Housing sites for Pandits being identified
19 March 2003
Our Staff Reporter
JAMMU: To give a practical shape to the return of Kashmiri Pandits, the Jammu and Kashmir Government has started identifying the proposed clusters where the families are going to be accommodated. The Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, had stated that the return of the Pandits would be his priority and the requisite homework will be done for a safe, honourable and dignified return. Sometime ago, the Centre had approved a plan for return of the migrants involving an expenditure of Rs.2,800 crores. An action plan was prepared by the authorities with the first phase envisaging an expenditure of Rs.43.94 crores. They identified 15 clusters belonging to the Pandits which were either intact or required minor repairs and where security for the return of migrants could be made possible. The State Revenue Minister, Hakim Yasin, says, 'Efforts were made to contact those families who are registered with the relief organisation in Jammu for obtaining its consent. So far, only two families have come forward for return to the Valley.' He adds that till now there had been no devolution of funds to the relief organisation in connection with the rehabilitation programme. As and when received, funds would be placed at the disposal of the agency. The Minister also disclosed that the issue of recruitment of unemployed migrant youths was taken up with the Centre and it was not accepted. The help of the lone Kashmiri Pandit Independent MLA from Habbakadal segment in the J&K Assembly holding charge of Industries in the State, Raman Mattoo, has also been sought and he was asked to visit the clusters. Talking to The Hindu , he said: 'I am shortly leaving for the Valley to identify the apartments where the willing Pandit families can be housed. I will be working on different parameters, for the location has to be such that it is not only secure but is also close to the work places of the community.' He added that the Centre would be requested to provide jobs to the Pandits, who want to return to the Valley. Meanwhile, the Minister of State for Defence, Chaman Lal Gupta, has asked the State Government to take all possible steps to thwart further terrorist attacks in the Jammu region. In a statement issued by the Minister after visiting the Ind village, he said, 'The security needs to be strengthened in the remote areas of the State by giving more sophisticated arms to the VDCs and other SPOs who are fighting the militants.'