Troop Pullout From J-K Schools, Orchards Could Come Soon
8 July 2007
The Indian Express
New Delhi: The Government is likely to look at an early withdrawal of troops from orchards and schools in Jammu and Kashmir with indications that the expert panel set up by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will come up with a suggestion to this effect. Where it is not possible to withdraw the troops, the panel is likely to propose suitable compensation to owners of the property. Defence Secretary Shekhar Dutt heads the panel, which was set up on March 30 to look at troop deployment and configuration after a persistent demand from the PDP. Dutt, who visited Jammu and Kashmir earlier this week to get a feel of the ground, was expected to submit his report to Defence Minister A K Antony before he retires on July 31, sources said. During his visit, he discussed deployment of security forces with senior officers from the Army, the state Government and security forces. The Defence Secretary visited Doda, Rajouri, Baramulla and Awantipur. The panel, which has representatives from the Army, paramilitary forces, Defence Ministry and Home Ministry, is also looking at a system of compensation for owners of properties occupied by troops fighting militancy over the years. Another suggestion the panel is considering is strengthening the infrastructure and housing facilities for personnel engaged in counter-insurgency operations in the state. The demand for relocation of troops has been opposed by the Army and security forces who feel any move in this direction would affect the fight against militancy. The Government is, however, not averse to withdrawing troops from civilian areas like orchards and school buildings and having them put up elsewhere in the same area. While setting up the panel, the Government had made it clear that it would ensure that the cardinal aspects of security were 'not compromised' in any manner.