Vohra Invokes Vajpayee, Says Will Initiate Dialogue With Hurriyat, Other Groups

18 March 2015
The Daily Excelsior
Sanjeev Pargal

Jammu: Governor NN Vohra said today that the newly formed PDP-BJP coalition Government would initiate dialogue process with all political groups including the Hurriyat Conference in the spirit of 'Insaaniyat, Kashmiriyat and Jamhooriyat' following the approach set by former Prime Minister and BJP stalwart Atal Bihari Vajpayee. 'To enlarge the constituency of peace and deepen its societal moorings, the coalition Government will take well considered political initiatives. It would follow the approach similar to the one initiated by Vajpayee and help initiate sustained and meaningful dialogue with all internal stake holders, which will include all political groups irrespective of their ideological views and predilections. This dialogue will seek to build broad based consensus on the resolution of all outstanding issues of Jammu and Kashmir,' Vohra said outlining the new Government's programmes and policies while reading out the Governor's Address to joint session of the Legislature. The 30 minutes address was marred by disruptions from National Conference and Congress twice-first over disengagement of some workers and then over delay in relief and rehabilitation process of flood victims. Engineer Rashid continued to disrupt the Address on variety of issues. However, the Governor went ahead with the Address despite disruptions. Invoking former Prime Minister and BJP leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Vohra said the coalition Government would follow a similar approach and enlarge the constituency of peace and deepen its societal mooring while taking considered political initiatives. 'The Central Government has recently initiated steps for promoting deeper understanding with our neighbours. The coalition Government will strive to support and strengthen the approaches and initiatives taken by the Centre and building stakes for all in furthering peace and development,' he said, adding 'this objective would be pursued by initiating suitable confidence building measures that would bring about a positive change in the lives of all 'our people.' Noting that final decision on the continuation of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in the State would be taken by the Central Government, the Governor observed: 'keeping in mind the fact that the situation is steadily improving, the Government will examine the need for de-notifying 'disturbed areas' and this in turn, would enable the Central Government to take a final view on the continuation of the AFSPA in such areas. 'The coalition Government will thoroughly review security situation in Jammu and Kashmir and examine desirability of all Special Laws, which are being applied in the State. Keeping in mind that the situation is steadily improving, the Government will examine need for de-notifying 'disturbed areas'. Vohra maintained that there has been 'progressive improvement' in the security environment in the State. 'In the recent years there has been progressive improvement in the security environment. To build greater and sustained public confidence, the coalition Government is committed to ensure that the people of the State are enabled to fully enjoy the peace and normalcy dividend,' he said. The Governor pointed out that the Government would also address the concerns of the people living on the border and those in the remote and far flung areas of the State. Vohra added that the State would work on returning the land taken by the security forces to its owners. 'A very important step which the Government will implement shall be to ensure that all lands, other than those which have been given to the security forces on lease, license or through acquisition under the provision of the land acquisition act; must be returned to the rightful legal owners within a given time frame,' he said. The Governor announced that the Government is committed to hold early elections to the Urban Local Bodies and will revisit relevant statutes relating to Panchayats and Local Bodies with a view to removing deficiencies and incongruities. 'For empowering the Panchayats and Local Bodies to discharge statutory functions effectively and efficiently, all three levels of governance will be given optimum functional roles, fiscal responsibilities and financial authority,' he added. On the issue of return of Kashmiri Pandit migrants to the Valley, he said: 'to strengthen and enhance societal harmony, my Government will ensure the return of Kashmiri Pandits with dignity, based on their rights as State subjects. No efforts will be spared to reintegrating and absorbing them in the Kashmiri milieu,' he said. The Government will also work out a one-time settlement for refugees from Pakistan occupied Kashmir of 1947, 1965, and 1971, take measures for the sustenance and livelihood of the West Pakistan refugees and constitute a Delimitation Commission for re-demarcating the Legislative Assembly constituencies as required by law, the Governor said. It was virtually reiteration already announced in the Agenda of the Alliance. The Governor announced that the coalition Government would focus on restoration of livelihood and rebuilding of the economy of the State that suffered in the wake of the devastating floods of September 2014. 