Armed with figures, CM dismantles opposition’s criticism on development

Unfolds govt’s impressive performance in 5 years, details achievements in all sectors

By News Agency of Kashmir

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Jammu : Quoting extensively figures to establish that the coalition government had brought about all round progress in the State, Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad today said that development witnessed by Jammu & Kashmir during the past five years in economic, political and social spheres had been unprecedented. He said the per capita income had registered an increase of Rs. 5000 and development investment Rs. 4000 during this period. He said the coalition government had taken progress oriented and people friendly measures, equally benefiting both rural and urban masses.

Replying to the discussion on motion of thanks to the Governor’s address in the Legislative Assembly here, the Chief Minister, in a marathon record three and a quarter hour speech, dwelt in detail on measures and steps taken by the coalition government in various sectors of economy and confidence building areas. He hailed people and legislators across the board for the support his government received to carry out the development agenda.

The Chief Minister said development being the main agenda of his government, measures to improve security situation and build confidence were also taken that have led to an improved scenario over the past five years. He complimented people and political leaders for bringing about this change. He said the issues taken up by the coalition government were of far reaching importance for the people and not easy ones to implement for any government. He said political views of various parties could be different but all were unanimous in bringing about peace and progress and remove uncertainty in the State.

Mr. Azad said that for confidence building, several steps were taken since the coalition government assumed office. He said three Round Table Conferences (RTC) were convened by Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh in which all political parties participated. He said four out of the five Working Groups, constituted following the second RTC, had submitted their recommendations. He said a high power committee headed by union home secretary had been constituted with representatives from the concerned ministries of Government of India, besides State’s Chief Secretary and Director General of Police, to oversee and monitor the implementation of these recommendations. He said the committee had already held two meetings while the third one was convened by him at New Delhi on Saturday last in which decisions were taken regarding minimizing delay in processing entry permit for cross LoC , fast track disposal of applications in case of death of blood relations, comprehensive census of militancy related widows and orphans in the State, rehabilitation and return of Kashmir Pandits, admission in professional colleges and technical institutes outside the State of wards of West Pakistan refugees of 1947 and enhancement of amount of compensation of deficit land left behind by refugees of PoK in 1947.

The Chief Minister said that side by side with confidence building measures within the State, the dialogue process was started with Pakistan. He said unfortunately due to the internal situation there since the sacking of the country’s Chief Justice and the recent assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, this process received a set back. He hoped that the neighbouring country learnt some lesson from the democratic traditions of India and a stable and democratic government came to power there so that the process of reconciliation and peace between the two countries was taken further.

Regarding security and human rights situation, the Chief Minister quoted figures to show that the scenario had vastly improved. He said violence had decreased by 34.5 percent compared to last year and by 73 percent compared to 10 years ago. He said civilian killings had recorded decrease by 58 percent and 84 percent, respectively in last one year and a decade ago. In case of killings of political activists, he said these had decreased by 47 percent as compared to the last year and by 91 percent 10 years earlier. He said custodial killings have shown a decline by 33 percent and 66 percent, respectively during the same periods. He said the year 2007 was the first in the last 20 years during which no custodial disappearance was reported. He said during 2003 there were 17 such cases. Similarly, he said killings of police personnel. SPOs, VDC members and security forces had also decreased by 62 percent, 60 percent, 66 percent and 30 percent, respectively since the last year.

On human rights, the Chief Minister said that the State Human Rights Commission had made 650 recommendations of which 390 were accepted by the government and another 260 were under consideration. He said a cabinet sub-committee was constituted to monitor implementation of these recommendations. He said he was himself monitoring the implementation. He said the security forces were being educated on human rights and the subject was also introduced in the police training curriculum. He said strict action was taken against the erring security and police officials and cited the instance of the SSP and other police personnel involved in the Ganderbal fake encounter case who were behind the bars. He said the army had instituted court martial proceedings against the soldier involved in the killing of an innocent Rehbar-e-Taleem, Abdur Rashid of Chowkibal, Kupwara. He said disciplinary action against another army personnel who witnessed the killing and did not intervene to save the innocent person had also been initiated. He said in case of the killing of a baker at Yarikha, Kulgam, court martial proceedings against the erring army personnel were about to be initiated. He said he had made investigations about both these cases and found that the two killed persons were innocent. He said he took up the issue with the Defence Minister and the Chief of Army Staff who assured him that the guilty would not be spared. He said these instances had sent the signal that the government would not tolerate human rights violations.

