AFSPA not put on backburner: Omar

AFSPA not put on backburner: Omar

5 January 2012
The Daily Excelsior
Sanjeev Pargal

Jammu: Completing three years in office, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah today asserted that the issue of partial withdrawal of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in the State has not been put on the 'backburner', noting that this demand of his Government is rightful, based on logic and not on emotions. Talking to media persons after addressing an official function and releasing a book at Civil Secretariat lawns marking three years of National Conference-Congress coalition Government, Omar said that the probe into recent firing by Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) on protesters at Boniyar in Uri tehsil of Baramulla district in which a 12th standard student died would be taken to its logical conclusion. He expressed confidence that the Centre would allow law to take its own course. The Chief Minister, who had taken over the helm of affairs on January 5, 2009 said tackling corruption and providing employment, power and peace to the people of the State would be his priority for remaining term of three years. Omar said he would be happy to campaign for the Congress in Uttar Pradesh and other States along with AICC (I) general secretary Rahul Gandhi, if asked for, as he would like the Congress tally to go up in the coming Assembly elections to five States. The Chief Minister along with his entire Council of Ministry including Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand, Finance Minister Abdul Rahim Rather and Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ali Mohammad Sagar released a book on development activities of Jammu and Kashmir during last three years. The book highlighted issues relating to governance, development and policies formulated and implemented on the ground during the three year tenure of the coalition Government. Replying to a question on whether his Government would continue to pursue withdrawal of AFSPA in coming three years, Mr Abdullah said ‘‘ it was not the question of years. We will pursue it in the coming weeks and months. It doesn't mean that the issue has been put on backburner just because it was not being talked about at the moment. 'I believe the line we have taken (on withdrawal of AFSPA) is based on logic and not on emotions. I intend to pursue it to its logical conclusion', he said, adding he believed that there is a rightful case for gradual withdrawal of AFSPA from those areas where Army is not operating for years. The Government has been demanding withdrawal of AFSPA from Jammu and Samba districts of Jammu region and Srinagar and Budgam districts of Kashmir. The Defence Ministry and the Army were strongly opposed to the demand. The Chief Minister further said, 'I am certain of my position that I have taken now and as earlier (on the issue of withdrawal of AFSPA). 'At various levels the discussions are on both within the State between the civil and security establishments and also on the Central level on gradual withdrawal of AFSPA from peaceful areas', he said. It may be mentioned that the State Government has formed a high level committee comprising Home Secretary BR Sharma, DGP Kuldeep Khoda, ADGP K Rajendra and a representative of Army, if any, to hold talks with the Secretaries in Defence and Home Ministries and Army chief on withdrawal of AFSPA. To a question on whether he would join election campaign for Congress in five poll bound States including Uttar Pradesh, Omar said he has not received any invitation from the Congress so far but would definitely campaign for the party along with AICC (I) general secretary Rahul Gandhi in Uttar Pradesh and other States to increase tally of the Congress. ‘‘If I can contribute in raising tally of the Congress, I will definitely do it. I would campaign for the Congress and highlight achievement and policies of United Progress Alliance (UPA) to raise their numbers in all five States. ‘‘Whenever they (the Congress) ask me to campaign, I will happily do it', he added. On the NHPC chief's statement not to handover hydro projects to Jammu and Kashmir and the State Government's resolve to take them back, Omar said, 'there is a Cabinet Sub Committee that had been set up by the State to examine the possibility of bringing back projects from NHPC'. ‘‘The CSC headed by Finance Minister Abdul Rahim Rather is due to submit its report to me later today. I will study the report and examine its recommendations', he said recalling that it was Economic Advisor of the Union Government C Rangarajan (former RBI Governor), who had first called for handing over of hydro projects back to the State. Moreover, the Chief Minister said, the Government was not asking to take back the projects forcefully. 'We are ready to pay for it. We are also working on to increase power generation to 6000 mw in next three years', he added. ‘‘The State has been facing acute power shortage on two counts - transmission and distribution losses and pilferage. The Centre has asked the State Government to draw up an action plan to deal with the problems. It has also advised the State Government to write to the concerned Central Ministry to get funds to buy more power', Mr Abdullah said. Replying to another question, Omar said probe into the CISF firing on protestors against power shortage in Boniyar would be taken to its logical conclusion and assured that the Centre would allow law to take its own course. ‘‘Keeping in with their commitment in ensuring justice, they (Centre) will allow law to follow its own course,' he said. The Chief Minister said, 'as far as I am concerned, two parallel courses of action have been initiated. There is a magisterial inquiry - that is going on. There is also the legal process as a result of filing of FIR under relevant sections of the penal code'. 