Mehbooba: Give me a chance

Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti on Saturday appealed to the people to give her a chance to address the crisis in the state, underlining the fact that she has been in power for just three months and a half. “I appeal to all those protesting in the streets. You may be angry with me, I may be angry with you. But please give me one chance to address your concerns and aspirations,” she said.
In an exclusive interview with dna, after her 45-minute-meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, for the first time since the unrest broke in the state on July 8, Mehbooba said she outlined a three-pronged action during the meeting.
It included the involvement of separatists and Pakistan in a substantive dialogue and a solution in the light of the contemporary geo-political realities. But she refused to divulge details.
Mehbooba said that good governance in her state was linked to peaceful relations between India and Pakistan. “How can you govern and undertake development-related work when there are tensions?” she said. On this front, she blamed Islamabad for not responding to Modi’s peace overtures.

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti stepped out as a confident leader with an action plan after an hour-long meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday. Even as Mehbooba's actions -including the arrests of separatist leaders Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Syed Ali Shah Geelani -spoke of her confidence and determination to come to grips with the situation in her land, the meeting is said to have sent out the message of the Centre's faith in her leadership.
Speaking to media after the meeting, Mehbooba said, “You can only talk with those who want to talk. Those who are inciting the youth don't want peace, they want bloodshed.Our democracy is large enough to encompass the dreams of Kashmiris.This matter can be solved.“
Lauding Modi's efforts to improve relations with Pakistan, she recalled Modi's invitation to Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to his oath-taking ceremony and even visiting the neighbouring country. “The Pathankot incident, however, affected the ties between both countries. With the situation in Kashmir taking a turn for the worse in the past few days, Pakistan, instead of helping us, is fomenting trouble. They had a golden opportunity to talk about Kashmir when Rajnathji was in Islamabad recently but he was ill-treated.“
Official sources said the prime minister's meeting with Mehbooba was intended to signal the Centre's support to J-K's CM. “There was a section in the government that was toying with the idea of replacing Mehbooba Mufti as violence escalated,“ a source confided, adding, “Pakistan does not want Mehbooba to succeed which is why it has been adding to the trouble in PDP (Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Democratic Party) strongholds in the Valley.The CM's order of rounding up Jamaat-i-Islami supporters in the state is likely to help curb the violence.“
However, several interlocutors expressed their dissatisfaction against the J&K CM for her speech on stone pelting and blaming parents for sending children into violent areas. “It would have helped if Mehbooba had refrained from using the toffee and milk analogy for children hurt during stone pelting in the Valley. She could have used Rajnath Singh's visit to the Srinagar to bargain for relief,“ said interlocutor MJ Khan.

Curfew and restrictions continued for the 50th day across the Kashmir Valley on Saturday with no let-up in the separatist-called shutdown as the toll rose to 71 after the police fished out the body of 20-year-old Shahnawaz Khan from Jhelum. As per residents, Khan from Dadoo Marhama area in Sangam, south Kashmir, was one of three men who jumped into the river to escape being caught by police chasing protestors on Friday. The other two youths are believed to have swum to safety.


GMR wins bid to build Goa’s second airport

GMR Infrastructure Ltd won the bid to build Goa’s second airport, expected to cost Rs.3,000 crore, gaining an opportunity to tap tourist traffic to the north of the state.
The company, which operates the Delhi and Hyderabad airports, beat Subhash Chandra’s Essel Infraprojects Ltd and state-run Airports Authority of India (AAI) to the contract by offering the highest revenue share to the state government.
GMR offered 36.99% of the revenue generated by the airport to the government of Goa, a former Portuguese colony known for its beaches and fishing villages. Essel Infraprojects and AAI offered 27% and 32.31%, respectively.
Airports built from scratch, like the one in Bengaluru, offer a revenue share as low as 4% to the state government. Old airports farmed out to private operators offer more. The operators of two of India’s biggest airports—in Mumbai and in Delhi—share 37% and 46%, respectively.
The Goa project will be the largest new airport planned after the Navi Mumbai airport, Mumbai’s second airport, where bidding is expected to start soon.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to be in the state soon to lay the cornerstone of the project in Mopa, north Goa.
GMR will get about six months for tying up finances for the project, after which construction will begin.
The airport, which will be developed in four phases, is expected to have a capacity to handle 13.1 million passengers a year by 2045. A total of 2,271 acres is required for the project. Flights are expected to start around 2020.
GMR Group has been struggling under the weight of heavy debt. With business interests in airports, energy and infrastructure, the group has a consolidated debt of Rs.39,154 crore.
The present airport at Dabolim in Goa has already exceeded its capacity of handling five million passengers a year. Fares to and from Goa tend to be high, especially during the peak season (December-January) and on weekends when tourists flock to its beaches.
The Dabolim airport cannot be expanded as it is a naval facility where AAI runs a civilian section that offers few flights. Airlines often complain of no landing slots being available at the airport.
India’s yearly air traffic is expected to touch 100 million passengers by 2017, up from 80 million in 2015. India recorded the fastest domestic air passenger growth of 18.8% in 2015, according to the International Air Transport Association.
India is set to build 50 new airports in the next three years as part of a plan to boost regional connectivity, and of these at least 10 will become operational over the next one year, according to civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju.
India has more than 30 non-operational airports and more than 400 airstrips dating back to World War II.
Consulting firm Capa Centre for Aviation estimates that India needs $40 billion for airport development.
The existing airport at Goa will continue to operate. “The new airport is closest to Morjim beach. Both the old and the new airports are equidistant from Panaji,” he said, referring to the state capital.

