Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha said on Monday that work was in progress on construction of 6,000 houses for the Kashmiri Pandits in the Kashmir valley where an equal number of government jobs was being provided to the displaced community under the Prime Ministers special rehabilitation programme.
Participating in Idea Exchange event of the Indian Express, the Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor said, “It is true that some Kashmiri Pandits became victims of targeted killings. But there is another side too. The country should stop seeing this issue on the basis of religion. A lot of other people have also been killed in the last 32 years.”
The Kashmiri Pandits rehabilitated under the PM’s special package as well as the Reserved Category employees posted in the valley have been staging demonstrations in Jammu while demanding transfer to ‘secure’ places outside Kashmir in the wake of some terror attacks on the minorities early this year. Sinha was responding to questions over this situation and his curt assertion at a news conference last week in which he asserted that the non-local employees would not be paid any salaries if they chose to stay at home in Jammu.
Senior opposition leaders, including three Chief Ministers – Ghulam Nabi Azad, Farooq Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti – have quickly jumped in and begun exploiting this situation, invariably demanding that the rehabilitated migrant employees be paid their salaries outside the valley till they feel secure enough to join duties at their places of posting in Kashmir.
Maintaining that people from the Kashmir valley too had been killed, Sinha said there were also labourers who came from Bihar, Jharkhand and Odisha during the apple harvesting season. There were two-three incidents, but a (false) narrative is being spread, Sinha asserted. He said he had a fairly good appreciation of the Kashmiri Pandits’ outrage over the targeted killings and he was constantly in touch with the community.
Sinha said that some people were drawing a wedge between the “locals and outsiders”, knowing that everybody was free to work at any place across the country. “Anybody can work in any State. The same goes for Kashmir. Majority of people in the Valley appreciate this and want other people to come and work there. We also take care of the migrant workers. We push for their insurance. We have guidelines regarding their safety and security, both financial and societal,” he said.
He also mentioned in detail the Rehabilitation Policy for the Kashmiri Pandits including the remaining jobs, their posting at secure places and construction of houses. According to him, 1200 homes would be given to the Kashmiri Pandits in April next while by December 2023, around 1,800 more houses would be allotted. He said that 6,000 houses were being raised in the valley for accommodation of the rehabilitated employees and all the houses would be completed soon.
Sinha said 3,000 houses and 3,000 government jobs were to be given to the displaced population in the first phase and an equal number in the second phase.
“A total of 6,000 homes were to be constructed but when I took over in August 2020, only 700 had been completed. Jobs proposed in second phase had not been filled up and there were some vacancies from the first phase also. The vacancies were kept citing technical issues. However, now all posts excepting 134 have been filled up,” Sinha said.
Admitting that without houses, the Kashmiri Pandits were facing difficulties, he said land has been made available for all 6000 houses. Barring two, tendering and allotment process had been completed in the last two years. Sinha said that he personally visited Baramulla and Bandipora for inspection 10 days back.
“We will give 1,200 houses to Kashmiri Pandits in April and 1800 more in December next. We are trying to finish work quickly on a housing complex in Srinagar and we are confident that all 6,000 houses would be completed soon,” Sinha said.
“Initially, they asked for relocation to safer places and we managed to post them at district headquarters. However, as far as the employees of Rural Development Department are concerned, they can’t be posted in the City but we posted them in villages neighbouring the district headquarters. A few of them are posted at tehsil headquarters but police have secured the area,” Sinha said.