Hoping for Kashmiri Pandit homecoming to the Valley, PM offers a Rs 1600-cr package

25 April 2008
The Indian Express
Neeraj Santhoshi

Akhnoor (JAMMU): Calling for building a “new” Jammu and Kashmir, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced a Rs 1600-crore package of incentives aimed at helping 50,000 Kashmiri Pandits return home. The incentives, which include housing grants, job and education opportunities and waiver of interest on loans, will be available to those displaced due to militancy after 1989. Those families who wish to construct their houses in the Valley will get Rs 7.5 lakh each, the PM said, adding that he had asked the state government to provide land for group housing societies where displaced Pandit families could construct their houses. Not just displaced Kashmiris, the PM also announced packages for West Pakistan Refugees and PoK migrants. Singh said that even those families whose houses have been partially or fully damaged will be given grants for renovating or reconstructing their house, adding that finances for temporary residence will also be taken care of. Stressing that communal harmony was the hallmark of the composite culture of Kashmir which has been dented by the nearly two-decade long conflict in Kashmir, Singh said it was the duty of the government to make conditions conducive for the return of those forced out of their homes. He said that monthly relief being given to around 15,000 migrant families in Jammu and Delhi would be continued for two years for those who opt to return to the valley so that theirs is a smooth transition. The PM was accompanied by Governor Lt Gen (Retd.) S. K. Sinha, Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, former Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, Union Water Resources Minister and PCC Chief Saif-ud-din Soz, Speaker Legislative Assembly, Tara Chand, MP Madan Lal Sharma and Political Advisor to Chief Minister Janak Raj Gupta. In a relief to the unemployed Pandit youth, Singh said that state government has decided to provide government jobs to 6000 Kashmiri Pandit youths, adding that in case of 3000 of these, the Centre would pay salaries until the jobs were “regularised” by the state government. “We are also thinking of giving training to those Pandit youth who wish to start their own ventures. We will provide grants to revive abandoned orchards”, he said. The PM also announced that the Government is thinking of waiving interest on loans taken before migration by Pandits. Children of West Pakistan refugees will be extended the facility of admission in technical institutions across the country. “Besides they will be provided bank loans with out mortgaging of their land holdings. For this, we will create a separate section in the union finance ministry, initiatives for which have been already taken”, the PM said.