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

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - HT Navi Mumbai Live - - FRONT PAGE - Toufiq Rashid and Harinder Baweja letters@hin­dus­tan­times.com Vinod Sharma, Gau­rav Choud­hury and Timsy Jaipuria letters@hin­dus­tan­times.com HT Cor­re­spon­dent ht­metro@hin­dus­tan­times.com

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.

WASEEM ANDRABI/HT

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