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EASE OF DOING BUSINESS FUELS SPECULATIONS IN GULMARG AND LEH

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While Jammu and Kashmir government recently announced ease of doing business in Jammu and Kashmir, Opposition parties and many businessmen are watching closely this development as they feel some big business tycoons would be benefitted by these schemes coming from outside.

The official spokesman while giving details of the meeting held by Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha said that the establishment of business in Jammu and Kashmir has been simplified so that investors come to this place.

“The pre-requisite No Objection Certificates (NOCs) and approvals have been relaxed for setting up of a business unit. The Udyog Aadhar Memorandum as per the condition of the Government of India shall be the only requirement for a business unit to be set-up in Jammu and Kashmir,” the recent government order said.

While Manoj Sinha said that all these steps are being taken to encourage large-scale investment, innovation in the region, the speculations are making rounds that decks are being cleared for Ambanis to set up their “tourism townships” in Gulmarg and other parts of Kashmir.

There were reports earlier in some sections of the media that some big business tycoons who are regarded as close to BJP were keen to set up “two tourism” townships in Nobra and Leh. These reports resulted in the unity of all the political and social organisations of the union territory of Ladakh, seeking the region to be safeguarded on the pattern of Article 370.

They have been assured by the Union Home Minister that they will soon get a law safeguarding not only their land interests but also their right to government jobs.

It is in place to mention that on 22 January, business tycoon Anil Ambani arrived in Srinagar and visited Gulmarg. There were news reports that he was trying to strike a deal with a local hotelier for purchasing his properties in Gulmarg and the controversy remained in the media circles for two weeks.

The J&K administration and the Central government are very keen to bring big names in the corporate world of the country to Jammu and Kashmir especially to the Valley to set up their business here.

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Upset G-23 leaders may give strong message to Gandhis from Jammu today

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The rebellion within the Congress—brewing within the party for months between senior party members and Team Rahul Gandhi comprising young leaders—is all set to come out in the open. Days after Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s “North-South” remark, senior leaders from north India are expected to make a strong statement against the top party leadership in Jammu on Saturday.

While Rahul Gandhi is scheduled to head towards the poll-bound Tamil Nadu on Saturday, the party’s dissenters, also known as G-23 leaders who had questioned the party’s functioning in a letter to interim president Sonia Gandhi, will hold a show of strength in Jammu.

Senior Congress leaders Anand Sharma, former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Kapil Sibbal, Raj Babbar, Vivek Tankha, Ghulam Nabi Azad will address an event in Jammu on Saturday which Manish Tiwari is also expected to join. They all belong to north India.

On the condition of anonymity, a senior leader of the Congress G-23 told ANI on Friday that it is a message to Rahul Gandhi: “We will tell the country that from north to south India is one.”

Last year in August, G-23 leaders through a letter to interim Congress President Sonia Gandhi expressed their discontent and urged the top leadership of Congress to bring immediate reforms, including organisational elections from the grass-roots to the Congress Working Committee (CWC) level.

Today, they are once again up in arms against the Gandhi family and their loyal close circle who are holding key positions in the party and the parliament.

A senior leader from G-23 said, “What’s happening in Congress today is a clear violation of the agreement reached in Congress Working Committee in December last year, but there are no signs of any reforms or election.”

According to G-23 sources, the leaders are also furious over the treatment meted out to Ghulam Nabi Azad, who recently retired from Rajya Sabha and was not accommodated by the Congress high command.

A leader from the G-23 group said, “When other parties were offering seat to Azad, PM spoke so well about him. Our congress party leadership showed no respect to him. In fact, a lawyer who is fighting cases of Robert Vadra has been brought to Rajya Sabha.”

Mallikarjun Kharge’s appointment as leader of the opposition in Rajya Sabha by Congress, while ignoring other senior leaders also enraged members of G23.

A senior leader from the G-23 grouping told ANI that the flashpoint or the tipping point is the north-south statement made by Rahul Gandhi in Kerala recently.G-23 sources said that leaders will speak their minds, show solidarity, and give a message to the party leadership.

According to sources, Congress’ top leadership is aware about the moves of G-23 leaders. A top source in the party said leadership is keeping an eye on the whole episode and “not in a hurry to come to any conclusion”.

It is also important to note down that Gandhis have not reacted in the episodes yet, although the last attempt was made to cool down the situation was done in December last year, when G-23 leaders were invited by Sonia Gandhi at her residence for meeting.

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INDIA FINDS 81 ROHINGYAS ADRIFT AT SEA, ASKS BANGLADESH TO TAKE THEM

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India is negotiating with Bangladesh to take back 81 Rohingyas whose boat drifted into its territorial waters in mid-February. Eight Rohingyas on that boat have already died and one has gone missing, possibly drowned in the Andaman Sea.

“We are in discussions with the Government of Bangladesh to ensure their safe and secure repatriation,” Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Anurag Srivastava has said.