The Chief Minister also referred to the pledges made by the coalition government to people of the State in its common minimum programme and said that the implementation of the recommendations of Wazir Commission was pending for the last 28 years but successive governments had slept over it. He said his government not only implemented the recommendations but also went beyond and created 8 new districts instead of 4 as had been recommended by the Commission. Besides, he said, 3 new sub-divisions and 12 tehsils were also created. He said within 8 months, the new districts were announced, demarcation committee constituted, nodal officers appointed and deputy commissioners and SSPs posted and the new districts made functional. He said this was a record, adding that implementation of such decisions took decades in other parts of the country. He said construction of new office complexes for these districts had already started and would be completed by next year. All district offices would be located under one roof, he added. He said 2109 posts of major departments had been created in new districts and surplus staff of PSUs deputed to ensure that there was no dearth of officials. He said posts of Additional District Development Commissioners were also created for the new districts.

Referring to another pledge in the CMP, the Chief Minister said that the State Finance Commission was constituted which had already visited 11 districts of the State. He said the Commission would ensure equitable distribution of development resources in the State and remove complaints of disparity. He said the Commission was headed by an experienced retired bureaucrat who had worked almost in every district of the State and had complete knowledge of State finances. He said the Commission had a member each from Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh.

About the delimitation, the Chief Minister said that a constitutional amendment had been enacted during the NC rule which had banned delimitation of constituencies till 2026. He said in the presence of this law the delimitation was not possible in the State. He said the government would require a two-third majority to undo the amendment and go for delimitation. However, he said since the required majority was not available with the government there was no fun in bringing a bill for this. He said he had tried to build a consensus among political parties but did not succeed. He told MLA Harshdev Singh, who agitated the issue during the speech of the Chief Minister that he was ready to bring the Bill if he took upon himself to bring about consensus among political parties on the issue.

On Kundal Committee report, the Chief Minister said that specific cases of mismanagement and irregularities in SFC, IWDP and the State Pollution Control Board had been referred to the Vigilance Organization and Crime Branch for detailed enquiry and investigation. He said the law would take its own course. He said in other cases, departmental enquiries had been ordered. He said the immediate responsible officers in the SFC had been placed under suspension. He said that suggestions made by the Enquiry Officer for improvement in the affairs of the forest department, particularly SFC, were being implemented.

The Chief Minister reiterated his resolve to eradicate corruption from the State and said his drive against the scourge had received public appreciation. He said the State Vigilance Organisation had been strengthened and given teeth to curb corruption. He said since 2003, the organisation had registered 330 cases, out of which 165 were registered during the last two years. He said sanction was accorded in 207 cases for prosecution including in 138 during the past two years. He said an amendment in the J&K Prevention of Corruption Act was made to attach ill gotten property of government officials. He said properties worth Rs. 4.48 crores had been attached in 12 cases during the last two years while 20 more cases were under investigation. He said there was proposal for appointing special anti-corruption judges, one each at Jammu and Srinagar, for fast track trial. He said the State Accountability Commission received 1736 complaints out of which 1410 were disposed off. He said 15 cases were referred to government for action and were being processed. He said 311 cases were under examination in the Commission. He said along with punishing the corrupt officials, the government had also instituted mechanism for the encouragement of upright, honest and performing officials. He said Chief Minister’s Gold Medals were given to such officials, adding that engineers and contractors completing projects within stipulated timeframe without compromising on quality were also being awarded. He said that the State would bring in changes in the J&K Right to Information Act to bring it at par with the central law which had more teeth. He said now whistle blowers helping in combating corruption in government departments were also given medals and cash awards.

