Omar says no to NCTC’s operational part, announces amnesty for 2704 Kashmir youth

Omar says no to NCTC’s operational part, announces amnesty for 2704 Kashmir youth

28 March 2012
The Daily Excelsior
Sanjeev Pargal

Jammu: Chief Minister Omar Abdullah today silenced his critics in the opposition by declaring that third and major part of National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) pertaining to operational control over the State wouldn’t be implemented in Jammu and Kashmir and charged the opposition, the PDP, with trying to create a hype on the issue. He said Pakistan wouldn’t allow implementation of Rehabilitation Policy for Jammu and Kashmir youth and added that the State Government was in touch with the Union Government for making some changes in the policy. He announced amnesty for 2704 Kashmiri youths, mostly stone pelters, saying FIRs against them would be withdrawn in next 15 to 20 days. In his 130 minutes reply to nine hours marathon debate on the grants of his Departments in the Legislative Assembly, Omar admitted illegal appointments and illegal regularization of employees in Housing and Urban Development Department, which, he said, were going on for past 12 years. He said Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand, who holds the portfolio of Housing and Urban Development Department, has submitted him a detailed report on illegal appointments and regularizations, which was being given to Vigilance Cell of General Administration Department (GAD) for recommendations after which legal action would be taken on them. The Chief Minister announced setting up of Planning Commission of J&K on the lines of Planning Commission of India for streamlining the process of Planning in the State, setting up of Transmission Corporation in Power Development Department to reduce Transmission and Distribution (T&D) losses, construction of two Fly Overs in Jammu and Srinagar and installation of traffic lights in the capital cities this year. Referring to charges leveled by PDP Legislature Party leader, Mehbooba Mufti that the National Conference was among the supporters of NCTC like POTO and AFSPA, Omar asked the leader of the PDP whether she was sitting in the meeting where the Chief Secretary and Director General of Police (DGP) were making deliberations on the issue. Noting that NCTC comprised of three parts-Intelligence gathering, Intelligence analysis and operational control, Omar said the State Government has no objections to first two parts as Intelligence gathering was already being done by the Central agencies through Multi Agency Centre (MAC). 'However, as far as rights for suo moto operations in the State by the NCTC were concerned, we would never agree to this part. This part will never be implemented in Jammu and Kashmir. We have experience that wherever the Standing Operating Procedure (SOP) was not followed, the chances of human rights violations increased. Unless Jammu and Kashmir Police or police component was involved in the operations, there remained the fear of rights violations. The NCTC wouldn’t be allowed any unilateral action in the State’’, the Chief Minister said taking exception to hype created on the issue by the PDP. He added that the issues of national security should be kept above politics. 'As far as you (Centre) want to empower youself with rights that you (NCTC) would come to the State and undertake suo moto operation without asking us -informing us-this thing we are never ready to accept', Omar said. He added 'this part (conducting operation unilaterally) of NCTC will not be applied to the State'. 'We have brought on the record (of Central Government) our objections to the operations (by NCTC). If you (Centre) want to create any such force that you want to use for anti-militancy, you cannot use that force in J & K till that time you do not ask or inform or you cannot involve J&K Police component', Omar said. 'I want to take this opportunity to clarify it-NCTC has three parts- one intelligence gathering, another intelligence analysis and third operations', Omar said adding 'we have clearly told the Centre that as far as intelligence-gathering is concerned, we have no problem'. On Rehabilitation Policy, Omar Abdullah asserted that it needed changes as the neighbouring country wanted to fail it since it didn’t suit the neighbour. Without naming Pakistan, he said the neighbouring country has been thriving on Kashmir for past 25 years and 'if the Kashmiri youth now started returning from that part of the country without guns, they would face embarrassing situation’’. He said the Government was in touch with the Union Government for effecting changes in Rehabilitation Policy. 'As the youth from across the border can’t come in open, we are examining the prospectus how they could be brought secretly. The neighbour would create obstacles and but would continue our efforts’’, he said, adding the State Government had received 1030 applications under the Rehabilitation Policy, of which, 67 have been approved. Omar sounded confident on withdrawal of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from at least five districts of the State this year. 