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Permanent peace eludes J&K, as it has for last 30 years – 2018 In Retrospect

There were 587 incidents of violence during 2018 compared to 329 last year. Official figures say 240 militants were killed during the year against 200 last year.

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Yasin Malik
Srinagar Yasin Malik detained during protest march

It’s been a fairly turbulent year in the state, both security-wise and politically. It saw more violence compared to last year, even though the security forces killed many militants, including some top commanders of militant outfits.

There were 587 incidents of violence during 2018 compared to 329 last year. Official figures say 240 militants were killed during the year against 200 last year.

Casualties among civilians and the security forces have also been comparatively higher. Thirty-seven civilians and 86 security men were killed in 2018 against 36 civilians and 74 security personnel killed last year.

Permanent peace eluded the state in 2018 as it has during more than 30-years of strife.

According to senior intelligence officers, there are still around 240 militants, including foreigners, who are active in the state.

“The number keeps on varying depending upon infiltration of new militants from across the line of control (LoC) and recruitment of local youth into militant ranks”, said a senior intelligence officer.

Summing up the security scenario, Lieutenant General A.K. Bhatt, who commands the Srinagar-headquartered 15 corps of the Indian Army and is the senior-most army officer in the Valley, said: “The security forces have a limited role in controlling the ground situation in the state. The final solution has to be political.”

On the political front, there was a dramatic turn in June when the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) suddenly announced in New Delhi that it was withdrawing from the ruling coalition in the state, headed by the Peoples Democratic Party.

The announcement was not unexpected as the two ideologically opposed parties were ruling the state for four years through an uneasy arrangement that appeared brittle from day one since the late Mufti Muhammad Sayeed announced it in 2015.

With the withdrawal of BJP support, the Mehbooba Mufti-led coalition fell and Governor N.N.Vohra dismissed the government, even though the state assembly was kept in suspended animation for any future alliance to stake claim to power.

Vohra was subsequently replaced by Satya Pal Malik who became the first politician to be made the state governor. As compared to his predecessor, Malik chose to speak to media as often as he could to put forth his view point, sometimes to the embarrassment of both New Delhi and Malik himself.

The fist thing the new governor did was to announce local urban bodies and panchayat elections in the state. Both these democratic processes were concluded peacefully throughout the state and their conduct is considered a feather in the administration’s cap as the elected government had been shying away from conducting the elections.

With the imposition of governor’s rule, the PDP started suffering desertions as some of its dissident legislators launched an open rebellion against the party leadership. In the forefront of the dissidents was senior Shia leader and former state minister Imran Ansari who finally joined the Peoples Conference (PC) headed by Sajad Lone, himself a former minister in the PDP-BJP coalition government.

Sajad’s PC started emerging as the possible Third Front that could, in future, pose a challenge to both the PDP and the regional National Conference (NC) headed by Farooq Abdullah.

Ever since the elected government fell, rumours started doing the rounds in the state that dissidents in the PDP, the NC and even the Congress party were waiting in wings to join the Third Front. The visit of BJP general secretary Ram Madhav to the state and his meetings with Sajad Lone and dissidents kept fuelling these rumours even when Madhav said there was no immediate move to form a government in the state.

The fear of their flock being poached pushed the arch rivals, the NC and the PDP, come close to each other. In a surprise move, Altaf Bukhari, senior PDP leader and former minister emerged as the contender for the Chief Minister’s post with outside support by the NC. With the NC’s 15 and the PDP’s 29 seats, the two parties hold a simple majority in the 87-member state assembly.

The NC and the PDP said they had decided to sink their differences to protect the special status of the state as article 35-A and other constitutional provisions were being challenged to dilute this.

There were also reports that the Congress was in the loop to shoot down horse-trading in the state. The PDP president, Mehbooba Mufti, sent a fax to the Raj Bhawan seeking an appointment with the Governor to stake claim to power. The fax was never received as the Governor said later the fax operator at the Raj Bhawan was off duty due to a holiday.

Amid claims and counter-claims, Governor Malik, in a dramatic move, dissolved the state assembly on November 21, justifying this by saying that he wanted to “prevent horse-trading”.

The possibility of any dialogue between the centre and the separatist leadership remained a distant possibility during the year. In all likelihood, this will have to wait till a new government takes office at the centre after the 2019 general elections in the country.

