*Bonanza for MLAs: CDF, TA, car, housing loans doubled
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JAMMU, Jan 30: Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti today launched a blistering attack on “hardcore elements” sitting in Kashmir as well as New Delhi saying she wouldn’t allow Kashmir to become Afghanistan or Syria, targeting the forces who claimed that there will be demographic change in the Valley with the return of Kashmiri Pandits in the colonies and, at the same time, describing as “anti-national” the act by “some forces sitting in New Delhi” and trying to target Article 370 of the Constitution by getting Section 35-A scrapped.
Mehbooba made some significant announcements for Ministers and legislators including doubling their Constituency Development Fund (CDF) from Rs 1.5 crore per annum to Rs 3 crore, Travelling Allowance from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 2 lakh, car loan from Rs 5 lakh to Rs 10 lakh, housing loan from Rs 10 lakh to Rs 20 lakh and sitting fee (in the Legislature) from Rs 1000 (per sitting) to Rs 2000. She also announced filling up of vacancies in Forest Department under ‘Rehbar-e-Janglaat’, 1500 new posts for Physical Education Teachers (PETs), 50 per cent hike in advertisement rates for newspapers and launch of air services in many far flung areas including Dachan, Marwah, Wadwan, Gurez, Karnah etc with people paying only 20 per cent charges and rest 80 per cent to be borne by the Government. He said Rs 5 crore have been released for developing air strip at Kishtwar.
She also announced holding of Panchayat and Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) election in Jammu and Kashmir very soon.
As soon as the Chief Minister began her reply on the grants of her Departments that included Home, GAD, Planning, Tourism, Information, Hospitality and Protocol, Civil Aviation etc, the Congress MLAs led by CLP leader Rigzin Jora staged a walk-out from the House but the ruckus they committed that disrupted Mehbooba’s speech for 10 minutes was removed from proceedings of the House by Speaker Kavinder Gupta. Later, the House strongly and unanimously condemned “un-Parliamentary behaviour” of the Congress legislators on a motion moved by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Abdul Rehman Veeri and endorsed by Speaker Kavinder Gupta.
Entire National Conference led by NC leader in the House, Omar Abdullah walked-out from the House at the end of Mehbooba’s speech when party MLA and former Minister Ali Mohammad Sagar pressed his Cut Motion seeking judicial probe into Kashmir unrest, which was put to vote by the Speaker and rejected by the House by a voice vote.
In her 53-minutes speech, Mehbooba strongly pitched for return of Kashmiri Pandits to the Valley and construction of accommodation for them but said there are certain elements, who are trying to add fuel to fire over issue of rehabilitation of displaced Pandits by raking up issue of demographic change with their return (to the Valley).
Taking on such forces, without naming separatists or other hardcore elements, who oppose return of Kashmiri Pandits in colonies and, instead want them to live in their homes, Mehbooba said there are forces, which want to convert Kashmir into “a state of one religion” and declared: “Kashmir is Kashmir. We will not allow it to be converted to Afghanistan or Syria”.
“We should not lay conditions for return of Kashmiri Pandits. They could not return to their roots without security. If we are not secure and move without security how come we ask them to go and live there without security?” she posed question to those opposing settlement of Kashmiri Pandits in Government accommodation.
Noting that Government accommodation for Kashmiri migrants was first proposed at Sheikhpora and Mattan by late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and Haal and Vesu by previous NC-Congress Government, she said that will be 50 per cent Kashmiri Pandit migrants and 50 per cent others in these colonies. Justifying the move, she asserted that when our own former MLAs, political workers want separate accommodation and security cover, how can the Kashmiri Pandits live in different areas unprotected?
“The loss of Kashmiri Pandits is the loss of Kashmir,” she remarked and charged some elements with spreading poison on return of the Pandits by claiming that their settlement in the Valley would lead to demographic change.
Describing Jammu as shining example of unity in diversity, the Chief Minister said she has seen Pandits, Dogra, Sikhs, Paharis, Gujjars, Muslims and people from other communities living altogether.
“This used to be the case in Kashmir. However, now such examples are witnessed in the Valley rarely especially when a Kashmiri Pandit is killed and Muslims perform his last rites or when the people extend held to Amarnath yatris in distress,” she said, describing Jammu as a live example of unison and added that the people here have never complained of demographic change.
Equally taking on the forces sitting in New Delhi and trying to get Article 370 of the Constitution of India, which grants special status to Jammu and Kashmir, scrapped, Mehbooba said nothing can be more anti-national than attempt to dilute Article 370 by targeting Article 35-A that ensure special status to J&K.
She tried to draw a parallel between the forces trying to create state of one religion in Kashmir with the forces sitting in Delhi and trying to target Article 370 saying these forces would strengthen separatism and other such elements, who want to make Kashmir a state of particular religion.
“Our real Islam is Sufi Islam that promoted pluralism, hetergenous culture and we shouldn’t allow it to get affected,” she said.
