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In Kashmir, Food Corporation of India is under a cloud after grain worth Rs 14 crore goes missing

*In Kashmir, Food Corporation of India is under a cloud after grain worth Rs 14 crore goes missing*
 _The CBI was put on the case but its investigation was stayed by the High Court._
All year round, trucks move along the Srinagar-Jammu highway, bringing supplies of subsidised foodgrain from Punjab, which is sold at government ration shops in Kashmir. But before it reaches ration shops, the foodgrain is stored in privately-owned depots rented by the Food Corporation of India.
In August 2017, the corporation’s vigilance department filed a complaint with the Central Bureau of Investigation alleging that, at one depot in Baramulla in North Kashmir, 26,047 quintals of rice and wheat valued at over Rs 14 crore had been siphoned off. According to the corporation’s officials, speaking off the record, this had happened between 2015 and 2016. The vigilance department’s report, however, does not mention dates.
The complaint says the depot submitted false receipts showing the arrival of 130 trucks carrying grain from Punjab. The transport contractors in Punjab, the complaint alleges, had “misappropriated the stocks” in collusion with the food corporation staff and government officials in Kashmir as well as the owner of the depot in Baramulla. The stocks had been despatched from Bhogpur and Kartarpur in Punjab. But before they could reach Lower Munda check post at Qazigund, where the trucks enter the Kashmir Valley before heading to depots in various towns, the stocks had been diverted, the complaint alleges. There were no entry records to show the trucks had passed through the check post.
The CBI filed a first information report on September 26, 2017, and started investigating the matter. But the Punjab-based transporters petitioned the Jammu and Kashmir High Court saying the CBI did not have jurisdiction in the state. On October 13, the court stopped the CBI from taking any action until the petition was disposed of.
On September 27, the CBI registered a similar case of misappropriation of rice stocks against another depot run by the Food Corporation of India in Kupwara, North Kashmir. The FIR notes that during a “surprise check” on July 12, 2015, conducted by a joint team of the CBI and the food corporation, along with “independent witnesses” from the Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd and the Central Public Works Department, at least 853 sacks of rice worth Rs 11,98,465 and 12 bags of wheat were found missing from the depot. “Fake/bogus entries” for 20-30 trucks of rice, valued at more than Rs 1.26 crore, were uncovered at the Kupwara depot in February and March 2017.
The FIR also alleges that from 2015 to 2017, food corporation officials, staff running the depot, “unknown officials” of the state’s consumer affairs and public distribution department and “other private persons” had “entered into a criminal conspiracy” to misappropriate stocks of foodgrain.
A food corporation official, who did not want to be identified because he was not authorised to speak to the media, said these cases were “only a fraction of the embezzlement going on”.
Missing trucks
The diversion of trucks starting from Punjab and headed to the depot in Baramulla was flagged in early 2016 by whistleblowers within the Food Corporation of India. The corporation’s branch in Kashmir then sent an inspection team to look into the allegations.
The team found that the licence plate numbers of trucks shown to have delivered the grain to the Baramulla depot were missing from the entry records at Lower Munda toll post. They concluded the numbers were fake.
They also matched the licence plate numbers of at least nine trucks shown to have supplied grain at the depot against vehicle registration records in Punjab. They found the numbers were assigned to tractors and motorcycles.
When Scroll.in cross-checked the numbers with the registration records in Punjab, available on a government website, it found that at least four of them belonged to motorcycles and tractors. The other five were simply listed as being “heavy motor vehicles”.
Fudged records
Apart from the missing trucks, the inspection team found that, except for a record of receipt and dispatch of foodgrain in first three months of 2016, complete records were not maintained at the depot. The food corporation audits all its depots every three months. At the end of each audit, the official said, the auditors “duly sign registers”. “So every actual register should have those signatures,” he said. “But the register shown to us had no signature of any official team.”
Even in the records for January-March 2016, the team found “huge variation” in the average weight of rice bags, which had been delivered on different dates but were from the same stock. In many instances, the recorded weight per bag exceeded the average weight of 50 kg. “It seems that the stocks are being issued without proper weightment and records are prepared only to match the receipt weights,” the inspection team said in its report in March 2016.
In those three months, according to the food corporation official, the total weight of the bags apparently received at Baramulla was 466 metric tonnes more than the weight of the bags despatched from Punjab. This amounted to a misappropriation of about 9,300 bags of subsidised rice worth around Rs 1.15 crore, the official said. “It proved that data given was forged and not factual,” he said.