'Both (these probes) would be taken to logical conclusion- and in case it is found that prosecution is warranted and legal action has to follow- if required we will approach the Government of India (GOI) (for sanction) and I have no doubt about it,' he said. The Chief Minister was replying to a question about the statement of the Centre and Chief of CISF that they come under preview of AFSPA and need the Centre's nod to prosecute CISF persons involved in the firing at Boniyar on January 2. ‘‘I am not getting into tussle with anybody else', Omar said. Director General of CISF N R Das had said its personnel had strictly followed the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) before opening fire at a mob at the NHPC power plant at Uri in North Kashmir in which a teenager was killed. In his address, the Chief Minister recalled that in 2008 elections, National Conference president and Union Minister for New and Renewable Energy Dr Farooq Abdullah was NC's chief Ministerial candidate while Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare Ghulam Nabi Azad was leading the Congress campaign. ‘‘I was no where in the race. However, I became the Chief Minister after the elections while both Dr Farooq and Mr Azad are the Union Ministers assisting Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh in his Cabinet', he said, noting that he was not in the list - not even in the waiting list. Asserting that it was all due to God's grace, he thanked UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Home Minister P Chidambaram for helping the Government. 'After God, I am thankful to the people. We listened to countless problems from the people and tried to minimize them. In next three years, we will try to further reduce the problems. We are marching towards a 'khushhaal Jammu and Kashmir and we will achieve it though some of the promises made to the people are yet to be fulfilled', he said. Asserting that his Government has declared a war against corruption, Omar said the Government's fight against the menace of corruption is still on. ‘‘Even when the demand is going on for setting up of Lokpal in the country, we had set up a similar institution in our State several years back in the form of State Accountability Commission (SAC). The Chief Minister is already covered under the SAC', he pointed out. He said six Departments have already been covered under Public Services Guarantee Act, which some States were still planning to enact. The Chief Minister reiterated the announcement that Urban Local Bodies elections would be held during the current year. He recalled that Panchayat elections were held in the State last year after nearly three and a half decades. Without naming any political party, Mr Abdullah said some people might not be liking to see him sitting on the Chief Minister's chair today and added that with the God's grace and support of his colleagues and people he was still on the Chair. ‘‘I am not sitting on the chair for my own benefits but to serve people of the State. I would like to do more in next three years especially to maintain peace', he said. He added that he would like to go to the people after completion of six years term with proud and tell them that he has done whatever could be done for them. Addressing, Deputy Chief Minister, Tara Chand said that the coalition between two secular parties of National Conference and Congress constituted by the Union leadership headed by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh was a visionary decision aimed at achieving peaceful, progressive and secure Jammu and Kashmir. Tara Chand said that vision of the National leadership is being translated into reality by the coalition Government led by Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah. 'We have made considerable dent in all fields of development registering significant achievements', he said mentioning the progress made in the fields of electricity, health, tourism, water supply, roads, education and other sectors. 'The list of achievements is so long that it cannot be narrated in a speech', he said making reference to the release of compendium containing the three year's major achievements of the coalition Government. The Deputy Chief Minister said that the huge infrastructure development programme launched by the Azad-led Government has been completed by the present dispensation. He said Ghulam Nabi Azad Government created eight new districts and present Government has provided necessary paraphernalia and is constructing Mini Secretariats in each newly created district. Tara Chand said that under the leadership of Omar Abdullah, the coalition Government would continue to strive for peaceful progressive Jammu and Kashmir. 'We would continue to work vigorously to strengthen the secular traits of the State and move on path to equitable development of all areas with determination and commitment', he said adding that the next three years of Omar-led coalition Government would witness accelerated development in all sectors. In the opening remarks, Chief Secretary, Madhav Lal said that since the assumption of office, the present Government has embarked on the path of peace and harmony driven by the principles of equitable development of all the regions of the State. 