Centre returns Rs 9096 cr worth package for refugees with rider

Neeraj Rohmetra
JAMMU, Nov 15: In a significant initiative towards addressing the issues of West Pakistan refugees along with Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) and other refugees, the Centre has categorically directed the State Government that it should ensure grant of citizenship and Permanent Resident rights to West Pakistan refugees and take immediate and effective steps in this regard.
These observations have been made by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) while returning the package of Rs 9096 crores, which was hastily approved by National Conference-Congress coalition Government at the fag end of its tenure.
Union Home Secretary Anil Goswami on behalf of the Centre has asked the State Government to reframe the package by including West Pakistan refugees in it as they had been completely ignored by the State Government while sending the package to the Government of India just days before announcement of Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir, official sources told the Excelsior.
However, they admitted that the package for refugees was now likely to linger on as there was only an acting Government in the State now in view of imposition of Model Code of Conduct in the State and a decision on re-drafting the package can be taken only by the new Government, which would take charge only in January after completion of election process.
“The new Government will also like to take some time to study observations of the Government of India before reaching a decision,” sources said, adding that till then fate of the package would keep hanging in balance. The fresh package would also depend on new dispensation, which would take over reign of affairs in the State after the Assembly elections.
The Centre’s directive to the State Government came after a meeting of the Parliamentary Standing Committee in New Delhi under the chairmanship of P Bhattacharya, Congress member of Rajya Sabha, a day before. Goswami gave presentation to the Committee on problems being faced by refugees and displaced persons in Jammu and Kashmir.
The BJP members in the Committee including Avinash Rai Khanna, Incharge Jammu and Kashmir, raised the issue of neglect of West Pakistan refugees vociferously in the meeting. While fully supporting the package for PoK, 1947, 1965 and 1971 refugees, the BJP members were of the view that issues of West Pakistani refugees should also be addressed, who have been neglected by NC-Congress coalition Government.
BJP members charged that the State Government has done nothing for refugees during past six years and just forwarded the package to the Centre at the end of its tenure. “Had the State Government been serious, it would have taken the initiative earlier instead of referring the issue to Sagheer Committee,” they asserted.
Sources, however, admitted that grants of citizenship and Permanent Resident rights to West Pakistan refugees would require two-third majority in the Assembly.
Though the issue of package for other refugees has lingered on for the time being, sources said, even the Centre Government couldn’t have announced the package at the time when Model Code of Conduct was in force in the State.
It was on October 16 that the State Government after prolonged delay and many hiccups had approved a package worth Rs 9096 crores for forwarding to the Centre for the refugees of PoK, 1947, 1965 and 1971 but ignored the West Pakistan refugees.
Rs 9096 crores worth package proposed one time settlement in favour of 36384 PoK/Chhamb families at the rate of Rs 25 lakh per family.
Prominent among 21 members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee members included P Bhattacharya, chairman (Congress), Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Baishnab Parida (BJD), Avinash Rai Khanna, Satya Pal Singh, Ashwani Kumar, Dilip Patel, Harish Chander Meena (all BJP), D Raja (CPI), Sitaram Yechury (CPM), Derek O Brien (TMC), Satish Chander Mishra (BSP) and K Rahman Khan (Congress).