A J&K delegation which met Union Home Minister Amit Shah Tuesday said he assured them that restrictions on communication in Kashmir may be lifted in less than a month’s time, and that the next Chief Minister will be from among them.
Nearly 100 people, including members of village panchayats, sarpanchs, apple growers and representatives of people displaced during Partition, met the Home Minister at his North Block office to discuss their problems including the hardship caused by curbs imposed ahead of the removal of the special status of J&K. They said they also discussed the road ahead in the new set-up.
Most sarpanchs The Indian Express spoke to said the Home Minister told them that communication will be restored across the state in the next 20-25 days.
He also tried to assuage fears of largescale takeover of land in Kashmir in the wake of the August 5 announcements. In a statement, the Ministry of Home Affairs said: “Shah reassured the representatives that nobody’s land would be taken away and government land would be used for the establishment of industries, hospitals and educational institutions. This would not only create employment opportunities for the locals but also enhance tax revenues for the state, which in turn would be used for the welfare of the people.”
“Shah said that it was essential to change the atmosphere and bring the people of Jammu and Kashmir to the mainstream. He promised to begin the process of block-level elections as quickly as possible. He told the representatives that your fight is against terrorism, as is ours, hence we should ensure an atmosphere of peace in Jammu and Kashmir at the earliest,” the MHA said.
Hailing them as leaders of J&K, Shah said it would be their responsibility to ensure that the benefits of various government schemes reach the correct beneficiaries and that an atmosphere of peace and prosperity is maintained, the MHA said.
Delegation members said he told the panchs that following the removal of the special status under Article 370, the 73rd and 74th amendments to the Constitution — introducing local self-governance in rural and urban India — will now be applicable to J&K.
The sarpanchs raised the issue of their security, the law and order situation, pending payments under MGNREGA, lack of permanent premises for panchayats, lack of jobs for the youth, paucity of computers and sought enhanced funds and salaries. They said the Home Minister assured them of cooperation on all these issues.
The sarpanchs said Shah told them they would all get insurance of Rs 2 lakh each and that the security situation will soon improve in a manner where there will be no threat to life. The panchs said he told them that elections to Block Development Councils would be held in the next two months. They also said Shah assured that five youth from each village would be provided jobs by the government.
Mir Junaid, president of J&K Youth Front, said, “We told the Home Minister that full statehood is an issue among the people and whether it would be restored. He said we will do it once normalcy is restored. He explained all the development programmes planned for the state and asked us to ensure it reaches the grassroots.”
“We told him that panchayats should be empowered further so that a new leadership rises in the state. The Home Minister told us that the next CM will be from among the panchayat members. We welcome the decision on Article 370 and told the Home Minister that we believe in One Nation, One Constitution.”
Junaid claimed that majority of the elected panchs and sarpanchs had sworn allegiance to his organisation.
Manoj Pandita, a sarpanch from Pulwama, said they had assured the Home Minister of their cooperation in restoring normalcy in the state.
“We will go village to village to explain the benefits of the new set-up. On communication, he said wait for 10-15 days,” Pandita said.
Representatives of fruit growers expressed concern over the possibility of unsold and wasted produce. The MHA said Shah reassured them that the government is in touch with the agencies concerned to resolve the issue. “He noted that with the abrogation of Article 370, the benefits of various government schemes like PM Fasal Bima Yojana would reach all farmers of Jammu and Kashmir now,” the MHA said.