'For the Government, the focus of the post-flood rehabilitation programme will be on the restoration of livelihood and rebuilding of the economy. The floods have not only destroyed assets but severely impaired the process of income generation,' Vohra said. He said that it would take the State economy nearly 'a decade' to reach the pre-flood level of the disposable incomes gained by the State and individuals. 'The focus shall be to recover the income loss and to meet the liability commitments in agriculture, horticulture, handicraft, industry, trade and tourism,' Vohra said, adding that the ambit of rehabilitation has been expanded to those geographical areas and businesses that are 'flood-impacted', in addition to being 'flood-affected'. 'Towards this end, my Government has already fast tracked its engagement with the World Bank,' Vohra said. 'As regards of losses, both public and private assets have been damaged or lost. For reconstructing the public assets, the resources are envisaged to come from the Central Government. This objective is sought to be achieved by developing and implementing a 'public infrastructure reconstruction plan,' the Governor said. In the first phase of this plan the major focus will be in establishing connectivity across the State,' he said and added that the Centre is expected to fully fund the rehabilitation and reconstruction plan. 'For addressing issues of immediate concern, it shall also have to take some urgent practical measures in the aforesaid sectors,' he said. Vohra said that the Government was also committed to institutionalize a 'modern robust' disaster management system in the State by building the required capacities. 'While the unprecedented floods in 2014 caused untold devastation, the Government believed that the disaster which has taken place provide an excellent opportunity to ensure that all the destroyed assets are reconstructed very much better, to leap frog into the 21st century,' he said. The Governor said that in the past two decades, the heritage of the State has been badly damaged. 'The Government will focus on reviving the heritage by rebuilding 'Shehr-e-Khaas' as a heritage destination by dove-tailing craft, heritage and tourism and making Dal Lake a world heritage site. Further, the Government will preserve and promote the Dogra and Ladakhi heritage,' he said. 'The Government will, over the next six years, transform the existing administrative apparatus into a Smart Government which will be pro-active, transparent and accountable. It will be reformed and redesigned to be a reliable enabler for the development of trade, industry and business and a strategic partner for long term private sector growth,' Vohra said. He added that for achieving these objectives, new governance systems shall be introduced with national and international support and expertise to improve service delivery and provide honest, effective and inclusive governance. The Governor said the envisaged governance framework will include institutional capacity building and public- private partnership. This will enable the State to seek national and international financing for its developmental plans and projects, particularly in sectors like power, infrastructure, education, agriculture, horticulture, tourism and medical services. 'It shall be the Government's priority to simplify 'doing business' by reducing regulatory complexities and costs, easing bureaucratic barriers and simplifying registration processes and clearances. This will also contribute towards significantly reducing the scale and spread of corruption in the State,' the Governor said. He said the overall economic policy will align the State's economic structure with its own resources, skills and societal mores. 'Essentially, the new economic policy will be framed not for the ease of Government's own activities but for promoting private businesses and enterprises. In this context, I am happy to record that J&K, like most other States, has received a major boost from the award of the 14th Finance Commission which has changed the framework of Fiscal Federalism in the country. This is a welcome change as it is a move towards larger and genuine federalism,' the Governor pointed out. He said the coalition Government intends to use the Finance Commission award as an opportunity to bring about changes which would improve the allocation of resources and the Government's spending efficiency. 'While this is an important change, it can and should trigger much larger changes, particularly in imparting the administrative apparatus with greater responsibility and initiative. The Governmental system will now require to be pro-active and much more responsible. 'At another level, the enhancement of fiscal devolution has set the stage for decentralization and empowering the third level of governance to discharge its important role,' Vohra said. He added that as a part of smart governance, the coalition Government will accord top priority to restoring and reviving the institutions and institutional capabilities which have been eroded over the years. The institutional decay in the past years has compounded the delivery of effective governance. 'It is regrettable that important institutions like the State Accountability Commission, Public Service Commission and the Human Rights Commission are not only non-functional but have been virtually non-existent for quite some time. 