Srinagar: In another major step towards return of normalcy to Jammu and Kashmir, Governor Satya Pal Malik Monday directed that the two-month old advisory asking tourists to leave the valley be lifted October 10, and also took stock of preparations for the upcoming block development council elections.
Malik held a situation cum Security Review Meeting Monday with the Advisors and the Chief Secretary. The meeting was also attended by the Principal Secretaries of Planning and Housing & Urban Development Department.
The Governor has been holding Situation cum Security Review Meetings on a daily basis for two hours generally from 6 to 8 pm each day since August 5.
Initially, the meetings focussed on reviewing the security scenario following the imposition of restrictions after constitutional changes that were made. For the past six weeks, all the security restrictions were removed in most parts of J&K, the Governor has been focussing on bringing life back to normal.
Some of the major decisions taken in the past in the Situation cum Security Review Meetings include reopening of Higher Secondary Schools; Colleges and Universities; restarting public transport; opening additional travel counters at TRC Srinagar; opening 25 internet kiosks in each district to facilitate the public and Government departments; monitoring attendance in Government offices, etc, a statement from the Governor’s office said.
In Monday’s meeting the Governor was briefed about the October 24 BDC elections. He was informed that there is active interest in the BDC elections and most of the seats of Chairpersons of BDCs would be filled.
All assistant returning officers and assistant electoral registration officers have been provided mobile phone facility to ensure smooth conduct of elections. Nomination papers were accepted even Monday.
The Governor was informed that as BDC elections were party based, the delegations of parties whose leaders are in jail are being allowed to meet party presidents once, so that they can take a decision on elections and authorise someone to approve candidates.
The Governor was also briefed about the progress in apple procurement which has crossed 850 tonnes and worth Rs 3.25 crores. Some changes in the rates of apple are being made which will be announced shortly.
The Governor directed that the Home Department’s advisory asking tourists to leave the valley be lifted immediately. This will be implemented October 10, it said.
US Congress committee appeals
Meanwhile in Washington, a powerful US Congressional Committee has urged India to lift the communication blackout in Kashmir, saying that it is impacting the lives of the people in the state.
“India’s communication blackout in Kashmir is having a devastating impact on the lives and welfare of everyday Kashmiris,” the powerful House Foreign Affairs Committee said in a tweet Monday.
“It’s time for India to lift these restrictions and afford Kashmiris the same rights and privileges as any other Indian citizen,” it said.
Restrictions were imposed when New Delhi August 5 scrapped the special status of Jammu and Kashmir state under Article 370 of the Constitution and bifurcated it into two Union Territories — Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.
Asserting that the abrogation of Article 370 to withdraw Jammu and Kashmir’s special status was its “internal matter,” India has defended imposition of restrictions in the Kashmir Valley on the grounds that they were put to prevent Pakistan from creating more mischief through proxies and terrorists.
The Asia-Pacific and Non-Proliferation Subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee has scheduled a hearing on Human Rights in Kashmir and other parts of South Asia October 22.
The stand by the House committee comes nearly a month after Indian-American lawmaker Pramila Jayapal along with 13 other US Congressmen had urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to address concerns over the human rights situation in Kashmir and lift the communications blackout.