On generating employment, the Chief Minister said that 83,166 appointments were made by the coalition government since 2003. These include 8417 recruitments recommended by SSRB and 2602 by PSC. He said 31,197 Rehbar-e-Taleem and 12,620 Anganwari workers and helpers were also recruited during this time, besides making 7381 contractual appointments. He said 8795 youth were recruited in police, 3150 as Rehbar-e-Zirat, 3129 as ITI electricians and plumbers and 2842 under SRO-43. He said during 2008, employment opportunities for 39,571 persons would be generated in social welfare, police, education, health and newly created districts. He said a Cabinet Sub-Committee had been constituted by the government to formulate employment policy and explore employment opportunities for the youth.

On development, the Chief Minister spoke in detail mentioning measures taken by the government to raise massive infrastructure throughout the State. He said development process had been taken to the village level and its fruits were being harvested in remote and far off pockets along with urban areas. On power sector, he gave complete details of the funds received from the Centre under the PM’s package and its expenditure. He drew home the difference, not appreciated by many, between the money assured and the amount actually received by the government. He cited instances of the component of power development in the PM’s package and ADB loan and gave account of each rupee received by the government so far. He mentioned umpteen power projects taken up in the State that are in different phases of completion or about to come up. He said Chutak and Nimo-Bazgo power projects in Ladakh were being completed ahead of schedule. He said Sewa II would be completed by December 2008 and Uri II by 2010. He said Kishanganga power project was cleared this year and work would start soon. He said Baglihar project would be commissioned this year. He gave details of modernization of transmission lines and grid stations and sub-stations to augment power supply in the three regions of the State.

The Chief Minister referred to several prestigious projects undertaken by the government across the State and said that the first phase of the Haj House at Srinagar was completed in a record time at a cost of Rs. 10 crore. He said the Asia’s largest Tulip Garden in Srinagar was being developed as a major tourist attraction where one million tulip bulbs would be sown this year. He also referred to the macadamization of Srinagar city roads, beautification of Jhelum River front, development of Hazratbal Shrine complex, construction of new museum building and legislature complex, work on which was apace. He said the first phase of aquarium at Bagh-e-Bahu, Jammu was completed at a cost of Rs. 8 crore while work on phase I of 1384 kanal 9-hole Sidhra Golf Course would be completed by July next. He said Rs. 4.91 crore Amarnath Yatri Niwas at Bhagwati Nagar, Jammu would be completed by July this year while Mubarak Mandi heritage complex was being developed as a major tourist attraction. He said a floriculture garden on 600 kanals was being developed in Jammu.

The Chief Minister also spoke at length about education, health and roads and bridges sectors and said that these facilities were extended and upgraded across the State. He said infrastructure in these sectors had witnessed unprecedented development. He said colleges and university campuses and technical institutions were opened in hitherto neglected areas, bringing higher education literally to the doorsteps of the people. He also mentioned path breaking initiatives in health sector and said that upgradation of all district hospitals was underway to lessen the rush of patients on the State’s main hospitals in the capital cities. He said facilities had been upgraded at SKIMS and the two medical college hospitals in Jammu and Srinagar were being upgraded to the AIIMS level. In the roads and bridges sector, he said that road connectivity was being extended to all villages and existing road network upgraded. He also talked about conferment of ownership rights to the occupants of State land under Roshni Scheme, development in tourism, rural development, social welfare, PHE and other sectors and enumerated the achievements of the coalition government in these areas.

The Chief Minister referred to the issues raised by MLA Shoib Lone in the House and said that the concerned minister had submitted his resignation to him which he had sent to the Governor for acceptance.

In the afternoon, the Chief Minister also gave a detailed reply to the discussion on motion of thanks on the Governor’s address in the Legislative Council. After the Chief Minister’s speech, both Houses passed the motion of thanks on Governor’s address.