In April 2016, an audit by the food corporation found rice worth Rs 2 crore missing from the depot. The same month, the corporation’s area manager detected the first five of the 130 missing trucks, carrying grain worth Rs 51 lakh.
In January 2017, the food corporation’s regional office in Jammu ordered the recovery of the losses from the depot’s owner. In case of non-compliance, the order said, “the losses shall be recovered from his monthly rental bills”.
Fixing responsibility
The FIR filed by the CBI based on the food corporation’s complaint names six individuals – the depot’s owner Nirbhay Trehan and private employees Majid Ahmad Wani and Danish Nissar Kar, and three food corporation officials, Kirti Kumar, Firdaus Wani and Hilal Ahmad Dar. Kumar was the depot’s manager.
In its March 2016 report, the corporation’s inspection team accuses Kumar of giving “a free hand” to the owner to run the depot and abandoning his duties to the extent that a private employee was signing papers in his stead. Kumar has since been suspended.
The FIR also names two Punjab-based transport companies – Walia Goods and Transport and Gagan Traders – and unknown officials of the food corporation and Jammu and Kashmir’s food and civil supplies department.
All the accused have been charged under the Ranbir Penal Code for criminal conspiracy, cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property, criminal breach of trust by a public servant, banker merchant or agent, and forgery.
The Baramulla depot is run by Kash Ind Agro Infra Services, whose managing partner Nirbhay Trehan also figured in a case involving irregularities in wheat stocks transported into Jammu town. That case is also being investigated by the CBI.
Trehan did not respond to phone calls or text messages. Scroll.in was unable to locate Danish Kar and Firdaus Wani, and most of the other accused declined to comment.
A food corporation official who spoke to Scroll.in also raised questions about the bureaucrats in the state’s Directorate of Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs. He asked why they had not requisitioned more rice if the supply had fallen short because the trucks went missing. “Where is the deficit shown if stocks haven’t reached the FCI godown?” he asked.
Attempting cover-up?
The case of the two food corporation officials named in the FIR has run into controversy. In its complaint to the CBI, the corporation had named both Dar and Wani as its officials who were part of the racket. It had also served them a show cause notice. In response, they jointly wrote to the corporation’s general manager, Lokendra Singh, in June 2017, saying they were part of a special team sent by the regional office in Jammu to audit the depot. “We did our duties with utmost sincerity and honesty,” they said in the letter. “It was on that basis the losses suffered by our organisation were unearthed.”
Dar and Wani were suspended in January 2017, apparently without an enquiry. They were reinstated when the employees union protested but were moved out to Kargil in what fellow food corporation officials alleged was “reprisal for unearthing the scam”. The area manager who conducted the initial inspection and filed the reports about the irregularities was also sent a show cause notice in January 2017.
These officials claimed that senior officers of the food corporation were now trying to cover up the alleged misappropriation for fear the case could scorch those at the top. Instead of taking “strict action” against the owner of the depot, they pointed out, the corporation has only “punished the whistleblowers”. They also pointed to irregularities in the suspension and reinstatement of the area manager as well.
One of the accused in the case, who did not want to be identified, alleged that apart from the misappropriation of stocks, sizeable amounts of cash regularly exchanged hands at the depots. “It is like a cartel,” he said. “When the runners are caught, the bosses don’t come to their rescue.(Muzaffar khan)
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*Pakistan raises Kashmir in UNSC, asks for review of 1948 resolution*
New Delhi, February 07: Pakistan has brought up the Kashmir issue in the Security Council, accusing it of “selective implementation” of its resolutions.
“Nothing undermines the credibility of the Council more than selective implementation of its resolutions,” Pakistan’s Permanent Representative Maleeha Lodhi said on Tuesday during a session on its working methods.
“The Council should therefore periodically review implementation of its resolutions, especially on longstanding issues like the Jammu and Kashmir dispute,” she added. “Failure to enforce its own resolutions undercuts not just the Council’s standing in the world, but the UN as well.”
Her reference was to a 1948 Council resolution that called for a plebiscite to determine the future of Kashmir, while also demanding the withdrawal of Pakistani “tribesmen” who entered the state.
India has said the “tribesmen” were Pakistani troops who tried to annex Kashmir.
Given Pakistan’s refusal to withdraw its troops, India could not hold a plebiscite and New Delhi maintains that by participating in the elections in the state the Kashmiri people have exercised their democratic rights integrating with India.
Other Council resolutions relating to Kashmir were about a commission to oversee the plebiscite and, in 1957, on a UN representative mediating between the two neighbours.