'Time has come for withdrawal of AFSPA from at least Srinagar, Budgam, Jammu, Samba and Kathua districts, which were free of militancy and where Army has not operated for years together as there was no presence of militants. We are not asking for AFSPA withdrawal from Sopore, Tral, Doda or Kupwara but from the peaceful areas and we hope a beginning on this front would be made in the current year’’, he said. Referring to the criticism from some quarters that the State Government had not written a formal letter to the Union Government for withdrawal of the AFSPA, he asserted that such a letter was not required as powers for withdrawal were with the State Government. AFSPA had been extended to entire State by a Cabinet order followed by the Governor nod, he pointed out and recalled that even the Cabinet Committee on Security has in 2010 told the State Government to take the decision (on withdrawal of AFSPA) in the meeting of Unified Command. However, he said, a decision couldn’t be reached in the meeting due to opposition of AFSPA withdrawal by the Army though all other agencies had supported the move for its partial revocation. He said he met all CCS members and talks were still on. Asserting that AFSPA had not been enforced for law and order problem but for dealing with militancy, Omar said the militancy was just 5 per cent in 2011 than what it was in 2002. 'We can’t say that we are asking for AFSPA withdrawal for just one good summer of 2011 but there has been significant improvement in the situation over past one decade’’. Asserting that the government is yet to arrive on a unanimous decision on partial withdrawal of AFSPA, Omar today said all agencies, except the Army, were in favour of revocation of this Act. 'The reality is that we could not reach an unanimous decision on it (revocation of AFSPA). The reality is that it was deliberated upon in Unified Command meeting. All agencies, except the Army, were in favour of revocation of AFSPA', he said. The Army did not favour it on the ground that the situation was not conducive for it, he said adding 'I decided not to wait for long and I went to the Centre and held talks with all the stakeholders of Cabinet Committee on Security. Talks are on with them'. The Chief Minister said 'we are trying that this Act should be lifted not by the end of our turn of governance. I hope this year only we will take a step in this direction'. Referring to a point raised by a member that the state government should write a letter of recommendation for repealing of AFSPA, Omar said 'we do not need to send a letter to Government of India. If this power could have been in their hands only, then we would have been under compulsion to write that letter'. 'Under AFSPA, the power lies either with the Centre or with the State. We too have powers to recommend lifting of AFSPA', he said adding 'when AFSPA was imposed in Jammu region, then the State did not need the Centre’s approval. It was a decision taken by the State Cabinet and recommended to the Governor who approved it'. After the Prime Minister’s Round Table Conference (RTC) and subsequent recommendations by a Working Group that the laws enacted in J&K should be rolled back, Omar said, 'I also agree that time has reached when they should be withdrawn slowly.' 'We are told that one year of peace is not sufficient for rolling back of AFSPA. We should not consider linking AFSPA with law and order as AFSPA was never imposed in Jammu and Kashmir for law and order problem but for fighting militancy,' he said. 'Situation in Jammu and Kashmir is better than last year. It has become conducive for traders, businesses and tourists,' Omar said. We tried to give benefit to the people of the state. For past several years consecutively, the situation has become better, but this is true that summer in the past few years were bad particularly in 2008, 2009, 2010,' Omar said. 'The point of the fact is that situation is getting better and conducive. We have repeatedly said in the House that foot prints of security forces should be decreased and people should feel the impact of the decrease in the security force, which they see everywhere,' Omar added. He quoted figures to point out sharp decline in militancy related incidents across the State including civilian deaths, killing of police and security force personnel etc. He said three CRPF battalions were de-inducted and 39 bunkers were removed last year while 15 more CRPF bunkers are being removed from Srinagar City this summer. He added that 52 buildings have been vacated from the occupation of security forces and restored to private owners or the Government. Referring to report of Interlocutors submitted by them to Union Home Minister P Chidambaram in October last year, Mr Abdullah said he would like to make an appeal to the Government of India on behalf of the House not to treat the report like previous report. He