“Today, conspiracy is being hatched by certain elements who speak against Article 370. They don’t understand that Article 370 is a bridge between Jammu and Kashmir and India. It is because of Article 370 that two nation theory based on religious lines was shunned and J&K decided to go with India.
“By taking judicial means, if they inflict injury on soul of Article 370, nothing can be more anti national than this. More you will target article 370 more it will strengthen forces in Valley who want to see only one faith, one culture in Kashmir. Therefore, I respect concern of former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and will ensure that Article 370 is not diluted,” the Chief Minister said.
Day before, Omar Abdullah, speaking on the grants of the Chief Minister’s departments, had raised concern that judicial means were being used by the BJP to erode Article 370. He had warned Mehbooba Mufti Government that if steps are not taken to defend position of State in court, they will be forced to rake up this issue.
While BJP and its sister organizations had been demanding abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution of India, the PDP-BJP in their Agenda of Alliance had agreed to maintain status quo on it.
“ I see this as conspiracy hatched by certain elements to target composite culture of Kashmir. Those who talk of Article 370, should understand that it is not about special status but its essence lies in heterogenous and pluralistic culture of the State. If soul of Kashmiriyat is punctured, nothing can be more anti national than this,” Mehbooba said, adding that there are certain people who want to see only one culture, one faith. We will not allow that thing to happen because that diversity is our uniqueness”.
“Those who speak against Article 370, they don’t know that the Article 370, which is our special status, is in our character because of which we have dismissed the two ideological (narrative of two-nation theory) and also religion, and have shaken hands with India,” Mehbooba said.
Vowing to oppose any move to erode Article 370, she said, “There will be no bigger anti-national thing than this because when you weaken this uniqueness of Kashmir through judiciary, then those forces in Kashmir Valley, who want to put an end to the composite culture in Kashmir Valley and want to have people from one community (Muslims) only, with one attire and one way of life, you will only make them successful.”
Then there will be no meeting ground for mainstream politicians, the Chief Minister said.
She asserted that her endeavour will be to ensure that “such things do not happen in which our uniqueness of the Jammu and Kashmir — uniqueness because of a status and a special position — does not get diluted.”
Side by side, she said, “we need to work together to save the composite culture for which Article 370 protects it.”
The PDP leader said, “If they hit those roots which is the basis of our composite culture, civilization and Kashmiriyat and brotherhood of Hindu, Muslim and Sikhs, which Gandhi ji also had seen in Kashmir, I feel that there will be no big anti-national act anything than this.”
Referring to Omar Abdullah’s charge that Mehbooba Mufti was adopting Doval doctrine on Kashmir, the Chief Minister said she was following Mufti doctrine only and not Doval (Ajit) or Dulat (AS) doctrine.
“I don’t believe in Doval or Dullat doctrine. But if they help me in implementing Agenda for Alliance doctrine, I will salute them,” she said.
She was responding to Omar’s charge leveled on Saturday in the Assembly that Mehbooba Mufti is facilitating Doval doctrine that aims at suppressing agitations, marginalizing separatists etc.
Ajit Doval is presently National Security Advisor having served as Intelligence Bureau chief while AS Dullat is former RAW chief
On ban imposed on immigrants from six countries by United States President Donald Trump, Mehbooba said: “ours is a Muslim majority State. We need to send a very strong message from here that our youngsters don’t go to US with guns but to work there as doctors, engineers”. However, she said, recent developments in the United States have impacted whole Muslim world.
Describing Agenda of Alliance (AoA) reached between PDP and BJP coalition Government as “democratically endorsed document”, the Chief Minister said this document is today being debated across the country by various political parties including the Parliament. However, she said, it (the Agenda of Alliance) is not going to be implemented in a day.
“It will take time. But we are committed to it. Even the top BJP leaders like Amit Shah and Arun Jaitley have extended their full support to the document. Javed Baig (the PDP MLA) is right when he says that if the Centre didn’t implement AoA, it wouldn’t be good for Jammu and Kashmir only but for the country, the results of which might not be liked by the people,” she added.
Taking on NC and Congress, the two opposition parties in the Assembly at present which ruled the State together for six years from 2008 to 2014, which have been describing PDP-BJP alliance as `unholy’, Mehbooba said even the Congress was considered as untouchable in Kashmir some time back when the people visiting the houses of Congress leaders’ on the occasions of marriage or death were subjected to social boycott but Mufti Sayeed joint it and today it is a credible party. In fact, she added, Congress was more untouchable than the BJP at one time in the Valley.
Saying that Congress too had been talking of discrimination with Jammu region, she said it would have been major discrimination with Jammu if the BJP with massive mandate of 25 seats would have been ignored in the Government formation. He said late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed had taken very thoughtful decision of aligning with the BJP in Government formation and hoped that the AoA of the two parties would bring Jammu and Kashmir out of the present morass.