However, a Bangladesh foreign ministry press release has made clear the country’s unwillingness to take back the sea-stranded Rohingyas on the ground that their boat is far away from the country’s territorial waters.

But Srivastava insisted that 47 of the boat’s 90 occupants possessed identity cards issued to them by the UNHCR office in Bangladesh, which indicated clearly they were displaced Myanmar nationals and persons of concern to UNHCR registered by the Bangladesh government.

Speaking at a video briefing, Srivastava had said that, on 11 February, the boat sailed from Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh carrying 64 women including 8 girls and 26 men including 5 boys.

“The engine of the boat failed on February 15 and since then it has been drifting. Due to the severe conditions, we understand that eight occupants have died and one of the occupants had been missing since February 15,” Srivastava said.

“When we learnt of the boat in distress, we immediately dispatched two Coast Guard ships to provide food, water and medical assistance to the occupants. Seven of them were administered IV fluids,” he added. But Bangladesh does not seem inclined to take back these Rohingyas. A press statement by Bangladesh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) on Saturday said that the UN news release “clearly specified the location of boat at Andaman Sea which lies to the southeast of Bay of Bengal, south of Myanmar, west of Thailand and east of India’s Andaman and Nicobar Islands”.

The MOFA statement said: “The boat has been traced approx. 1700 km away from Bangladesh at a location which is approx 492 km from Myanmar, 363 km from Thailand, 281 km from Indonesia and 147 km from India. The location is far off the territorial water of Bangladesh and proximate to other littoral states.”

“Other states, particularly those, on whose territorial water the vessel has been found, bear the primary responsibility and they should fulfill their obligation under international law and burden-sharing principle,” it added.

So by implication, the Bangladesh foreign ministry seems to be putting the onus of rescue and relief for the Rohingyas on India. The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, had raised the alarm earlier this week over the missing boat.

More than 1 million Rohingya refugees from Myanmar are living in teeming camps in Bangladesh, including tens of thousands who fled after Myanmar’s military conducted a deadly crackdown in 2017.

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Post Pangong success, India asks China to resolve remaining boundary issues

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The government said on Friday that following the disengagement of Indian and Chinese troops along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh, it is not in the interest of either side to prolong the remaining boundary issues between the two countries.

The statement came a day after External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and China’s State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi had a conversation over phone that lasted for 75 minutes. The two Foreign Ministers discussed the situation along the LAC in Eastern Ladakh and also issues related to overall India-China relations.

Noting the completion of disengagement in the Pangong Lake area, Jaishankar emphasised that both sides should now quickly resolve the remaining issues along the LAC in eastern Ladakh. He said that once disengagement is completed at all friction points, then the two sides could also look at broader de-escalation of troops in the area and work towards the restoration of peace and tranquillity.

According to the MEA release, “The EAM referred to the meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister in September 2020 in Moscow where Indian side had expressed its concern on provocative behaviour and unilateral attempts of the Chinese side to alter status quo. He noted that the bilateral relations have been impacted severely over the last year.”

Jaishankar told his Chinese counterpart that “a prolongation of the existing situation was not in the interest of either side. It was, therefore, necessary that the two sides should work towards early resolution of remaining issues”, the MEA said on Friday.

It is necessary to disengage at all friction points in order to contemplate de-escalation of forces in this sector. That alone will lead to the restoration of peace and tranquility and provide conditions for the progress of bilateral relationship, Jaishankar told Wang Yi.

The ‘Boundary Question’, he said, may take time to resolve, but disturbance of peace and tranquility, including by violence, will inevitably have a damaging impact on the relationship.

The minister said that during their meeting in Moscow last year, both ministers had agreed that the situation in the border areas was not in the interest of either side and decided that the border troops of both sides should continue their dialogue, quickly disengage and ease tensions.

He noted that the two sides had maintained continuous communication since then through both diplomatic and military channels. This had led to progress as both sides had successfully disengaged in the Pangong Tso Lake area earlier this month.

Noting the completion of disengagement in the Pangong Lake area, Jaishankar emphasised that both sides should now quickly resolve the remaining issues along the LAC in eastern Ladakh.

He said that once disengagement is completed at all friction points, the two sides could also look at broader deescalation of troops in the area and work towards restoration of peace and tranquility.

The MEA statement said that Wang Yi, on his part, expressed satisfaction at the progress made so far. He felt that it was an important step forward for restoration of peace and tranquility in the border areas. He also conveyed that it was is necessary to sincerely implement the common understanding reached at various levels.

The Chinese Foreign Minister said that both sides should make efforts to consolidate the outcomes. He also spoke about the need to improve management and control in the border areas.