'The Government will focus on establishing accountability of the administrative system, and of public life, by reviving institutions and providing them with adequate administrative support and the desired autonomy to enforce the highest standards of probity,' Vohra said. He said laws like the Public Services Guarantee Act have been in force for quite some time. However, these statutes have been ineffective because of the lack of awareness among the people about these laws. 'The coalition Government will ensure that these laws actually translate into a viable instrument of empowerment of the common man and the public services are delivered on time, without hassle and as a basic right of our citizens and not as a favour done by the State,' he added. Vohra said: 'the coalition Government's major differentiator will be its developmental focus. Regional developmental plans will be formulated to ensure that each region has a specific and focused economic activity that spurs development in the sphere of crafts and tourism, hydro-power, solar power and wind energy, bio-technology, agriculture, horticulture, food processing, manufacturing and trade. With a view to ensuring that leave aside being actually discriminated no region even has a feeling about being discriminated, the Government will institute a system of criteria-based allocation of financial resources across all the three regions for achieving equitable distribution and balanced development'. Vohra said that a key initiative, as agreed in the Agenda of the Alliance, which will go a long way in changing the fortunes of the state, relates to the power sector. The Government will work with the Union Government to explore modalities for the transfer of Dulhasti and Uri hydro power projects to J&K. The State Government will also seek a share in the profits of NHPC which emanate from J&K waters and, besides, revision of all royalty agreements. As given in the Agenda of the Alliance, there is an agreement to give J&K a dedicated coal mine with coal reserves of not less than 150 MMT for setting up a pit head thermal plant with equity support from the Centre. Also, the Central Government will ensure that J&K gets a share in one of the six Ultra Mega Thermal Power Projects, the Governor said. 'For all the power projects being set up in J&K, the Government will, in partnership with private investors, establish skill development institutes in Chenab and other regions wherever such investments are made. The Government is also committed to taking some key developmental initiatives, which will include creating model business villages, like a Model Basmati Village in Jammu, a Model Apple Village in Kashmir and a Model Apricot Village in Ladakh,' he said. The Government will start the process of developing two mega cities: Greater Srinagar and Greater Jammu. Alongside we will develop two satellite cities of New Srinagar and New Jammu. Also, to streamline urbanization in the state, all towns with population size class of 30,000 to 99,999 will be upgraded into cities, he added Vohra said another major initiative, as outlined in the Agenda of Alliance, is to launch a special fully funded Employment package for educated and semi-skilled youth which will be designed in such a manner that it will engender 100 per cent female literacy and 100 per cent Primary Health Care across the State. 'It shall be the Government's priority to develop Jammu as an independent tourism destination with plans to develop other specific circuits. Water bodies around the Baglihar, Salal and Ranjit Sagar will be developed for tourism and there are plans afoot to develop Ranjit Sagar, Mansar, Wullar and Surinsar lakes. Special attention will be given to clean and beautify the Jhelum and Tawi rivers on the pattern of River Ganga. 'Over the last about two decades, the heritage of the state has been badly damaged. The Government will focus on reviving the heritage by rebuilding Shehr-e-Khaas as a heritage destination by dovetailing craft, heritage and tourism and making Dal Lake a world heritage site. Further, the Government will preserve and promote the Dogra and Ladakhi heritage,' the Governor said. Vohra said that the State Assembly elections last year did not engender a clear majority for any single party, and this led to a short spell of Governor's Rule. 'While the elections rendered a fractured mandate, the mature statesmanship of PDP and BJP utilised it as opportunity to evolve a situation which could eventually result in harmoniously intermeshing all the regions of the state and binding them together' he said. He said that the alliance between the PDP and BJP for pursuing an agreed agenda will act as the cohesive force in bringing all the regions closer and for the people of J&K to share and support a common vision of the entire State. 'If we succeed in welding the regions together, we shall also succeed in securing the desired level of trust to bring Jammu and Kashmir to work more closely with New Delhi,' he said. Vohra said that the effective implementation of the 'Agenda of Alliance' would promote confidence, trust and harmony among our people. 