Unpaid VDGs to start getting remuneration shortly, weapons may also be upgraded

MHA to bear entire payment under J&K’s SRE

Groups in focus again after surge in terror attacks

Sanjeev Pargal
JAMMU, June 24: The Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and the Union Territory Government have agreed to bring all Village Defence Guards (VDGs) under the new mode of payments and gradually replace obsolete .303 weapons with them with Self Loading Rifles (SLRs) to ensure that the VDGs take on the challenge of terrorists effectively as their role too has become very crucial following spurt in terror attacks in the Jammu region.

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Sources told the Excelsior that a decision has been taken to ensure that all VDGs get the honorarium every month and the entire cost of this will be borne by the Union Home Ministry under the Security Related Expenditure (SRE) of Jammu and Kashmir.
Till fresh surge in terror attacks, number of sanctioned VDGs was 4985 and, of them, 4153 were in place. However, since then the number of VDGs has been constantly going up with police trying to plug the routes being taken by the terrorists to reach Udhampur, Doda, Reasi, Rajouri and Poonch after infiltration.
While most of the VDGs are paid, still a number of them are unpaid due to different reasons.
“Now, a decision has been taken by the MHA in consultations with the J&K Government that a provision will be made to ensure that all VDGs get the honorarium which comes out at Rs 4500 for the Group leader and Rs 4000 for the others per month. This amount directly goes into the bank accounts of the VDGs,” the officials said, adding that some of the Guards had been feeling discouraged in the absence of payments but following intervention by local police officers they have started working efficiently.
BJP UT general secretary Sunil Sharma, who has been vigorously pursuing the case of strengthening VDGs, has also recently taken up the issue of payment of honorarium to all VDGs with Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha.
Sharma expressed confidence that all VDGs who are unpaid will start getting payment directly into their accounts.
Sources, however, said that strengthening VDGs and equipping them with modernized weapons is another issue which the UT Government as well as the BJP leaders have also taken up with the Union Ministry of Home Affairs.
“There is virtual consensus that the VDGs should get sophisticated weapons gradually as it is not possible for them to take on the terrorists equipped with M4 Carbine and assault rifles with .303 weapons. While some of the VDGs have already been given SLRs, others will also get the same weapons in phased manner,” the sources said.
Role of the VDGs came into limelight after terrorism re-surfaced in the Jammu region with surge in terror attacks including four in four days this month in which nine civilians, seven of them Shiv Khori pilgrims and a CRPF jawan were killed and many others were injured. Prior to this also, a number of terror attacks took place in Rajouri and Poonch districts last year.
The officials were of the view that the VDGs, earlier known as the VDCs, had played major role in curbing the terror menace in the Jammu region in nineties and this time too they can be very useful in meeting fresh challenges posed by the terrorists.