PDP says plunder in CM's Planning Deptt, walks-out15 March 2011
The Daily Excelsior
JAMMU: Traditional political rivals-ruling National Conference and People's Democratic Party (PDP)-today once again leveled charges and counter charges against each other within and outside the Legislative Assembly with the main opposition party directly targeting Chief Minister Omar Abdullah saying the Planning Department held by him was indulging in 'bandarbant, loot khasoot and chori chakari'. All PDP MLAs led by their Legislature Party leader Mehbooba Mufti staged a walk-out in the Assembly to protest what the party called 'brazen loot' in the Planning Department. The NC charged the PDP with being 'issueless' and blowing even smaller issues out of proportion. Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ali Mohammad Sagar justified on spot recruitment carried out in Khanyar, his own Assembly segment, on the ground that it was a hot bed of militancy and separatists and the step was aimed at checking the unrest. Trouble erupted in the House when PDP MLA and former Minister for Finance and Planning Muzaffar Hussain Baig, raising a supplementary on his question on release of additionalities by the Planning Department, said Mr Sagar has admitted on floor of the House that funds have been released in favour of some defeated candidates for the works. He wanted to know whether this policy was applicable to defeated candidates of NC or a similar procedure would be adopted for losing candidates of other political parties like BJP, NPP and Congress. Mr Sagar said he was being quoted wrongly by the PDP MLAs. PDP chief whip Abdul Gaffar Sofi wanted Mr Abdullah, who was present in the Assembly after his return from London last evening, to explain the policy on providing funds to the defeated candidates. However, there was no response from the Chief Minister. This provoked PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti, who was on her feet along with all party MLAs. She said it was very unfortunate that Government schools and health centres were being opened or upgraded selectively in the constituencies of Ministers. 'Defeated candidates of a particular party are being given funds for development works. Recruitment in police is taking place selectively. The Chief Minister belonged to the entire State and not a particular party', she said. Amidst protests by the PDP members, the Speaker announced completion of the Question Hour. Threatening that the people could take to streets if 'chori chakari and bandarbant' continued in the Planning Department, Mehbooba charged the Government with not taking the issues seriously. PDP MLA Abdul Rehman Veeri said the selective release of additionalities would spoil the State. Another PDP MLA Haq Khan said there was no rule in the Planning Department. All PDP MLAs led by Ms Mufti staged a walk-out in the Assembly. By then, the Chief Minister had also left the House. NC MLA Shamima Firdous, chairperson Women Commission, referring towards the PDP said they had spoil the situation last summer also in the Kashmir valley and they were trying again to create similar conditions once again. Speaking to reporters outside, Mehbooba Mufti made a direct attack on Chief Minister Omar Abdullah saying he gets involved when their was open 'loot khasoot and chori chakari' prevailing in the Planning Department held by him. She said the 'bandarbant' was prevailing in the opening and upgradation of educational institutions and health centres. Information about release of additionalities is being concealed and the House is being misled with the Chief Minister giving two separate information in the Assembly and Economic Survey, she added. 'We wanted the Chief Minister to intervene and explain the Government stand on 'loot khasoot' in the Planning Department but she didn't. When the people see grave injustice being done to them, they resort to stone pelting and are booked under the Public Safety Act (PSA)', she said. Referring to recruitment of 200 youth in police from Khanyar area, the Assembly segment of Mr Sagar, Mehbooba asked 'why a similar recruitment was not held in other parts of Jammu and Kashmir'? 'The Planning funds are not personal property or party funds of the Chief Minister. Jobs are a matter of life and death for the youth. In one area, the NC workers have been recruited. Where the youth of other areas would go'? she asked and charged the NC with taking Kashmir towards destruction. She asserted that there was unrest even in Jammu region against discriminatory policies of the Government. Questioning the Government policy on releasing funds in favour of selected defeated NC candidates for the works, former Deputy Chief Minister and PDP leader Muzaffar Hussain Baig wanted to know from the Government that whether the funds would also be released in favour of all defeated candidates of PDP, Congress, BJP, NPP etc. 