Elections to the state assembly are also likely to be held simultaneously with the 2019 Lok Sabha elections around April-May next year.

(Sheikh Qayoom can be contacted at [email protected])

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Indo-Russian collaboration in AI, IoT to take-off in 2019: Zyfra CEO

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India-Russia relations

New Delhi, Jan 24 : Indo-Russia joint projects in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) are expected to take-off this year according to the Finnish-Russian digital solutions provider Zyfra which has joined hands with Indian companies to provide IoT and AI-based solutions for the industrial sector.

In an e-mail interview with IANS, Igor Bogachev, the Chief Executive of Zyfra, which has supplied Indian manufacturers with AI and IoT-based solutions, as well as autonomous vehicles, said the Indian sectors with most potential to adopt such solutions are metallurgy, transportation, aerospace and petrochemicals.

“India is of great interest to companies in the field of the industrial Internet of Things and this year we hope to see first projects in this area being implemented jointly with Russia,” Bogachev said.

“Innovations should become a point of growth of Russian-Indian relations. We see significant potential for introduction in such industries as construction of machine tools, mechanical engineering, metallurgy, the chemical industry and the oil and gas sector,” he said.

Last month, Zyfra announced it has managed to reach $3 million in contracts with its Indian counterparts in 2018., and the company plans to reach the target of $50 million in India-related deals by 2021.

The company has already signed agreements with various Indian companies, including Spudweb, Abcon Group, Parivartan Automation, Agaram Infotech, Wimerasys, Nortech Trinity and Mascot Tools.

Zyfra is implementing 7 pilot projects in collaboration with its Indian partners and plans to launch five more joint projects including for production of farm machinery, as well as for manufacturing components for aerospace divisions of both Boeing and Rolls-Royce.

According to Bogachev, cooperation between Russia and India in AI and IOT will be much more than a buyer-seller relationship and will involve sharing best practices, knowledge and innovating jointly.

“We truly believe, that we will be able develop products with our Indian partners, probably with joint ventures, to export to third countries,” he said.

The company has already signed agreement with various Indian firms accounting for around $2.5 million in contracts, the Zyfra CEO said.

Last year, Zyfra unveiled its manufacturing data collection (MDC) plus system in India which performs real-time machine monitoring with customizable reports and charts that can be used to track jobs, parts, operations, work centres, scrap costs, downtime and people, he said.

Zyfra recently also released a report which ranks India among the most advanced countries in terms of development of AI technologies and IoT. The survey ranks the US first, followed by China, while India ranks 13th, after Canada.

The company has started the acquisition of the VIST Group, one of the industrial leaders in development and implementation of information technologies for digital mining.

“Through the acquisition of these assets, which will be finished by 2020, the company is planning to occupy a significant share of the global market and to compete with Catarpillar, Komatsu and other majors,” the CEO said.

According to Bogachev, who also chairs the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs Subcommittee on the Digital Economy and Innovations, “there is tremendous opportunity for disruption in the industrial IoT and applied AI space, although it is still a nascent market to a larger extent.”

Founded in 2017, the private sector Zifra’s clients in Russia include giants like Gazprom, Chelpipe, NLMK Group and United Engine Corporation.

(Biswajit Choudhury can be reached at [email protected])

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Madhya Pradesh farmers hopeful of being ‘debt-free’ as loan waiver scheme kicks-off

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Earth Climate

Bhopal, Jan 22 : A week after the launch of the loan waiver scheme in Madhya Pradesh, the Congress government claims 19.54 lakh farmers have filed their applications in the six days till Sunday.

While the opposition BJP has been calling the “Jai Kisan Rin Mukti Yojana” a trick to cheat the farmers, the question is how the farmers of the state perceive the entire exercise.

Kailash Chaudhary, a farmer from Mandsaur district’s Babulda village, said: “About two years ago, six farmers sacrificed their lives for their rights in Pipliya Mandi. This is the beginning of the victory of their fight.”

“Forms are being filled for waiver of loans up to Rs 2 lakh. We feel that the government is taking our demands seriously,” Chaudhary told IANS.

Mandsaur was the centre of farmers’ agitation in 2017 when six farmers were killed in police firing in June, 2017. After the incident, the farmers’ movement had taken over the whole state, which then spread to the whole nation.

Farmer’s leader Kedar Sirohi said: “Farmers in different parts of the state are excited about the loan waiver. They are filing applications in large numbers.”