India also maintains that under the 1972 Simla Agreement signed by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who was then the President of Pakistan, the two countries have agreed to sort out their disputes between themselves without the intervention of third parties.
In 2010, the Council removed Kashmir from its list of unresolved international disputes.
At the beginning of every year, Pakistan also asks the Council to keep alive the question of the Hyderabad’s integration with India based on a telegram from Nizam Mir Osman Ali Khan Siddiqi Asaf Jah VII asking it to keep India out of the princely state. The Nizam, however, withdrew the complaint after the princely state’s integration into India.
Two other issues it attempts to revive in its annual ritual are resolutions relating to the 1965 India-Pakistan War and the 1971 Bangladesh War of Independence.(Muzaffar Khan)
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Punish anyone calling Indian Muslim ‘Pakistani’: Asaduddin Owaisi*
Hyderabad: Anyone calling Indian Muslims ‘Pakistani’ should be jailed, All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) leader Asaduddin Owaisi said on Tuesday.
Asking the government to bring in a law to punish people who make such statements, Owaisi suggested a three-year jail term.
“Bring a law that if any Muslim is called Pakistani, the person will face a three-year jail term,” he said, but added that the BJP-led government will not bring such a bill.
Muslims living in India had rejected Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s two-nation theory, he added.
Owaisi was speaking in the Lok Sabha on the motion of thanks to President Ram Nath Kovind’s address.
Referring to the controversial triple talaq bill, Owaisi claimed it was “anti-women”.  The bill, introduced by Centre, makes instant ‘triple talaq’ illegal and void, awarding a jail term of up to three years to the husband. The bill was passed in the Lok Sabha but was stalled by the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha.
Meanwhile, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) is all set to hold its plenary meeting of general and executive members on February 9 and 10 in Hyderabad`s Owaisi hospital.
Over 50 members, including board president Asaduddin Owaisi, general secretary Moulana Saleem Khasmi, secretary board advocate Zafariyab are expected to attend the meet. The general body meeting will discuss the issue and evolve a strategy for the protection of Muslim Personal Law.(muzaffar khan)
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Pandemonium in assembly over cops killings, SMHS shootout*
Jammu, Feb 07: The proceedings in the legislative assembly started with an uproar over killing of policemen in a militant attack at SMHS hospital Srinagar Tuesday this week.
According to correspondent, raising the issue the members of opposition National Conference and Congress along with PDF Chairman Hakeem Mohammed Yaseen and CPI (M) Secretary M Y Tarigami demanded a statement from the government.
The agitating opposition members wanted to know from the government on its plans to hold Panchayat election of the state in a fearful atmosphere witnessed even in the Kashmir valley’s main referral hospital SMHS hospital Srinagar Tuesday this week.
Alleging that the attack on police party taking a militant to SMHS hospital Sinatra was a big security lapse the opposition members demand statement of clarification from the government. Though parliamentary affairs minister Ab Rehman Veeri was trying to pacify the agitating opposition members but nothing could be (Muzaffar khan)
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Abu Hanzullah ‘s escape*
*Huge boost for militancy: police*
>>>    The escape of Pakistani militant Naved Jutt alias Abu Hanzullah following a shootout in Srinagar’s SMHS hospital on Tuesday is being described as a tough challenge for the security agencies, given his “credentials” of being a well-trained, skilled, intelligent militant.
Hanzullah, a resident of Sahiwala area in Pakistan’s Multan province, was arrested on June 20 in Shampora village of Yaripora in Kulgam district. He was lodged at the Central Jail in Srinagar since.
Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Central Kashmir Range, Ghulam Hassan Bhat, told media persons that a red alert has been sounded in Srinagar and the city’s peripheries in a bid to nab the escaped militant.
A senior police officer who has served for a long time in southern Kashmir and was privy to Hunzalla’s arrest and subsequent interrogation, told Kashmir Reader that Hanzullah was a close associate of Abu Qasim, the slain Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) commander.
“I have not in my career encountered a more intelligent or a better trained militant than this fellow named Abu Hanzullah,” the police officer said, requesting anonymity.
He said that Hanzullah’s escape will be a huge boost to militancy in Kashmir both morally and militarily, “unless he is apprehended soon enough.”
     *“I have seen many militants in my career but none like this man. He is better both in intelligence and training than his predecessors like Abu Qasim and Abu Dujana,”* the officer said.
The officer went to the extent of saying that Hunzalla was a military mind at par with some of the best even among the security forces.
Another senior police officer, who was posted in Kulgam district when Hanzullah was arrested, had a similar opinion about the Multan resident.
