Kashmiris sceptical of Manmohan Singh relief package

26 April 2008
The Daily Times

NEW DELHI: Residents of Indian-held Kashmir may well receive with a degree of scepticism Friday’s announcement by Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh that New Delhi has earmarked a Rs 16 billion package for them. The financial package is to be used to provide housing, generate employment opportunities and to cover the cost of wavering interest on loans to Kashmiri Pandits displaced from their homes in 1989. However, those from Jammu and Kashmir will recall that the Singh government in November 2004 had announced a reconstruction package of Rs 240 billion to accelerate economic development in the area. Four years later, however, and according to figures obtained by Daily Times, the authorities have only spent 11 percent of total funds (Rs 32.11 billion), while the executing agencies have reported a cost over-run of Rs 240-300 billion, without the previous amount having been spent. Jammu and Kashmir government officials have asked for deadline extensions in order to complete scheduled projects. They blame existing procedural differences in approving a project and releasing funds for its completion. The largest share of money in the package, Rs 201 billion, was allocated to power projects. The release of just Rs 17 billion from this package explains the delay in starting the project. The central government owns National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC), which was allocated Rs 172 billion, of which only Rs 6.88 billion has been spent.