The Jammu and Kashmir government on Wednesday announced the constitution of an expert group to study reasons for development deficit in “hard areas” of the state and suggest measures to boost infrastructural progress in such neglected areas.
Announcing the new move while replying to discussion on Budget 2018-19 in the Legislative Council, Finance Minister Dr Haseeb Drabu said the government would also make development deficit in remote areas of the state a part of the terms of reference of the proposed State Finance Commission so that a holistic view could be taken and resources allocated accordingly.
Drabu said there were many “hard-to-reach areas” in the state, extending from Kupwara to Kathua, which have faced neglect over the years and need special attention and focussed development with additional resources. The Finance Commission, to be constituted by the government, will also come up with recommendations to uplift these areas, he added.
Acknowledging the problems being faced by the people in hard-to-access areas of the state, Drabu announced a special duty allowance of 10 per cent of basic pay for state government employees posted in such areas. He said the government would also work to bring these remote areas at par with the other “developed” regions.
Regarding implementation of 7th Pay Commission proposals for employees of PSUs and autonomous bodies, the Finance Minister said the government had no objection if these organisations implemented the recommendations subject to availability of resources. To bring more beneficiaries under the ambit of various social security schemes, he said additional funds to the tune of Rs 15 crore each would be added to the existing corpus for Old Age and Widow Pension.
He also announced that widowed daughters of government employees would also be eligible for pension apart from their married daughters. He further proposed merger of Marriage Assistance and various other scholarship and welfare schemes for girls to make these more comprehensive and productive. He said the government would come up with a consolidated welfare scheme where additional incentives would be linked with Aadhar to avoid duplication.
Drabu also proposed to revisit the Fixed Travel Allowance (FTA) provided to engineers working in government departments to make it rational. Presently, the FTA for these employees is a meagre Rs 30 per month. The Finance Minister further announced an increase in the refreshment allowance for government employees during Assembly sessions for overtime work. He said it would be enhanced from the existing limit of Rs 7,500 to Rs 10,000.
With regard to initiatives for legislators, Drabu announced that medical allowance of former legislators would be brought at par with sitting MLAs/MLCs. Drabu said car loan would be increased from Rs 5 lakh to Rs 10 lakh and if someone does not avail of the facility, he could utilise the amount for taking an home loan up to Rs 20 lakh.