‘Preachers should not worry about safeguarding Article 370’

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Pardeep Singh Bali

Hitting out at separatists, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Wednesday said they rake up unnecessary controversies over Article 370 of the Constitution and asked them to rather focus on protecting the people and the environment of the state.
She also made it clear that dialogue with separatists can take place only after “the situation improves”.”I am surprised that (Muslim) preachers talk so big about Article 370 (in their sermons). What is Article 370? It is of significance only if we are at peace,” Mehbooba said in the Assembly while replying to a debate on demand for grants for departments under her charge.
In an apparent reference to Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who is the chief priest of Kashmir and gives sermons after Friday prayers at Jamia Masjid, the Chief Minister said it was not for the preachers to look after the special provisions of the Constitution with regard to the state but for the mainstream political parties of the state.
“What are they talking about safeguarding Article 370. They are looking for something else. It is we (pointing towards MLAs) who have to protect it. It is our shared inheritance and nothing in it will change,” she said. Mehbooba said the preachers do not talk about harassment of women and girls in the society nor do they mention environmental degradation in their sermons.
“I also belong to the family of preachers. We have to strive for protecting the environment and the water bodies. For years, we dumped our garbage in River Jhelum and it retaliated by dumping it back in our homes for 10 days (by floods). But we still did not learn any lessons,” she said. PDP chief also hit out at opposition National Conference and Congress for repeatedly questioning her party’s alliance with BJP and asserted that she will enter into such a coalition thousands of times if it brought peace with dignity to the state.
“The alliance with the BJP was taken to respect the mandate of the people. We cannot have a government of one religion (sic) and opposition of another religion. I will form this alliance thousands of times if it helps in restoring peace with dignity in the state,” she said.
Reiterating her government’s resolve to ensure proactive and pro-people governance, Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti today said tangible initiatives will be taken in the days and months ahead to strengthen and streamline the institutions of public service delivery so that people feel the real change on the ground. “You will see the results of our efforts soon,” she said.
“There are so many challenges on political, security, development, economic and administrative fronts confronting Jammu and Kashmir. We will have to provide not just good governance, but ensure proactive and pro-people governance to address the enormous challenges confronting the State,” the Chief Minister said.
Describing Jammu and Kashmir as an abode of secularism, the Chief Minister urged the opposition to stop smelling conspiracies in policies of the coalition government which are aimed at restoring peace and ushering the state towards a new era of prosperity. She said the government is committed towards honourable return of Kashmiri Pandits to Kashmir, but a sense of security must prevail in the community before they can restart their lives at their native places. “We will settle them temporarily in transit accommodation and once they adjust to the new life, they can gradually restart their lives at their native places,” Ms Mufti said.
The Chief Minister said the coalition government is committed to protect the Article 370 which she described as the lifeline of relation between India and Jammu and Kashmir. She said the amendments effected in the New Industrial Policy 2016 were necessitated to protect the special status of J&K.
Reiterating that the Government is using humane approach to deal with the youth involved in cases of unrest, the Chief Minister said the Home Department has been ordered to prepare the list of misguided youths who have been involved in various cases of violence since 2008 and were subsequently booked under criminal charges by J&K Police.
“My government will study these cases and we are contemplating an amnesty scheme for those youths who are willing to shun the path of violence and lead normal lives. Many of these youths who are languishing in jails will be set free before Eid and the remaining cases will also be considered on humanitarian grounds. Unlike previous government, it is not our hobby to jail people but sometimes certain harsh steps are necessitated to prevent law and order problems,” she said.
The Chief Minister said while various initiatives are being taken by the Government to address the challenges facing the people in general and the youth in particular, “there must not be any doubt that no other course except the provision of efficient, honest and sensitive governance can lead to stopping the alienation of the younger generation.”
Maintaining that the State Legislature is the custodian and the protector of the rights and privileges of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, Mehbooba said it is important to preserve the sanctity and enhance the productivity of this important democratic institution through meaningful discussions and constructive debates on the issues concerning the State and its people. “I assure you that the concerns expressed by you in this august house regarding upholding the sanctity of the institution of a legislator would be taken care of,” she said.
Crediting the people of the State for being real harbingers of change through exercise of ballot, the Chief Minister said the PDP-BJP Government will respect the mandate of the people and implement all the decisions mutually agreed upon in the Agenda of the Alliance in the larger interest of peace and stability in the State. “In our democratic framework the effectiveness of governmental functioning depends upon the efficiency, reliability and credibility of the administrative apparatus,” she said and added though burdened with a host of accumulated problems, many of which require basic reforms and not merely quick fix solutions, the PDP-BJP alliance is vigorously engaged in dealing with and restoring the credibility of systems.
The Chief Minister said the Government will try to be proactive and innovative in its approach while reaching out to the people and mitigating their sufferings. “We would ensure good governance and quality administration by delegating powers to the officers in the field to bring administration right at the doorstep of the people,” she said adding; “I would like all in the government including the officials to be proactive and innovative and find practical and implementable solutions to the people’s problems instead of resorting to the hackneyed approach.”