'In one segment, there could be 18 defeated candidates. In whose favour the Government would release the funds'? he asked. Recalling the stand of former Chief Minister Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah that MLAs and MLCs opinion should be involved in Planning and Development of the State, Mr Baig charged the Government with subverting the set process of development by releasing funds in favour of defeated candidates. He said the Government had no answer to the question. After holding a show of strength at Parade Ground on Sunday, Mehbooba tried to invoke Jammu card saying if 200 youth could be recruited in Khanyar in police department on a single day, why a similar process can't be adopted in Jammu West, Rajouri, Kishtwar etc. She called upon the Chief Minister to intervene and correct the mistake committed in recruitment of NC workers in Khanyar, selected upgradation of education and health institutions and release of funds in favour of defeated NC candidates. To a question that whether the PDP would take legal recourse on selected recruitment, Mehbooba quipped that the people's court is supreme and they would take a decision at an appropriate time. In the Assembly, Mr Baig pointed out that the Government has submitted two replies on expenditure on Sawlakote access road. While the Central Government has been told that Rs 23.21 crore have been spent on it, the expenditure in the Assembly has been shown as Rs 35 crore. On Bursar hydel project, the Economic Survey has showed an expenditure of Rs 80 crore while the Assembly has been told that Rs 88 crore have been spent on it. 'The Prime Minister has been given one figure and the House another', he said. Mr Abdullah said as far as Bursar hydel electic project was concerned, it was being executed by the NHPC and they have supplied the figures. However, on Sawlakote access road expenditure, he said, he would verify the figures and come back to the House. Speaking to reporters later, Law and Parliamentary Affairs and Rural Development Minister Ali Mohammad Sagar observed that the PDP has been rendered issueless and was blowing even smaller issues out of proportion to keep themselves alive in media. Pointing out that Khanyar had been a hot bed of militancy and separatists, he said the on spot recruitment in police was conducted to address the problem of unemployment. Similar recruitment will also be carried out in other unrepresented areas, he added. Mr Sagar contested the statement of Mr Baig that the funds had been release in favour of defeated candidates of National Conference saying if one-odd candidate of Anantnag was given funds that was not an issue. 'Several NGOs, Mosque and Mandir Committees keep on asking for funds. I have always said that MLAs and MLCs are genuine representatives of the people', he said. Calling upon PDP and BJP to stop playing petty politics in Kashmir and Jammu, he said there was a mixture of opinion in Kashmir on Azadi, Pakistan and Hindustan. 'We stand for Hindustan and we will win', he added. Mr Sagar said every PDP MLA has been praising Ministers during their grants. However, outside the House, they are only playing the politics of power and could go to any extent. He added that the people of Kashmir are mature enough and won't fall in the trap of PDP to create disturbances to spoil tourist season, development and prosperity. In response to Mr Baig's question, the Chief Minister in his capacity as the Planning Minister said that an amount of Rs 9904.19 crore has been spent on upgradation of infrastructure in the State till January this year under Prime Minister's Reconstruction Plan (PMRP). He said that Rs 3925.75 crore was spent on execution of projects implemented by the State Government and Rs 4641.13 crore utilised in projects implemented through Central agencies in the State. The Minister said that the cost of the PMRP is revised with inclusion of some new works viz a viz escalation in cost and change in scope of works. He said the implementation period for execution of the projects in the state under the programme has been extended upto the end of 11th Five Year Plan. During the last two years, important development schemes have been announced by the Centre, which has also approved two Central Universities for the State, the Chief Minister said. He said 206 acres of land has been acquired for Kashmir Central University and 375 acres for Jammu Central University so far. He said the PMRP which was to the tune of Rs 24,000 crore has been revised to about Rs 30,000 crore.