'The Agenda for Alliance recognises the political and legislative realities and the maintenance of the existing special constitutional provisions and status of J&K. In this context, it is relevant to note that the coalition government is comprised by representatives from all the regions, and this gives it the strength to initiate all the required processes for engendering peace and all around development,' he said. The Governor said that to achieve sustainable economic development the government would pursue a political process which is accompanied by all required material, economic and financial initiatives. He said that to meet the objectives and deliver economic growth with regional balance and social justice, it is important to create an environment of peace, certainty and stability within which development can take place in the State. 'In the larger context of economic growth, the three pronged agenda of the coalition government is to re-construct the economy, reform the government and revive the civil society' he said. Vohra said that the situation in J&K has been no different and it is a great challenge for the Coalition Government to restore the integrity of institutions and the people's faith in their ability to deliver. 'The government is determined to show no quarter to corruption and dishonest elements in the administration or those in public life,' he said. He said that the new governance systems shall be introduced with national and international support and expertise to improve service delivery and provide honest, effective and inclusive governance. The envisaged governance framework will include institutional capacity building and public- private partnership. Earlier, the opposition today created uproar over issues of flood relief and removal of local work force from power projects during the Governor's address. Led by NC MLA and former Speaker Mohammad Akbar Lone, Ali Mohammad Sagar and Congress Legislative Party (CLP) leader Nawang Rigzin Jora, united NC and Congress members stood up from their chairs and raised the issue of the fate of Rs 44,000 crore flood-relief package with the Governor while he was delivering the address. 'We had sent a Rs 44,000 crore proposal to Centre after being duly approved by the Cabinet. PM has offered help, flood relief to PoK in his address at the UN. But six months after the floods, nothing has been done so far for flood-relief. It is a cruel joke with the people,' Sagar said. The uproar over the issue continued for about five minutes but the Governor continued with his address with a stop. 'It was aimed to draw the attention of the Governor. We demand sanction of the relief package sent by us and grant it. So that people hit by flood are compensated and get help,' Akbar Lone, the former Assembly Speaker and third time NC legislator from Sonawari, said later. Earlier, Usman Majid of Congress and Nazir Gurezi of NC tried to disrupt Governor's address as they stood from their chairs and protested for over five minutes the removal of over 1,000 local skilled and unskilled youth from NHPC projects by HCC. 'Instead of providing jobs, the Government has disengaged over 1,000 local youth from NHPC project by HCC despite two and half years of contract period. Why locals were only removed. We held protests to draw attention of the Governor,' Usman Majid told reporters after the Address. Independent MLA Engineer Rasheed repeatedly tried to disrupt the Governor by raking up demands of Afzal Guru, opposing settlement of West Pakistan refugees and questioning PDP over self-rule. 'We demand mortal remains of Guru. We are against settlement of West Pakistan refugees in Jammu and Kashmir. They should be sent to Pakistan,' Rasheed said. It drew a fierce reaction from BJP MLA from Nowshera Ravinder Raina who said that those who love Pakistan should leave the State starting a verbal duel. Raina was asked by the treasury benches to take the seat. But the Governor completed his speech despite the interruptions. AIIMS goes to Valley; IIT, IIM for Jammu The PDP-BJP Government today announced that All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), which was announced for Jammu and Kashmir by Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in the general budget in Parliament on February 28, has been given to the Kashmir Valley while IIT and IIM, also approved in the budget, will be opened in Jammu. 'We thank the Central Government for announcing the setting up of an AIIMS in the Valley and establishment of IIT and IIM for Jammu,' the Government said in the Governor's Address. The Governor's Address had the approval of the State Cabinet, which means that the decision to open Rs 1600 crores worth AIIMS in the Kashmir Valley was taken with the consent of BJP Cabinet Ministers. However, the Finance Minister's budget speech in the Parliament nowhere mentioned that the AIIMS had been sanctioned for the Kashmir Valley. The Finance Minister had announced the opening of AIIMS in Jammu and Kashmir in addition to other States. It may be mentioned here that apart from the Government Medical College, Srinagar already had an Institute-the Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) at Soura. There was no such Institute in Jammu. It may be mentioned here that the BJP had got the Cabinet meeting on March 12 deferred on the ground that some points of Jammu agenda hadn't been included in the Governor's Address. The Address was finally approved in the Cabinet meeting the next day.