Expressing hope that Ladakh and Kashmir can become gateway to India for major Central Asia trade activities, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti today said that on the pattern of European Union (EU), one currency should be there in the SAARC countries to facilitate trade and travel.
Replying to the discussion on Governor’s Address in the Upper House of the J&K Legislature here today, the Chief Minister referred to the vision and dream of her late father, former J&K Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed and claimed that Ladakh and Kashmir were once the part of old Silk Route and major trade activities took place through Kashmir with the Central Asian countries. But it is only possible now, when there is permanent peace on our borders and all the trade outs are opened.
Commenting on the opening of Srinagar-Muzaffarabad and Poonch- Rawlakote routes for travel and trade, the Chief Minister said it could be possible because former Prime Minister and towering leader of BJP Atal Behari Vajpayee and late Mufti Sahib were on the same page. They both were thinking on the same lines of restoring peace with the neighbours and they achieved a major success in their mission as borders turned peaceful. “We should not restrict to only two routes but there is need to open all other routes including Kargil-Gilgit–Baltistan and others connecting Kashmir and Ladakh with other countries , for extending trade activities,” she maintained.
Expressing her resolve to see Ladakh and Kashmir as centre of trade activities, Ms Mufti stressed that reopening of all the old traditional routes is imperative. There was need to learn from the European Union and there should also be one currency involving SAARC and some Central Asian and South Asian countries to facilitate trade and travel. “We can’t change history, but we can use our geography to write a new history, “she said adding that there was strong need to extend the cross LoC trade activities and open many other old trade routes.
Stating that peace was imperative for development and progress of a nation or a State, the Chief Minister said that Kashmir suffered badly due to strained relations between India and Pakistan. This is also history that Kashmir suffered much when relations between the two neighbours turned sour. So the major responsibility lies upon both Indian and Pakistani leadership to join hands and work out solution for the restoration of permanent peace in this region. She said much bloodshed has been witnessed in Kashmir. Those who are killed in Kashmir whether in uniform or civil from Kashmir, are the sons of the soil. The death and destruction should stop now, she maintained.
Stressing the need to initiate dialogue for restoration of peace in the region, the top PDP leader said that Central Government had taken initiative during 2016 by sending All Party Central delegation to Kashmir , but unfortunately ‘some people’ (Separatists) did not even open the doors and lost the opportunity.
“Now again, the Central Government has sent a top bureaucrat Dineshwar Sharma as interlocutor to Kashmir to listen to all the sections of society and find an amicable solution but again these people have preferred to stay away.
“She said it is not the responsibility of one political group or the party, but all public representatives, groups and stake holders must work together for the restoration of permanent peace in the State.
On the steps taken by her Government, the Chief Minister said in a major decision aimed at their social integration, her Government, immediately after taking over, started the process of withdrawal of cases against the youth from 2008 onwards. “Immediately after taking over we started the process but it got disrupted due the unrest of 2016. “But now, we have withdrawn the cases against near 9000 youth from 2008 to 2017,” she added.
The CM said she has asked the Police to ensure that the local boys who have joined militant ranks are helped to come back to their families and friends. “It’s my endeavour to bring them back and see no harassment to them. Many have come back and we are encouraging even the parents of these youth in making efforts”, she told the House.
The Chief Minister said the pellet victims whose vision got impaired during the unfortunate turmoil of 2016 were given financial assistance and even jobs for their social inclusion and integration. She stated that these persons would be given special training in collaboration with a local institution so that they don’t have to depend on anybody for rest of their life.
She further said to empower people at grass-root levels, her Government intends to hold elections to Panchayats and urban local bodies and put in place a three tier Governance apparatus in the State.
The Chief Minister said a large number of welfare schemes were launched by her Government but could not be highlighted because political scenario always dominated the scene in the State and the country. She said regularising the services of 60,000 daily wagers was the largest public welfare step taken by any Government in recent times. She said it was satisfying to note that these workers won’t have to go from pillar to post now onwards for releasing their remunerations. “We have given them an honourable position, dignity and security though they were engaged by previous regimes”, the Chief Minister said.
Mehbooba Mufti said she was happy to see that Leader of Opposition in the Lower House praised the good work done by her Party during its rule from 2002-2005. She said during that tenure the people of the State, its Government and the Central Government, all were on the same page. Otherwise, she said, earlier, people would talk of bombardments, filling the jails and other things which ran contrary to the aspirations of the people of the State.
She said sensing the requirements of the labour class, who don’t have any job or life security, the Government conceived and launched a welfare scheme for around 3 lakh workers in un-organised sector in terms of accidental deaths, injuries or normal deaths. Named as Muhafiz, she added, the scheme envisaged scholarships and educational incentives to the wards of these workers. Similarly, she said, the widow pension was enhanced and even the scooty scheme for college girls has so picked up that the demand is coming from all across the State.
The Chief Minister said cadre review of Kashmir Police Service was undertaken, ex- gratia amount for the cops was increased by three times, backlog of SRO-43 of around 1000 cases was cleared and quotas for promotions in constabulary were earmarked for their timely career progression, she informed the Upper House.
She said transparency in recruitments is the major takeaway in all the selections made so far. The Government is taking steps to provide as much jobs as possible to youth in the Government. She said more than 10,000 vacancies were filled last year by the PSC and SSRB and other recruiting agencies. “There has been no interference in these selections. Recently, I heard 75 boys from Karnah got selected in a routine selection process which shows the level of transparency in recruitments,” she added.
She said her Government is committed to provide corruption free administration to people and referred to the sacking of some 50-60 employees previously on charges of proven corruption.
Mehbooba Mufti detailed the steps taken by her Government for improving the educational infrastructure in the State, qualitatively and quantitatively. She said more colleges are being opened in the State and preference would be given to the constituencies which have no colleges so far. She said a record more than 6000 km of road length was macadamised in the State for better and improved connectivity. She said Government took action against the doctors of SKIMS indulging in private practice when it received complaints in this regard.
The Chief Minister said youth engagement remained the focus of her Government and efforts are being made for honing their skills and capacity building for a more constructive role in the development of the State.