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In coronavirus pandemic, name game continues

The newly created Union Territory recorded 42 Covid-19 cases, the highest in a day yet
Villagers offer funeral prayers in front of the mortal remains of a 72-year-old man who died due to coronavirus at his ancestral graveyard during a nationwide lockdown, at Tangmarg in Baramulla District of North Kashmir on Saturday.

Muzaffar Raina   |   Srinagar   |   Published 26.04.20, 11:05 PM

The Jammu and Kashmir administration has renamed its public health engineering and irrigation and flood control (PHE I-FC) department as “Jal Shakti Department”, pressing ahead with the Union Territory’s full integration with the rest of the country, pandemic or no pandemic.

The move, by the administration led by lieutenant-governor G.C. Murmu, is in line with the formation of the Jal Shakti ministry at the Centre last year that saw the ministries of water resources and drinking water and sanitation being merged.

The order— the latest in a series of decisions since the outbreak of the pandemic — was made public on Saturday when the newly created Union Territory recorded 42 Covid-19 cases, the highest in a day yet.

The total number of cases rose by another 27 on Sunday, taking the count of infected people to 523. Six people have died so far, five in the Valley and one in Jammu.

The Friday evening order issued by Rohit Sharma, additional secretary, general administration department, said sanction had been accorded to rename the PHE I-FC department as the “Jal Shakti Department”.

It prompted a sarcastic dig from former chief minister Omar Abdullah. “‘Jal Shakti Department’. Can’t improve the quality or availability of clean drinking water so let’s just waste everyone’s time by playing the name change game. Glad to see the administration taking such far reaching decisions that will greatly improve people’s lives,” Omar tweeted.

Radio jockey Sardar Nasir Ali Khan quipped whether the head of the new department would be called “Shaktiman”.

Earlier this month, the Centre had drafted a new domicile law throwing open all government jobs in Jammu and Kashmir to all Indians — the higher posts to all and the lower posts to domiciles or people, including outsiders, living in Jammu and Kashmir for at least 15 years.

The order came months after the state lost its special status and was split into two Union Territories, the other being Ladakh.

Following an uproar, the Centre amended the order a few days later, reserving all jobs for domicile residents.

Earlier, in October, the Centre had renamed the Chenaani-Nasheri tunnel after Syama Prasad Mookerjee, founder of the ruling BJP’s forerunner Jana Sangh. The 9.2km-long tunnel in Jammu and Kashmir is the longest in the country.

The government also appears to have used the pandemic to intensify its crackdown on dissent. Police this week booked two journalists under the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act for alleged anti-national social media posts,while another was booked for an alleged fake news.

The district administration in Jammu on Friday warned the National Conference Jammu Youth secretary, Zeeshan Javed Rana, of “penal action” for questioning the government’s decision to designate two Muslim-dominated localities in Jammu as red zones (hotspot areas) since March 29.

Zeeshan had said the two localities had not recorded even a single Covid-19 case. “Will the govt reveal the reason for declaring Bhatindi and Gujjar Nagar as Red Zones? Were the guidelines issued by @MoHFW_INDIA properly followed, or is it because of a Muslim majority population,” he had tweeted.

The response from the official handle of the deputy commissioner said the “kind of words that U have used in this tweet r inflammatory in nature & liable for penal action”.

It claimed there were 10 positive cases from the “said red zones” but sources said they were from adjoining Sunjwan.

Following an outcry, the government on Saturday eased restrictions in several pockets in these areas.


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