Mumbai-Nagpur expressway snippets

Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis unveiled a detailed plan for the Mumbai-Nagpur Super Communication Expressway, a 706-km link that seeks to connect 24 districts and improve access from rural communities in the east to commercial hubs in the west.
The highway, which will have at least three lanes on each side, will reduce travel time between the two cities from 12-16 hours to six-eight hours. The Rs.46,000-crore project, formally called `Maharashtra Prosperity Corridor', also involves construction of agricultural centres, warehouses and other facilities that the state hopes will lead to creation of thousands of new jobs. The facilities will be set up near several nodes planned on the route. “If the project is completed within a reasonable time, Maharashtra will be 20 years ahead of other states,“ Fadnavis said.
According to the plan shared on Friday, the construction will begin in January next year and end in October 2019, a schedule officials may struggle to meet because of land disputes that generally plague major road projects.Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) is the implementing agency for the project.
Officials said securing land would not been an issue as the state had decided not to follow the tricky acquisition scheme, which invariably gets stuck over the compensation rate. The government will instead follow a land pooling model, in which farmers will be made partners and a certain percentage of the developed land will be given back to them.
This is the first time Maharashtra will obtain space through land pooling. In such a system, farmers and plot owners transfer land ownership rights to the government or a single agency, which develops the space by building roads and other infrastructure. It then returns a small portion to the owners, who benefit from the higher market value of developed land.
Fadnavis said land pooling was already being followed by the Andhra government to acquire land for its new capital, Amaravati.
The super expressway, which will pass through 10 districts, will need 8,520 hectares of land, while amenities planned along the stretch will require 1,500 hectares. Node development will require 10,800 hectares.

My Vision for India is Rapid Transformation: NaMo

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said there is a need to change laws, eliminate unnecessary procedures and speed up processes to go beyond “mere incremental progress“ to rapidly transform India.
“If India is to meet the challenge of change, mere incremental progress is not enough. A metamorphosis is needed. That is why my vision for India is rapid transformation, not gradual evolution,“ he said while inaugurating the first Transforming India lecture organised by the NITI Aayog.
Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam delivered the first lecture, which was attended by the council of ministers, bureaucrats, a few chief ministers and chief secretaries of some states.
Stressing the need to bring about changes through transformation of governance, Modi said this cannot happen with an administrative system rooted in the past. “A transformation of governance cannot happen without a transformation in mindset and a transformation in mindset cannot happen without transformative ideas,“ he said.“We have to change laws, eliminate unnecessary procedures, speed up processes and adopt technology.We cannot march through the 21st century with the administrative systems of the 19th century.“
Modi said the change is needed for external and internal reasons. “Today, countries are inter-dependent and inter-connected. No country can afford any longer to develop in isolation. Every country has to benchmark its activities to global standards, or else fall behind.“

Maharashtra 6th in governance

Maharashtra bagged the sixth position in governance among the states in the country in the recently released Public Affairs Index of Public Affairs Centre.
The state secured an impressive second rank on the economic freedom parameter. But it stood 26th in fiscal management.
The states were categorized as big and small,  depending on their population.Ten themes covering 25 focus subjects and 68 variables were taken into account while preparing the index.
Kerala topped both the big and small states' group with 0.5675 points, followed by Tamil Nadu with 0.5498 and Karnataka with 0.547 points. Among the smaller states, Mizoram topped with 0.5428 points and Himachal Pradesh with 0.5389 points.The Union Territories were not included in the study.
The project was led by C K Mathew, a senior fellow at PAC. A retired 1977 batch IAS officer, he served as the chief secretary in Rajasthan. He was assisted by Symbiosis alumnus Athreya Mukunthan and Vivek Devakar.

2 top Hurriyat men detained

Authorities on Friday detained two top separatists, Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq under various sections of the Unlawful Activities Act, as the situation continued to remain grim in the Valley following the death of another youth in Pulwama, taking the toll in the unrest to 69. JKLF's Yasin Malik, who was arrested on July 9, will be flown to New Delhi on Saturday , reportedly for a check -up at AIIMS.
The three Hurriyat men had constituted a group, `joint resistance force', in June to spearhead the agitation against the “proposed establishment of Sainik colony , separate cluster for Kashmiri Pandits, as well as the admission test NEET and industrial policies that allow non-locals to get lease of land for 90 years in the state“. Police sources said Hurriyat hardliner Geelani was detained at his Hyderpora residence and barred from meeting anybody . Mirwaiz, the head of the moderate Hurriyat faction, was lodged in a J&K tourism development hut at the Chesmashahi tourist resort in the foothills of Zabarwan ranges.
The JKLF in a statement said authorities were shifting Yasin to Delhi on the pretext of admitting him to AIIMS for medical tests. A spokesman said authorities at Srinagar's Central Jail approached JKLF's incarcerated chairman, advising him to take the tests as per doctors' advice, which are not available in Srinagar. Malik was shifted to Srinagar Central Jail on July 30.
Shakeel Ahmad Ganai, the youth killed in Pulwama on Friday, was hit when security forces acted to foil the `eidgah chalo' call by imposing strict curfew in Rajpora area. Scores of people were injured as clashes erupted after the Friday prayers across the valley .Sources said no sooner did the news of Ganai's death spread, hundreds of people took to the streets in Rajpora villages and staged massive protests.