April 2007 News

Kashmir roundtable adopts working groups suggestions

25 April 2007
The Daily Times

New Delhi: The third roundtable conference on Kashmir here has adopted a series of recommendations for the state, including a Rs 79 billion development package, transfer of the just operational 390MW Dulhasti power project, and importing best practices of governance from other states. The conference convened by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh ended on Tuesday night. Both factions of the Hurriyat Conference and Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front boycotted it. The prime mister constituted five working groups last May to suggest various political and economic measures to build confidence amongst the people of Indian-held Kashmir. The working group on good governance, headed by former Planning Commission secretary NC Saxena, linked good governance with zero tolerance of human rights abuses. His report, which was adopted by the conference, pointed out that human rights violations have been a major issue of concern in the troubled state. Jammu and Kashmir has the largest police force relative to its population, 3,740 policemen per million people. The report quoted a Human Rights Watch report alleging that the states failure to end widespread human rights abuses by security forces and militants was responsible for fuelling the cycle of violence. The report asked for the constitution of a high-powered committee to enforce human rights, rule of law, accountability and proper implementation of laws. All recommendations should be acted upon by the state government and in case any recommendation is not accepted, reasons for the same should be given through a speaking order, says the working groups report. The working group on economic development, headed by former Reserve Bank of India governor Dr C Rangarajan, called for a package of Rs 79.47 billion in addition to the prime ministers Rs 274.04 billion reconstruction plan. Observers here, however, are sceptical about the relevance of the package as just 5.27 percent of the prime ministers package has been spent during the 28 months since it was announced. The package includes Rs 49.93 billion for transfer of the Dulhasti power project and Rs 17.50 billion for rural roads. Other projects include an asset reconstruction company of Rs 2 billion, R. 4 billion for adult literacy and urban employment and Rs 2 billion for special industrial zones. It also asked for re-transfer of the 1020 MW Bursar plant to the state. Saxenas working group expressed concern at the fast conversion of agriculture land for non-agriculture purposes in the state. This has serious repercussions on food security, the working groups said, and suggested charging a conversion fee for conversion of agriculture land to other purposes. For government departments, it has asked for publication of a Citizens Charter, which will fix duties and explain redressal mechanisms. iftikhar gilani


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