Pak I-Day ‘plans’ in J&K raise security concerns Won’t let railways default on payments, says Jaitley
VALLEY ON ALERT Anti-India protesters plan to raise Pakistani flags today
Security forces face a major test as many in Kashmir appeared set to celebrate Pakistan’s independence day on Sunday by hoisting hundreds of its flags as a mark of defiance against New Delhi.
Police and intelligence sources said they expect impromptu rallies and celebrations across the region, which has been roiled by weeks of violent street protests against last month’s killing of Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani by security forces.
Kashmiri separatists traditionally raise Pakistan’s flag on its independence day, but this year a wave of public unrest against Wani’s killing is sweeping the valley, where at least 58 people have been killed, mostly in police firing. The region remains under a curfew for 35 straight days and internet services remain suspended.
Public anger has also been fuelled by what locals see as New Delhi’s apathy towards the suffering of Kashmiris and its alleged refusal to find a political solution to the region’s problems. An all-party meeting called by the government on Friday also failed to assuage feelings in Kashmir.
Large swathes of rural Kashmir, the south in particular, appeared to be out of the purview of security forces, giving Lashkar-e-Taiba militants a free run, sources said. The army has also suspended operations to limit civilian fatalities.
Underscoring the security challenge, a blast in a market in Poonch wounded a dozen people on Saturday, police said. An armed forces personnel stands guard at the Lal Chowk in Srinagar, Jammu & Kashmir, on Saturday.
Finance minister Arun Jaitley has said the government will not allow the Indian Railways to default on payments, amid indications that plans were on to merge the rail and general budgets from next year. “The Indian Railways is too important an organisation in the government,” Jaitley told HT in an exclusive interview. “I don’t think we will ever allow it to default. And I don’t see the possibility of any default.”
Sources, who did not wish to be identified, said the railways, facing a cash operating loss of Rs 20,000 crore, have sought exemption from paying dividends to the government this year to manage their precarious finances on account of falling revenues. If the crisis persists, the railways may struggle to pay salaries and pensions. The government is examining the option of integrating the rail and general budgets, a move that will end a 92-year-old practice of a separate budget for the state-owned transportation giant.
After four dry years, Maharashtra may not have to battle drought this time around, with good rain increasing the water stock in many of the state’s major dams and reservoirs. Figures from the state water resources department show the total water stock in all dams stands at 73% .
At Jayakwadi, the biggest irrigation project in Marathwada — hit worst by the drought — the water stock went up to 61% for the first time in the five years. Last year, this figure was 6%. Jayakwadi supplies drinking water to four cities, industrial clusters and more than 500 villages in Marathwada.
Since the onset of monsoon, the state has been getting good rainfall, with some regions like Nashik even facing floods from the Godavari River. Four reservoirs supplying water to Mumbai — Modaksagar, Tansa, Vihar and Tulsi — has also filled up sufficiently.
The state administration is now hoping Jayakwadi reaches full capacity after eight long years. “In the last five years, Jayakwadi has not received this much water. The situation has improved because of good rains. We are now hoping to see Jayakwadi reach its full capacity after 2008,” divisional commissioner Aurangabad Umakant Dangat told HT.
Marathwada battled severe drought for the fourth consecutive year in 2015-16. The region was facing unprecedented water crisis, adding to the farmers’ woes. The incessant rains, however, has changed the situation.