'Towards this end, the Government evolved a multi-dimensional strategy aimed at promoting good governance, efficient service delivery, eliminating malpractices and corruption. We realised that a people-friendly administration is possible only by strengthening the institutions of delivery and development of human capacities', he said adding that in keeping with National priorities, the State Government identified water, electricity, healthcare, roads, education, employment and better governance as the areas for development. He said that emphasis has also been given to developing the core competencies in traditional sectors of handicrafts, tourism and horticulture. Madhav Lal said that during the past three years, the State Government made significant progress in realizing goals. He said the major achievements made during past three years include the measures for bringing transparency and improving governance in the State which is high on the Government's agenda. Terming Public Services Guarantee Act on a historic legislation, Madhav Lal said that to provide speedy services to the public within a specified time frame, the departments have been brought under the purview of the Act in first instance. He mentioned State Information Commission, appointment of Public Officers in all Departments, amendment to J&K State Vigilance Commission Act, reconstitution of State Accountability Commission and making Human Rights Commission fully functional as significant achievements of the coalition Government. He also referred to the elections of Panchayats and transfer of functions, functionaries and finance to these institutions adding that powers are being devolved to these institutions in a phased manner to enable these to function with greater autonomy. He mentioned e-governance initiatives and functioning of Grievance Cell in the Chief Minister's Secretariat saying that the people can mail their grievances to the Cell round the clock. On liberal funding by the Union Government, the Chief Secretary said that the State has received about ' 18000 crore as plan allocation during last three years besides ' 3600 crore under PMRP. 'Similarly under the Centrally Sponsored Schemes, the State has received about ' 600 crore during these three years', he added. The Chief Secretary said that a strong monitoring mechanism has been put in place and the Chief Minister personally reviewed the progress in District Board Meetings and monitors mega-projects. 'A Monitoring Cell has been set up in the Chief Minister's Office for the implementation of various development schemes', he said adding that third party monitoring has been introduced in the State for the first time. Madhav Lal also talked about SKEWPY, micro credit loan and interest subsidy to artisans and skill development mission adding that the list of achievements of the coalition Government is long enough to be mentioned in a speech. 'We are committed to taking steps to further widen and deepen the reforms process, and to fructify the dream of building a strong, united, vibrant and peaceful Jammu and Kashmir under the stewardship of our Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah', he added. Commissioner Secretary General Administration Department, Mohammad Syed Khan also spoke. President, Non-Gazetted Employees Union, Rouf Ahmad presented vote of thanks and highlighted the dynamism and public-friendly attitude of Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah. He said that the Government led by Omar Abdullah has created history in the last three years by introducing innovative initiatives in the fields of development and public welfare. He also mentioned the employee-friendly policies of Omar Abdullah and referred to the granting of 6th pay commission, arrears and timely release of DA installments to the employees by the Government. He also pinpointed the endeavours of Omar-led government for creating enhanced job-market for youth both in public and private sectors. The members of Council of Ministers, Political Advisor to the Chief Minister, Vice Chairpersons of various Advisory Boards, Legislators, Administrative Secretaries, Chairman Jammu and Kashmir Bank, officers and employees were present on the occasion. Meanwhile, Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah and Deputy Chief Minister, Tara Chand, called on Governor N N Vohra at Raj Bhavan here this morning and presented to him a publication which highlights the Coalition Government's achievements during the past three years. The Chief Minister briefed the Governor about the salient features of the State Government's achievements in different sectors during the past three years. The Deputy Chief Minister spoke about the difficulties faced by the Government and achievements made in some of the areas particularly dealt by him, including the functioning of Urban Local Bodies. The Governor offered sweets to the Chief Minister and the Deputy Chief Minister and congratulated them on the completion of three years of Coalition Government. He emphasized the importance of constant monitoring of administration, timely completion of all development programmes and efficient functioning of the delivery system. Stressing the need for honest functioning, the Governor urged the Chief Minister to assign physical targets in all sectors which could be measured against the envisaged time frames and cost limits so that those perform well could be given State level awards and recognition for accelerated promotions.The Governor wished the Chief Minister and all the Members of the Council of Ministers a very successful year ahead in their endeavours to take the State to new heights of progress and prosperity.