added that the report should be shared with public so that the people know its recommendations, which are considered and implemented by the Centre. Maintaining that the State Government was committed to zero tolerance policy announced by the Prime Minister towards human rights violations, he said only five serious reports were reported in 2011 including three custodial death and one case each of molestation and rape. However, he said, even a single incident was more for the Government and 'we would like that not even lone incident of rights violation was reported’’. Announcing amnesty for 2704 Kashmiri youths, mostly stone pelters, booked since 2010, the Chief Minister said 402 cases have been short listed for amnesty and the Government was ready for withdrawal of cases against them in the next 15 to 20 days. A total of 2704 youths will get amnesty with the withdrawal of these cases, he said, adding some more cases were under process. PDP Legislature Party leader Mehbooba Mufti had yesterday threatened that the PDP would hit the roads if FIRs against 5000 Kashmiri youths were not withdrawn. Taking exception to Mehbooba’s yesterday’s speech in which she had charged that it was police, which was doing everything for the Government, Omar countered her saying it was good that police has maintained a good liaison with the people. There is nothing wrong in community policing and the cops inter-acting with the people, he said. Referring to the charges of large scale backdoor appointment made in Housing and Urban Development Department made by Mehbooba Mufti yesterday, the Chief Minister admitted 407 illegal appointments in the Department for the past 11 years and 225 illegal regularizations in the same period. 'I’m not going away from the allegations. I’m admitting it on floor of the House that illegal appointments have been made in the Housing and Urban Development Department’’, he said. Giving figures, Omar said 157 illegal appointments have been made in H&UD Department from 2000 to 2006 and 250 during 2008-11 while 75 illegal regularizations were done in the Department from 2000 to 2006 and 150 from 2008-11. It may be mentioned here that from 2000 to 2002, there was Farooq Abdullah led Government in the State while from 2002 to 2006, it was Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and Ghulam Nabi Azad led regime ruling J&K. From 2009-2011, the present Government was ruling the State. 'We can’t say that all illegal appointments have been made by Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand, who holds the portfolio of Housing and Urban Development Department. This has been going on in the Department for last 11 years. The Deputy CM has given me the report on appointments. The report has been submitted to Vigilance Cell of GAD for recommendations. Whatever legal action was proposed by the GAD would be taken’’, Omar said. Before start of the Chief Minister’s reply, Mehbooba Mufti had submitted documents to Speaker Mohammad Akbar Lone pertaining to backdoor appointments in Housing and Urban Development Department, purchasing of unauthorized structure by Jammu and Kashmir Bank involving Bank Director Nihal Garware and extension given to some blue eyed officers by the Government. Mehbooba said she wanted to submit documents to the Government to authenticate her charges leveled yesterday while participating in debate on the Chief Minister’s grants. Omar announced that Jammu and Srinagar cities would have traffic light system this year. He said contracts have been given for installation of traffic lights in the two capital cities at an approximated cost of Rs 4 crore. Under the contract, the lights would be installed within 90 days, he said, adding the Traffic Department would man the lights. Asserting that the people would have to adjust to the lights, he recalled that during previous years of light system, a tonga wallah had jumped the red light in Srinagar. On being signaled to stop, he had told Traffic cops that his horse was not immune to the lights. He said work on Jehangir Chowk-Rambagh Fly Over in Srinagar for Rs 256 crore and Vikram Chowk-Women College Fly Over in Jammu for Rs 93 crore would start soon. He said Fly Over proposal on BC road has been shelved due to many dislocations and road widening would be taken up there. He added that Vikram Chowk Fly Over project’s final summary appraisal report has been sent to Asian Development Bank and work would start after the approval. Admitting that there were no two opinions that dependence of Jammu and Kashmir was increasing on the Centre, the Chief Minister attributed it to the implementation of Sixth Pay Commission. He said Rs 4528 crore salary bill and Rs 1269 crore pension bill during PDP leader Muzaffar Hussain Baig’s tenure as the Finance Minister has today jumped to Rs 11010 crore and was increasing. Announcing that the Government would set up the State Planning Commission on the lines of Planning Commission of India, Omar said the Commission would have a professional Vice Chairpersons