 2001, 17 candidates from Jammu, 16 from Kashmir and two from Ladakh in 2008 and 27 candidates from Jammu, 9 from Kashmir and two from Ladakh in 2012.

In the one-odd selection of ADs Planning in 2009, as many as 68 have been picked up from Jammu, 23 from Kashmir and four from Ladakh.

In the five selections of RO Grade-I and ACF in the last over 26 years (all made from 2007 to 2013), 41 candidates have been selected from Jammu, 27 from Kashmir and none from Ladakh.

Even in all the non-KAS selections, with the exception of RO Grade-I in 2007 and 2013, all the top merit positions have gone to Jammu region.

Chairman PSC Lateef-uz-Zaman Deva maintained that all the gazetted posts are in State cadre and none of the selections is made on the basis of region, religion and other considerations. “This is an open competition. All the candidates are selected on the basis of their merit in written and viva voce. It is possible that all the candidates selected belong to one region and the other two regions draw blank. We will be completely helpless in that situation”, Mr Deva told STATE TIMES.

The only relief for Kashmir is that the Valley has grabbed more IAS/IPS positions than Jammu in the national level selections made by the Union Public Service Commission from 2008 to 2016. That includes one IAS topper, Dr Shah Faesal,in 2009 and one runner-up, Athar Aamir-ul-Shafi Khan, in 2016. However, most of them have got either non-J&K states or other Central services.