RAMBAN: J&K Khadi and Village Industries Board (KVIB) secretary R C Sharma reviewed progress under Rural Employment Generation Scheme (REGS) of the backward districts of Ramban and Doda today. It was informed that KVIB so far have set up 99 units with the bank loans of Rs. 196.99 lakhs and provided margin money grant of Rs. 61.07 lakhs. Sharma said that some of the BPL villages should be included in the J&K Bank's programme of village adoption to uplift the people living below poverty. He said that in order to improve the quality of the blankets being woven in these backward districts and generate sustainable employment the KVIB is addressing the problems of traditional industries in these districts. He disclosed that improved looms on modern technology should be provided to the one new units sanctioned in the current year under blanket weaving for the better quality of the blanket weaving in the area. Similarly, 22 units under ready-made garments have also been got sanctioned to cater the need within the area. A special team for looking in to the needs of unreached and unbankable areas has been constituted which will facilitate the entrepreneurs artisans working in the traditional industries or to start small tiny industrial units. He said that the other units producing articles under KVI sector in these districts for local consumption and specialized units like jackets, caps, tracksuits, mufflers socks etc manufacturing are also being promoted to meet the requirements of the people. A common facility centre is being established for beekeepers producing honey to facility the processing testing and packaging of the honey produced in the area. This will also be used to impart training to the beekeepers, The board its starting four training centres in Doda and Kishtwar districts to train 200 women. One such training centre has already been commenced at Sangaldan in Ramban district to train 40 beneficiaries under craft training.

Although weather remained clear through out the day, reports of deaths due to avalanches and snow storms continued to pour in from remotest areas of Doda and adjoining mountainous belt. Five more persons have lost their lives due to severe cold and snowstorms during the last 24 hours in different areas of Doda and Reasi districts. Authorities have decided to drop ration and other essential commodities as many parts of Doda, Kishtwar and Bhaderwah still inaccessible as huge snow, ranges from 6 to 10 feet, has accumulated in these hilly areas.

Minister for Science and Technology, Animal and Sheep Husbandry, Aga Syed Ruhullah today said that Government has taken up a mega project of providing solar home lights to 40,000 un-electrified households of remote and far-flung areas which include Doda, Reasi, Ramban and Kupwara.

The Minister was addressing an officers meeting of Science and Technology here today.

The Minister further said

Demanding renegotiation of pacts with the National Hydro Project Corporation (NHPC),the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) today observed that the scrapping of this agreement was important to make the state economically self-reliant.

From pugmarks to high-tech equipment like satellite imagery and camera-traps. That's how census on wild animals in Jammu and Kashmir is graduating. Come March, and the state Government will undertake two scientific censuses on three wild animals: the highly-endangered hangul, also called the Kashmir stag, the common leopard and the Asiatic black bear, also known as Himalayan black bear. To be conducted in collaboration with the Central Government, the censuses will also get expert help from the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun. J&K Chief Wildlife Warden A K Srivastava says, "While one census will be on the endangered hangul, found only in Kashmir, the other will focus on the common leopard and the Asiatic black bear.' The Kashmir stag census will be utilised to protect the endangered animal, and the other will be used to deal with the increasing incidents of the man-animal conflicts in the state. Srivastava says the earlier censuses conducted by the state Government were not accurate as these were carried out "on the basis of their pugmarks'. "But the new censuses will be carried out, using the most high-tech equipment like satellite imagery and camera-traps,' he adds. Cameras will be put on trees in the forest areas, which will trap the movement of wild animals, recording their actual number with the help of satellite imagery. The Centre has agreed in principle to fund the census projects. "In Jammu, experts from the Wildlife Institute of India will hold a three-day training workshop for divisional forest officers and range officers of the state forest and wildlife departments,' adds Srivastava. While the hangul is not harmful, the other two have caused man-animal conflicts in the state over the past two years, killing over three dozen and injuring more than 200 people. While the hangul census will mainly focus on the Kashmir valley, the other one will cover various areas

J&K project through: The Jammu and Kashmir High Court recently granted a stay on a decision by the state government to cancel a contract for the 1,200-MW Sawalakote hydroelectric power project. The