and members. It would get shape in next few months. On Muzaffar Baig’s query on State Finance Commission recommendations, he said the Chief Secretary and Administrative Secretaries were working on them. Two experts-S Mahajan and GA Qureshi have also been provided to the Committee to work on recommendations of the SFC and implement them, he added. Refuting charges by some of the MLAs that recommendations of the District Development Boards (DDBs) were not being implemented, Omar said that on an average 67 per cent decisions of the DDBs have been implemented. He gave year wise percentage of implementation of works. He said a high level committee headed by Chief Secretary Madhav Lal and two Administrative Secretaries has been set up to review all decisions of the DDB for last three years and ensure implementation of the decisions, which was possible in a time frame manner. Disclosing that Special Centre Assistant has gone up, the Chief Minister said the State would have Rs 8500 crore for capital expenditure in 2012-13 including Rs 5500 crore under State plan, Rs 2300 crore under Centrally Sponsored Schemes and Rs 700 crore under PMRP. He said assistance under PMRP has come down from Rs 1200 crore to Rs 700 crore for next financial year as barring four all projects under the Plan have been completed. Saying that it would be wrong to allege that additionalities were distributed only in the segments of ruling party MLAs, the Chief Minister said Anantnag and Pulwama, the two districts in Kashmir dominated by the opposition, were given maximum additionalities. On criticism of transfer policy, he said it was being implemented in most of the departments. He told the House that only 31 premature transfers were ordered in PWD and 13 in PDD, the two Departments, which were under his control as they were emergency in nature. Dispelling impressing that the Government had challenged decisions of the State Accountability Commission (SAC) in the court, the Chief Minister said he didn’t allow even his two Advisors to challenge the decision. 'As they (the Advisors) had the Constitutional right to challenge the decision, they did it in their individual capacity’’, he said, adding the SAC was on the job. He added that candidates for the Chief Vigilance Commission (CVC) have also been short-listed and the Commission would be in place soon. He also defended Right to Information Act (RTI) saying he became more accountable due to the Act. He said just because the fact that some persons were misusing it, the Act can’t be described as wrong. He said more services were being brought under the purview of Public Services Guarantee Act. Omar said the GAD was giving prosecution sanction as sought by the Vigilance Organisation in majority of cases though it has been declined in some cases. He said after switching over to e-governance in R&B for contracts above Rs 5 lakh, the Government in 2012-13 would introduce e-payments to contractors and suppliers. He disputed the allegations of discrimination in construction of roads in Jammu and Kashmir saying thickness norms and guidelines varied in snow bound and plain areas. He added that Rs 865 crore have been kept for PWD and R&B along which would boost road connectivity. He said the State Government has urged the Centre to declare three major roads including Kargil-Zanskar and Donera-Basohli-Bani-Bhaderwah as National Highways. On charges of PDP MLA and former Minister of State for Power, Javed Mustafa Mir that the Government had purchased 16 lakh electronic meters, Omar said his reports were that only seven lakh meters have been purchased and, of them, 1.5 lakh were in stock. The Chief Minister asked Mr Mir to disclose the name of the officer instead of indulging in AK Antony and Gen VK Singh like talks. He said 28 power transformers in Anantnag and 14 in Kulgam have been stolen in which a Crime Branch inquiry has been ordered. Asserting that NHPC wouldn’t hand over power projects to the State easily as they had been earning 50 per cent of their profits from Jammu and Kashmir, Omar said the State was projecting its case before the Central Government based on logic, law and history. He said the State has properly analysed its power potential as earlier even projects across the LoC had been taken into account or some had been counted twice. 'We have worked out our capacity as 16,000 mw’’, he added. Mr Abdullah, who holds Power Departments, said under new scheme and structural changes, capacity of various projects has increased. Earlier, Karthai-II was projected to give 360 mw but it has now been revised to 990 mw. Similarly, Baglihar was giving 450 mw while its phase-II was projected to give 900 mw and Ratle, which had earlier been accounted for 690 mw, was now projected to give 850 mw. He said the Government would have to take hard decisions as there was vast difference between agreement load and load faced by the transformers, a result of which many transformers were burning or facing damages. Noting that Transmission and Distribution losses have gone up to 73.5 per cent as compared to just 16 per cent in Himachal Pradesh, Omar said the State was facing Rs 2000 crore worth losses in Rs 6600 crore plan of the State. He noted that even officials of the PDD were involved in looting the exchequer in nexus with some people. He disclosed that bill of a factory was reduced from Rs 18 lakh to Rs 1.6 lakh. As against 10970 MU availability of power, the State had 16,320 MU requirements, a shortfall of 58 per cent. 