Urging the Government officials to be more considerate in their approach, the Chief Minister said the officials should know that even a casual noting on a file by them can make or break a common man’s life. “They should take great care while handling files. They should know that one day they will also have to visit government offices for such matters that touch their everyday life,” she said and added the State Government would take due care of the career aspirations of the meritorious and hard-working officers.
The Chief Minister said the institution of District Administration and Block Administration will be strengthened and made effectual to ensure that the fruits of development and welfare schemes reach the beneficiaries at the grassroots level. She also called for establishing an effective grievance redress mechanism at the district level. “We will also ensure that the Public Services Guarantee Act is further strengthened to address the concerns of people,” she said and added the government will institute awards to be given to the districts for the best practices adopted by them on public services.
Stressing the need for infusing new life in the institutions at the cutting edge level, the Chief Minister said while at the district level DDC would be empowered in effect, the institutions of Block Development Officers, Station House Officers, Tehsildars, doctors and teachers who are in direct contact with the people on daily basis at the grassroots level will be reoriented to make them more people-friendly and accessible. “The face of the government at the grassroots level are not administrative secretaries, but these five people who are in constant touch with the masses,” she said.
Stressing the need for developing infrastructure of modern institutions throughout the state, the Chief Minister said J&K has to build capacity in various sectors like education, tourism and local arts and crafts to educate and employ the State’s brilliant young boys and girls. “We are working through appropriate blending of welfare and growth measures to ensure people-friendly and purposeful governance,” she said and added that the initiatives for enhancing growth and socio-economic development will soon bear the fruit, and pave the way for our youth to lead peaceful and productive lives.
“Our Government is deeply committed to realizing the full potential of our talented youth and this objective is at the top of the priority list and a multi-pronged strategy is envisaged to create employment and other avenues for the youth,” she said and added that skill development is a thrust area for the Government and significant initiatives have already been taken in this regard.
The Chief Minister said the state of Jammu and Kashmir has got a huge tourism potential which is being explored by the coalition government, “From pilgrim tourism to adventure tourism, the rich landscape of Jammu and Kashmir is an ideal place for people who want to spend quality life away from their tiring schedules. My government is committed to raise infrastructure to make J&K an ideal and an attractive place for them,” she said.
Mehbooba urged all the political parties, cutting across the divide, to move with her hand in hand, in this enterprise of hope and work towards building a peaceful and prosperous Jammu and Kashmir for every section of the society. “We are hopeful that with various ongoing initiatives falling in place we shall soon enter an era of normalcy, peace and prosperity, which the people of the State have been yearning for,” she said.
The Chief Minister commended the Police, paramilitary forces and the Army for having done a commendable job in bringing peace to the State. Stressing the need for making the Police force professional, the Chief Minister said she will equip the police force with the state-of-the art technologies to ensure speedier crime detection, traffic management, investigations and busting of drug trafficking rackets. Describing journalism as an inseparable pillar of accountable governance, the Chief Minister said the State he will promote free and fair journalism. She said she will revive the proposal of developing Press Club at Srinagar.
“I will also go over the State Advertisement & Empanelment policies to promote institution of journalism,” she stated. Responding to the demand of legislators the Chief Minister said directions have been given to the General Administration Department of expedite appointments under all pending cases of SRO-43. She announced shifting of Central Jail out of the Srinagar and Jammu cities and said the premises would be developed to create recreational facilities for the locals.
The Chief Minister said separate cadre would be created for Kashmir Police Services (KPS) on the pattern of KAS. Responding to the concern of the legislators over vandalizing of the tourist resort of Sonamarg, the Chief Minister said a Committee would be constituted to identify the reasons for the present mess at Sonamarg. She also proposed increase in the salary and CDF of the legislators.
Chief Minister also responded in detail to other points raised by the legislators pertaining to the Departments under her charge.
Later, the House passed with voice vote the grants amounting to Rs 952038.22 lakh pertaining to General Administration Department, Science & Technology Department, Information Technology Department, Home Department, Planning and Development Department, Information Department, Ladakh Affairs Department, Tourism Department, Libraries, Archives, Cultural Academy and Hospitality and Protocol Departments, for the year 2016-17, which were moved by the Chief Minister under demand No 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 20 and 24.

Important Announcements by CM
– Appointments under SRO-43 to be expedited to clear backlog
– Separate cadre to be raised for Kashmir Police Services (KPS) on the pattern of KAS
– Central Jail Srinagar and Jammu to be shifted out of the core city and the existing premises to be developed to create recreational facilities for the locals
– Committee to be constituted to look into the reasons for vandalizing of tourist resort of Sonamarg
– Salary and Constituency Development Fund (CDF) of legislators to be increased.
– Liabilities of contractors to be cleared
– Old Srinagar City and Jammu City to be developed as heritage tourist sites
– Efforts on to make the area around Lal Chowk from Hari Singh High Street to Polo View vehicle free.
– Model and Tourist villages to be developed with funding under Tribal Sub-Plan
– River cruise to be started in Jhelum from Pampore to Baramulla.
– In-house committee to be constituted for appraisal of DPRs
– New MLAs Hostel to be constructed in Srinagar

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