5 working groups for Jammu & Kashmir
25 May 2006
Shujaat Bukhari and Vinay Kumar
Srinagar: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday announced the setting up of five working groups to resolve the issues confronting Jammu and Kashmir. The groups will deal with improving the Centre's relations with the State, furthering the relations across the Line of Control (LoC), giving a boost to the State's economic development, rehabilitating the destitute families of militants and reviewing the cases of detainees and ensuring good governance. Endorsed The announcement, made at the end of the two-day round table here, was endorsed by the conference and included in a statement. Dr. Singh said the groups would submit reports to the Government and they would be discussed in the third round table. The groups that would deal with the confidence building measures across the segments of society in the State, would comprise members from those present at the conference, or those nominated by parties and groups. The measures that would come under the groups include improving the condition of people affected by militancy, evolving schemes to rehabilitate all orphans and widows affected by terrorism, relaxing the conditions for those who have foresworn militancy and providing employment to Kashmiri Pandits. The steps to improve relations across the LoC include simplifying the procedures to facilitate travel, increasing goods traffic, opening new routes such as Kargil- Skardu, and expanding people-to-people contact, including promotion of pilgrimage and group tourism. Without mentioning the autonomy demand (by the National Conference) and self-rule (by the PDP), the fifth group would study matters relating to the State's special status within the Indian Union and methods of strengthening democracy, secularism and the rule of law in the State. It will also discuss effective devolution of power among different regions. Dr. Singh suggested appointing a convener for each group. The composition of the groups could be decided in consultation with all leaders. Acknowledging that people were put to inconvenience due to the prevailing situation, Dr. Singh said it must be understood that this scenario was the result of the actions of certain elements. He had instructed the security forces to be 'more mindful' of human rights and be sensitive to the liberties and self-respect of ordinary people. 'At the same time, it is our collective responsibility to create an atmosphere where the people of the State can be free from the fear of oppression and terrorist activities and go about their normal lives like their fellow countrymen. 'If this requires strengthening the State police _ both in numbers and materially _ the Central Government will be willing to support that.' PM cut shorts visit The Prime Minister cut short his visit and decided to give up his plan of spending an evening watching the waters of Dal Lake from the Raj Bhavan in view of media reports that tight security during his visit was causing inconvenience to tourists. 'The Prime Minister, after going through reports, decided to cut his evening of relaxation and take a flight back to Delhi,' his media adviser Sanjaya Baru told reporters. Stringent security measures, which threw life out of gear in Srinagar for three days, had evoked severe criticism in both print and electronic media, with people questioning the timing of the conference at the peak tourist season.