'The Government was working on unbundling of T&D system in the State to transform it into a Corporation, distribution and trading companies. He said that 20 power projects have been launched in the State to generate over 7000 MWs of power in near future. He added that 16000 MWs of power potential has been identified and projects would be taken up accordingly. Referring to demand raised by some MLAs for on spot police recruitment, the Chief Minister admitted imbalance in recruitment and declared that next two to three phases of direct recruitment would be conducted in Jammu. Earlier, he said, on spot recruitment was confined to under represented areas but not it was being extended to difficult and backward areas also. However, he had a word of caution for the MLAs saying during the tenure of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and Ghulam Nabi Azad, on spot recruitment was conducted in 16 Assembly segments. Barring two (Mian Altaf and Taj Mohi-ud-Din), all other 14 MLAs lost the election. Going by the past trend, he said he would like on spot recruitment to be conducted in the constituencies of his ‘friends’. Lauding the role of Special Police Officers (SPOs), Omar said the Government has recommended increase in their honorarium from Rs 3000 per month to Rs 5000 per month to the Central Government. On Passport issue, Omar said the government has revoked the erstwhile order under which the relatives of the militants had been put in a blacklist. 'No blacklist exists now. We have given categorical orders that the relatives of the militants who have no connection with militancy should not be debarred for giving clearance for passport', he said adding that the process of clearance would be made more smooth by removing other conditions put in the clearance process of passports for the relatives of militants. On the development of power, the Chief Minister said that opposition (PDP) should have appreciated the initiative of the coalition government for retrieving power projects from NHPC, but it was instead trying to create false impression about the good intensions of the Government in regard of the launch of joint ventures with NHPC and other power companies in the State. 'When the maintenance for Baglihar Power Project was given to the NHPC for two years to train the State Engineers for capacity building and running and maintaining the power house, the opposition at that time also created unnecessary hype', he said adding that the project has now been received back after the period of two years and is run by State Power Development Corporation. 'Similar negative hype was created by the main opposition party (PDP) regarding the conversion of J&K Bank overdrafts mechanism into Ways and Means initiative but this also proved unfounded and the Bank has shown significant profit under the new regime', he maintained. The Chief Minister said that despite the heavy burden due to increase in the salary of employees from over Rs. 4500 crores to about Rs. 11000 crores by the implementation of 6th Pay Commission the coalition government has maintained the growth and registered Rs. 1300 crore addition in the State's financial resources. 'We are highly thankful to the Centre Government for providing liberal financial support to the State to meet all challenges and carry forward the development agenda smoothly', he said. Omar said that the road communication has been flagged as focused area which was obvious by providing Rs. 865 crores allocation to R&B sector in the last year's budget. He said that those who did not want to see the works on ground will not see the progress. He said that 2741 kilometres of roads have been macadamized last year while 2493 kilometres have been upgraded, besides construction of 26 new roads and 18 bridges. The Chief Minister said under PMGSY 178 remote villages and hamlets have been connected with roads adding that the annual expenditure under PMGSY has increased from Rs. 5 crores to Rs. 300 crores last year which is likely to go to Rs. 500 crores to next year. He said over Rs. 1700 crores have been spent on various road projects under NABARD out of the same amount released for these schemes which marks 100 percent utilization. He said 93 projects covering all constituencies have been sent to the Centre for approval besides 10 projects recommended by District Development Boards. The Chief Minister said that his government is working on strengthening both single line administration and panchayat system in the State and a comprehensive strategy for the same is under formulation.