Hanzullah, as per the police officers, had been active in south Kashmir for about two years at the time of his arrest in 2014.
Asked how big a challenge Hunzalla’s escape was, J&K Director General of Police (DGP), SP Vaid, said it was always a challenge to counter militancy. “Yes, Pakistanis like Indians are very intelligent people but let’s not forget that Kashmiris are super intelligent,” Vaid said. *“It’s just a matter of time (that Hanzullah is arrested),”* he added(muzaffar khan)
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Govt misses deadline for digitization of land records in Jammu, Srinagar districts*
Having access to transparent land records will remain a distant dream for the people of Jammu and Kashmir at least for half a decade more as the Government has missed deadline for digitization of land records even in Jammu and Srinagar districts, which were taken up on pilot basis over two years back.
Due to delay in completion of digitization of land records in Phase-I, uncertainty has also started looming large over the launch of Phase-II from next month as was planned in the year 2015.
In August 2008, the Union Government launched Digital India Land Records Modernization Programme (DILRMP) in order to modernize management of land records; minimize scope of land/property disputes; enhance transparency in the land records maintenance system and facilitate moving eventually towards guaranteed conclusive titles to immovable properties across the country.
However, J&K adopted dilly-dallying approach in the implementation of DILRMP till 2015-16 when J&K Land Records Management Agency, a nodal agency of the Revenue Department, approved plan for computerization/digitization of land records in the State through outsourcing model.
It was decided that in Phase-I, districts of Jammu and Srinagar will be immediately taken up on pilot basis along with parallel activities at State level like scanning of revenue documents/maps and digitalization of cadastral maps (old records of Central Records Rooms of Jammu, Srinagar and current serving records of all districts), establishment of Ground Control Points in all districts and development of web-based enterprise Geo-Information System (GIS).
The Phase-I was to be completed between November 2015 and February 2018. However, the Government has missed this deadline and the same has been attributed to some administrative and procedural formalities.
Stating that more time was required to complete the Phase-I, Minister for Revenue, Abdul Rehman Veeri informed the Legislative Assembly that the Phase-I is now likely to be completed by ending March 2019.
Holding administrative and procedural formalities responsible for delay in starting Phase-I on scheduled date—October 5, 2015, the Minister said, “the project was formally started on April 18, 2016 and April 23, 2016 at Jammu and Srinagar respectively. Further the project remained stalled in Kashmir valley during the period between July 8, 2016 and December 2016”.
“The failure of the Government to meet the deadline for Phase-I has also created uncertainty for start of Phase-II from next month”, official sources said.
As per the implementation plan approved by J&K Land Records Management Agency, the Phase-II is to be implemented from March 2018 to March 2020. Under Phase-II, 10 districts—Poonch, Ramban, Baramulla, Anantnag, Kargil, Udhampur, Leh, Doda, Bandipora and Rajouri will be taken up for implementation of DILRMP.
Similarly, Phase-III will be implemented between April 2020 and March 2022 and under this phase the districts of Kathua, Kulgam, Shopian, Budgam, Reasi, Ganderbal, Pulwama, Kupwara, Kishtwar and Samba will be taken up.
Keeping in view the delay in implementation of DILRMP in pilot districts nobody knows when the Phase-II and Phase-III will be rolled out and completed. “All this clearly indicates that people will have to wait at least till March 2022 for having access to transparent land records system”, sources said.
The official data vis-à-vis implementation of DILRMP reveals that against target of scanning 666.49 lakh revenue documents only 164.61 lakh revenue documents (58.77 lakh in Kashmir and 105.84 lakh in Jammu) have been scanned till December 2017.
Similarly, against target of digitization of 1500 current serving maps 1147 have been digitized in Jammu division. Against target of installation of 7000 Ground Control Points 4594 have been installed in 18 districts while as survey of 4604 Ground Control Points has been conducted against target of 7000.
As against target of establishment of 217 Modern Record Rooms at Tehsil level 29 have been taken up for construction under State Plan. Of these, 22 Modern Record Rooms have been fully completed and one partially. Six Modern Record Rooms are still under construction.
It is pertinent to mention here that major components of the DILRMP are computerization of all land records including mutations, digitization of maps and integration of textual and spatial data, survey/re-survey and updation of all survey and settlement records including creation of original cadastral records wherever necessary, computerization of registration and its integration with the land records maintenance system, development of core Geospatial Information System (GIS) and capacity building.(muzaffar khan)
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*Another Kashmiri student assaulted in Haryana*
 