Mehbooba said when the PDP-BJP Government took over in 2015, the situation was not the same as it was in 2008 when Omar Abdullah led NC-Congress Government had taken over.
“When we took over, alienation had increase…the dialogue process had stopped..the ceasefire violations had increase on the borders…it was a very tough situation to take over,” she said, adding that Omar Abdullah had himself stated in 2008 that he was lucky to get the helm of affairs at a time when situation is better in the State then what it was when Farooq Abdullah and Mufti Mohammad Sayeed had taken over.
Mehbooba said she was of the firm belief that political dialogue, return of power projects to the State, opening of cross-LoC routes and revocation of some laws was going to happen though it can’t happen in a day or two.
Batting for peace, he said if there was peace in Jammu and Kashmir, every issue can be resolved. “We need to strengthen peace and maintain law and order”.
Referring to Rs 80,000 crores worth Prime Minister’s Development Package (PMDP), the Chief Minister said the direct package has been given to the State only for flood relief, infrastructure development, tourism projects and PoK refugees while rest of the package will be implemented in the form of Central projects.
Mehbooba said her Government has restored transparency in recruitments by ending backdoor appointments. “We are not recruiting even SPOs without tests or advertisements”.
She said the present Ministers are not `constituency-specific’ and added that “equal development” is taking place in all the constituencies-whether they are represented by the Ruling Party or the Opposition members. “In 2015, our priority was flood related works. In 2016 when unrest took place in the Valley, the development took place in Jammu. There is no discrimination on this account,” she added.
Mehbooba once again said that she can’t understand what actually happened during Kashmir unrest in 2016 summer.
“For my entire life, I will continue to curse myself as to what happened. Definitely, this was not expected of me and I too didn’t expect this will suddenly happen,” she said and recalled how she had saved the youths from excesses by security forces in late nineties.
Expressing dismay over the death and devastation during the unrest of last year, the Chief Minister said her Government is continuously reviewing the status of PSA detentions in the State. She said during the last few days only 30 such detainees were released by the Government. “Also two elderly persons from Baramulla, as pointed by certain members, have also been released”, she said.
Mehbooba said in a very short span her Government has cleared as much as 1150 cases of compensation under SRO-43, some of which were very chronic and around 15 years old. She said she has asked the DGP to install CCTV cameras at all police stations to ensure transparency and deployment of more lady cops to ensure gender parity at police stations.
The Chief Minister, who also holds the charge of Tribal Affairs Department, said Rs. 100 crore would be spent on tribal welfare in the State. This includes, she said, capacity building among youth of the community besides developing cluster villages with improved facilities, milk villages and setting up of schools, hospitals, connectivity etc. in their areas.
She said Rs 200 crore have been earmarked for the development of sports in the State and also announced that 1500 physical education teachers would be recruited to meet up the challenge of sports training in Jammu & Kashmir.
She recalled the role of employees during the tough times of summer unrest and complimented their dedication and devotion. She said though the snowfall this winter was of very high volume, roads were cleared quickly and other services were also restored quickly. “Though speed of work slowed down on many projects due to unrest but things are picking up again”, she said.
The Chief Minister said an Aiwan e Saqafat would be set up at Srinagar soon for the benefit and encouragement of media fraternity.
Saying that tourism is not what is to be built but what is to be offered, Mehbooba said she has directed the Department to involve local people in the development of tourism related projects so that they become part of Government’s efforts to promote the trade on long term basis. She said the Government has floated a concept of border tourism which would be given requisite push. She said Ranjit Sagar, Mantalai, Sudhmahadev, Jammu and Patnitop cable care projects have been taken up in Jammu province to make it an independent tourist destination.
The Chief Minister said recently she launched an ambitious Rs. 42 crore development project for Hazratbal shrine in Srinagar and many more like Anantnag-Pahalgam-Daksum tourist circuit are coming up in Kashmir province. She said recently four new Tourist Development Authorities were constituted by the Government which would bring the respective areas into focus. She laid stress on the development of catchment areas of these projects besides involvement of local youth in tourism promotion.
Terming youth as an asset for a society, the Chief Minister said Himayat and Udaan projects are being re oriented to get more and more youth from the State adjusted in corporate sector of the country. She said 2.5 lakh youth would be trained under these projects this year and local business community would also be roped in to create jobs for them at home also. She said education and youth activities in the State have become a prominent activity in recent months.
Leh, Kargil get
Rs 30 cr each
Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, who holds the charge of Planning Department, today announced Rs 30 crores each for Leh and Kargil districts of Ladakh region to meet their liabilities.
“Leh and Kargil districts will get Rs 30 crore each to clear the liabilities, which have been pending for past quite some time,” she announced.
The Autonomous Hill Development Councils of Leh and Kargil districts have repeatedly been taking up the issue of clearing their liabilities. Their demand has been met.
The Chief Minister also proposed 20 per cent reservation for women in recruitment of police constables. However, she said, this can happen only with approval of the House.