PM grants additional Rs.1.57 bn for Kashmir reconstruction
9 November 2006
Indo-Asian News Service
New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Thursday released an ad hoc grant of Rs.1.57 billion for relief and the construction of permanent shelters for those affected by last October's earthquake in Jammu and Kashmir.The decision was taken at a meeting that reviewed the progress of the reconstruction plan for Jammu and Kashmir. The amount would also be used for the reconstruction of infrastructure, including roads, schools and hospitals, in some of the worst quake hit areas in the state, an official said. Nearly 1,400 people died in Jammu and Kashmir with reports that 80 percent of houses in the Uri sector were destroyed, rendering thousands homeless. A sum of Rs.5.43 billion had already been sanctioned during the time of the quake.The 7.6 magnitude earthquake killed an estimated 75,000 people in Pakistan, India and Afghanistan.In the review meeting, also attended by Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, it was decided that the state government's request for taking up the Pakal Dul hydroelectric project under the state sector rather than through the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) would be considered so more power could be drawn from it.An additional 70 MW of power would be made available to the state this winter compared to the previous one, said a statement.The prime minister also asked the Central Electricity Authority and the power ministry to quickly tie up adequate provision of power for the coming winter in the Kashmir Valley. Identifying education as an area deserving more attention and resources, it was decided that 10 new degree colleges and five Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) would be established under the reconstruction plan.It was noted that there had been a positive response generated following the establishment of 14 degree colleges and nine ITIs earlier this year. The state would be given special allowance for the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, the government's flagship programme to universalise elementary education, and be provided central share funds to the extent of 90 percent instead of the current 75 percent. Manmohan Singh directed the Planning Commission to look into ways of addressing the requirement of funds for strengthening district hospitals, improving road connectivity and meeting rehabilitation costs associated with the Dal Lake Conservation Project. It was decided that support to the state under the Reconstruction Plan would continue for one additional year till 2008-09. Amongst those who attended the meeting were the prime minister's Principal Secretary, T.K.A. Nair, Member-Secretary of the Planning Commission R.R. Shah, Home Secretary V.K. Duggal, Road Transport and Highways Secretary Vijay Singh, Expenditure Secretary Sanjeev Mishra and Chairman of the Central Electricity Authority Rakesh Nath. The Jammu and Kashmir chief minister was assisted by his Finance and Planning Minister Tariq Hamid Qarra and the Chief Secretary C. Phunsog.