“To ensure they don’t face any difficulty in filing applications, leaders and workers of farmer organisations are helping them. Government officials is also alert to help out the farmers. Colour coding of application forms has made it easier for farmers to fill out the applications,” he said.

According to official figures, out of the 19.54 lakh forms filed till Sunday, around 60 per cent were green forms, 35 per cent were white forms and 5 percent were pink forms. The farmers are hopeful of becoming debt-free through this exercise.

As per the scheme, the farmers of the Aadhaar seeded list will have to submit green applications and the farmers of non-Aadhar seeded list will have to submit white coloured applications. Farmers have to submit a pink application to file an objection or claim against information provided in the green or white list.

However, the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had been accusing the Congress of misleading the farmers and terming the scheme a trick to cheat them.

Former Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan said the Congress promise of a loan waiver won’t be fulfilled by a mere announcement.

“The Chief Minister (Kamal Nath) and Congress leaders are saying they have fulfilled their promise of loan waiver to the farmers. But the promise has not yet been fulfilled. An announcement does not mean fulfillment of the promise,” he said, adding the Congress was misleading the farmers.

Congress spokesperson Syed Jaffer responded that 55 lakh farmers will get their loans waived of under the scheme, for which the due process needs to be followed.

“No matter what charges the BJP makes, the truth is that farmers are happy and they trust that the Congress is fulfilling the promise that they made to them,” he said.

“Those farmers who are in debt, neither are they now receiving notices from the banks nor is their property being seized. Under BJP rule, farmers had to go to jail and lose their property just for not paying their power bills,” Jaffer told IANS.

Calling the scheme pro-farmer, farmer leader Shiv Kumar Sharma told IANS that political parties were creating doubts about the scheme.

“Farmers were reeling under debt which had increased manifold over the last one-and-a-half decade. Now they are getting waiver of up to Rs 2 lakh. The government is new and one should wait before making adverse comments,” he said.

Kamal Nath had signed the farm loan waiver file soon after taking oath as the Chief Minister. The filing of forms for the waiver started from January 15 and will continue till February 5.

According to the government, farmers will start getting the money in their loan accounts from February 22.

The Chief Minister had said that the scheme would benefit around 55 lakh farmers by waiving their loans worth Rs 50,000 crore.

(Sundeep Pouranik can be contacted at [email protected])

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Entertainment industry is run by a glamorous mafia: Pahlaj Nihalani

Dropping another bomb, Nihalani says he suspects the hands of some big guns in sabotaging “Rangeela Raja”.

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Pahlaj Nihalani

Mumbai, Jan 22 :Govinda, “Rangeela Raja”, Pahlaj Nihalani-backed comeback vehicle for Govinda, did not open well. Nihalani says it is because his film did not get the theatres required as the entertainment industry is run by a “glamorous mafia”.

“I am being targeted for my blunt views on the workings of censor board, and because of me, my leading man Govinda is being targeted. If you ask me, Govinda and I have the maximum number of enemies in the film industry,” Nihalani said.

Lamenting the lack of theatres for “Rangeela Raja”, Nihalani says he was refused a release in places like Bihar and Jharkhand.

“These are traditional strongholds of Govinda. And not a single theatre in Patna or Ranchi agreed to play ‘Rangeela Raja’. Why? Because my film is bad? Are only quality films released in theatres? And who decides that my film is substandard? A handful of critics for whom I did not have a press show, so they are upset with me and they are taking it out on my film,” he said.

Dropping another bomb, Nihalani says he suspects the hands of some big guns in sabotaging “Rangeela Raja”.

“I know who they are. I know the people who want to finish off Govinda and me. The entertainment industry is run by a glamorous mafia. They all sit, eat, sleep and make movies together. Solo producers like me with no corporate backing are being pushed out of the film industry in the name of corporotization,” he said.

But Nihalani says he isn’t going away anywhere.

“I belong to this industry as much as those who are currently monopolising the A-list stars. I will make another film with Govinda and prove he too is an A-list star.”

Nihalani says he has always believed in introducing new talent and will continue to do so.

“I introduced Govinda and Chunky Pandey. In ‘Rangeela Raja’ I’ve introduced Mishika Chourasia. I am confident she has a very bright future. Unless the industry will punish her for being Pahlaj Nihalani’s protege.”

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