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Gujarat: Fire breaks out at furniture factory in Navsari

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Navsari (Gujarat) [India], February 27 (ANI): A fire broke out at a furniture factory in Navsari city of Gujarat on Friday.
Fire tenders rushed to douse the fire.
Locals were gathered at the spot.
More details are awaited. (ANI)

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EXISTING COVID-19 GUIDELINES TO CONTINUE UNTIL 31 MARCH: MHA

Aishvarya Jain

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India recorded its single-day increase in Covid-19 cases above 16,000 for the second consecutive day as the infection tally rose to 1,10,63,491 while the recoveries have surged to 1,07,50,680. A total of 16,577 infections were reported in a day while the death toll increased to 1,56,825 with 120 new fatalities. The number of active cases increased to 1,55,986 which accounts for 1.41% of the total infections. The number of people who have recuperated from the disease surged to 1,07,50,680 which translates into a national recovery rate of 97.17%. The case fatality rate stood at 1.42%.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said the existing Covid-19 guidelines will remain in force till 31 March. The states and union territories have also been advised to speed up the vaccination of the target population to break the chain of transmission and overcome the pandemic.

Delhi recorded 256 new coronavirus cases, the highest number of single-day incidences in February, while one death pushed the death toll to 10,906. This is the third successive day when the daily cases count have stood at 200-mark or beyond.

Maharashtra registered 8,333 fresh Covid-19 cases, pushing its tally to 21,38,154. The death toll reached 52,041 after 48 fatalities were recorded. The tally includes 20,17,303 recovered cases and 67,608 active cases. Of the total number of fresh cases, 1,035 cases were from Mumbai alone.

Odisha’s coronavirus tally rose to 3,37,108 as 94 more people tested positive for the infection. The death toll remained unchanged at 1,915 while 53 patients have died due to comorbidities so far.

Tamil Nadu logged 481 new Covid-19 cases including one who returned from the United Arab Emirates and five fatalities, taking the overall caseload to 8,50,577 and the toll to 12,488. Recoveries marginally outnumbered new infections with 483 people getting discharged, taking the cumulative number to 8,34,043, leaving 4,046 active cases.

Karnataka reported 571 fresh coronavirus cases, 642 recoveries, and four deaths. The total cases rose to 9,50,207 while total recoveries stood at 9,32,367. Active cases stand at 5,501. 

Jammu and Kashmir recorded 85 new positive cases of Covid-19, taking the tally to 1,26,286, and one death. The death toll is 1,956.

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Economy comes out of recession, GDP up 0.4% in Dec quarter

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India’s GDP grew by 0.4 per cent in the October to December quarter (Q3 FY21), marking a return to positive zone after two-quarters of recession but showing a lingering weakness in the economy, government data showed on Friday.

A sharp improvement in the Covid-19 situation and rising public spending are the two factors behind uptick. “The GDP at constant (2011-12) prices in Q3 of 2020-21 is estimated at Rs 36.22 lakh crore as against Rs 36.08 lakh crore in Q3 of 2019-20, showing a growth of 0.4 per cent,” said the National Statistical Office (NSO).

A continuing fall in domestic consumption is seen as a strong reason behind the sluggish pace.

According to second advance estimates of economic growth, the real GDP in current financial year (2020-21) is estimated at negative 8 per cent as compared to growth rate of 4 per cent in 2019-20.

Investment recorded its first growth since December 2019, growing at 2.6% compared to a revised 6.8% fall in the previous quarter, while weakness in consumer demand eased.

Consumer spending – the main driver of the economy – dropped 2.4 % year-on-year in Oct-December compared to an 11.3% fall in the previous quarter, data showed.

The economy has returned to the “pre-pandemic times of positive growth rates”, a finance ministry statement said after the release of the GDP data, which it said reflected a continued V-shaped recovery.

“Significant recovery in manufacturing and construction augurs well for the support these sectors are expected to provide to growth in 2021/22,” said the statement, which also cautioned that India is not yet beyond “the danger of the pandemic”.

Economists have raised their forecasts for the current fiscal year and 2021-22, expecting a pick-up in government spending, consumer demand and a resumption of most economic activities curtailed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Agriculture sector is estimated to see a growth of 3 per cent in FY21 as compared to 4.3 per cent in 2019-20. The manufacturing sector is likely to contract by 8.4 per cent during FY21. More worryingly, services sectors like trade, hotel, transport are projected to contract by 18 per cent. However, electricity is likely to grow at 1.8 per cent.

Some analysts warn, however, that a recent rise in crude oil prices and a surge of Covid-19 cases in parts of the country may pose risks to the nascent recovery.

“There are some risks that need to be watched, including rising commodity prices,” Sakshi Gupta, senior economist at HDFC Bank, told Reuters, adding that the pace of recovery in the informal sector and contact-intensive services could be impacted by the resurgence of domestic virus cases.

The economy contracted by 23.9 per cent in the April to June quarter (Q1 FY21) and by 7.5 per cent in the July to September quarter (Q2 FY21) as normal activities were disrupted due to nationwide coronavirus lockdowns.

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