Srinagar, Feb 7: A Kashmiri student was assaulted by a group of locals at Ambala area of Haryana on Wednesday, barely four days after two students from Rajouri district were beaten to the pulp in the north Indian state.
 
Reports reaching news agency  said that a student of B.Sc Radiology namely Mudasir Ahmad, a resident, of Soura Srinagar suffered injuries after a group of locals caught and thrashed him near the hostel room of Maharishi Markandeshwar University where he is pursuing his degree.
 
“From last month, the group of locals thrashed several students and are continuously hurling abuses on us for being Kashmiris,” Aqib Ahmad, a student said.
 
“Today the group of local persons initially hurled abuses on Mudasir and hit him with a stone, resulting in injuries to his face,” he said, adding, “We took the Mudasir to a local hospital for treatment”, he said. 
 
Mudasir and other students were going to hostel from varsity when the attack took place near a petrol pump in the area.
 
Mullana Station House Officer (SHO) when contacted told  that a police team was deputed to the spot soon after they received information with regard to the incident.
 
 “We have received information about a scuffle which took place near the University and we have deputed a police team to ascertain the cause of the incident,” the SHO said.
 
 “Let the student record his statement and definitely we will register an FIR and action under the law will be initiated against the accused,” the SHO said.
 
On Friday, two students Amjad Ali and Aaftab Ahmad both residents of Rajouri district assaulted by a group of 15 students when the duo was returning to their university after offering prayers.
 
There was an uproar in assembly, presently in its budget session. The government had assured action against those who beat up the students and ensuring measures to prevent such incidents in future.(muzaffar khan)

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