Budget session 2016-17: Governor NN Vohra’s address to the joint session of JK Legislature

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Jammu, Calling for a collective and concerted effort to address the socio-economic concerns of the State’s youth and contain the increasing alienation, Jammu and Kashmir Governor, NN Vohra today said the Legislature shall have to take a lead to jointly find ways in which the new generation will be the vanguard for reducing the political, ethnic, regional, and ideological differences which have adversely affected the substance and nature of the political discourse in the State. The Governor also called for working towards the resolution of conflicts, within the civil society and in the polity.

The Governor maintained that Jammu & Kashmir has a very high potential for being developed to be among the leading States in the country. To achieve our goals we need to resolve all our disagreements, such as they may be, work collectively and strive very hard to put our State on the path of rapid development on all fronts.

“I call upon this august House to play a leading role to establish it as a very strong institution of functioning democracy in the State. The disturbances and violent conflicts which we have gone through have engendered a worrisome decline in our social norms, relations and hierarchies and standards of political discourse. These regressive changes need to be addressed and reversed and the political agenda, the economic roadmap and the social framework must all emanate from here,” the Governor said in his address to the joint sitting of the State Legislature here today at the beginning of the Budget Session 2017-18.

The Governor said that it is in the larger interest of the State and its people to urgently embark on the mission of protecting the psyche of the future generation from being fractured by the unprecedented civil strife, political disruption and chaos, while enormous progress is taking place in other parts of our country.  “No responsible society can afford to stand by and see the alienation of its youth. Let us not forget that our young people, aged from 15 to 30 years, account for around 40 per cent of our total population,” he said and added that the Government particularly needs to address the matters which concern the youth and, in this direction, it must not forget that the new generation is faced with fears and challenges of economic insecurity and uncertainty which lead them to turn inwards and pursue negative approaches.

“A worrying concern is that the younger generation, especially in the Valley, is less engaged civically, exhibits less social trust and confidence and, consequently, have a weaker commitment to the inherited value systems,” Mr Vohra said adding that addressing this serious issue has to receive very high priority and we need to urgently go forward to engage the youth.

He said to begin with, youth need to get involved in societal and civil issues and problems. “Also, to enable the political executive to effectively address varied serious challenges the new generation must start actively participating in the socio-economic developmental programmes and processes, as this will, hopefully, lead to the evolution of fresh ideologies and political participation,” he said and added that it is imperative that we work towards the resolution of conflicts, first within our civil society and then in the polity. “While it is important that the Info-Pak dialogue gets resumed early, it is equally important that conversations happen within families, across villages, in towns and cities to build a social and moral consensus so that a congenial atmosphere is created for the government to take the required initiatives for securing peace and development,” he said.

“Our greatest intellectual challenge is to find a new ideological consensus based on our past history and heritage. This is important for enabling meaningful contributions by the mainstream polity and for the protection and survival of our social moorings. What has been happening on the streets in the past months in Kashmir is a manifestation of our political problems which have affected our socio-moral moorings and the societal order,” he said and added that the new political discourse has to move away from being exclusivist to be effectively inclusive. Such an agenda will help reduce and eradicate apathy and cynicism towards the resolution of the varied conflicts which affect us. “Unless we act with determination senseless violence may become a way of life and ruin our future,” the Governor cautioned.

On Summer Unrest

He said the loss of lives in the past six months is most unfortunate and regrettable. “The irreparable pain of losing someone we love is not unknown to us. While the political rhetoric may result in keeping us at odds, our grief brings us together – whether of a mother who has lost her young soldier son on duty at the line of control or of a mother whose child has been killed by a tear gas shell or blinded by pellets,” Mr Vohra said adding that we must accept that, for one or the other reason, all of us are to blame – parents, protesters, politicians and the law enforcers. “We must introspect seriously and identify what we should or could have done better or differently, even though this will not give life to those we have lost,” he said adding; “We must admit our shortcomings and lift ourselves out from the unfortunate syndrome that has involved us in a cycle of violence which has affected almost every arena of activity. While hundreds were injured, civilians, police and paramilitary forces personnel lost their lives. I share the grief of all the families who have lost their loved ones and pray for the early recovery of all those who were injured.  I also sympathize with the very large number of families who have had to leave their hearth and homes in the aftermath of the increased incidents of cease-fire violations”.

The Governor said that the events of the last six months in Kashmir have particularly affected the educational sector and caused irreparable damage to the academic careers of lakhs of young men and women. “Damaging and torching of scores of school buildings has marked the nadir. This is most shockingly shameful. We have now got to attacking the future of our children,” he said adding that with the firm resolve and tireless efforts of the police and security forces, the law and order situation is gradually getting back to normalcy in Kashmir. “For safeguarding life and public property, while maintaining public order, the police and security forces have been exercising extreme restraint, despite grave provocations,” he said.

The Governor said it is to be recognized that the development process received a major setback and governance has been impaired during the past months of unrest in Kashmir. “Notwithstanding this, it is notable that throughout this period of turmoil, the Essential Services remained functional. There was no disruption in power, water supply or civil supplies. The administration also ensured adequate supplies of rations, milk, vegetables, sugar, timber, LPG and gasoline. The Health Services also functioned round the clock. We thank our doctors, engineers and all other staff who kept these systems going. It is also noteworthy that various all India level competitive examinations- NEET, CET, Civil Services examination, and the annual Board Examinations- were conducted as scheduled across the state. For this we owe special thanks to all the teachers and the concerned functionaries,” he said.

On Panchayat Elections

The Governor said that the unrest in the past months in Kashmir has seriously hampered and retarded the peace, developmental and democratic processes and the environment was not conducive for elections to the rural and urban local self governing bodies. “However, the State Government is fully committed to holding of Panchayat elections by March 2017 and proceeding to establish the three-tier Panchayati Raj institutional framework,” he said and added that following upon the conduct of Panchayati Raj elections the Government is committed to conduct the long pending elections to the Urban Local Bodies as well.

On Cross-LoC CBMs

Vohra said that despite recent disturbances on the borders, cross-LOC Trade has continued unabated and upto end of March 2016, at an aggregate, this trade has recorded import worth about Rs 4000 crore of Pakistani currency and export worth about Rs 2600 crore of Indian currency. “A list of 21 more tradeable items has been submitted to the Government of India for taking up this matter with the Government of Pakistan,” he said adding that the confidence building measures of opening additional trade routes is being pursued. “The state government is discussing with the Union Home Ministry the opening of four new routes this year which include: Jammu-Sialkot; Chhamb Jourian – Mirpur; Gurez-Astoor-Gilgit; and Jhanger (Nowshera)-Mirpur. The opening of three other routes viz Kargil-Skardu, Turtuk-Khapulu, and Titwal-Chilhan (across the Neelam Valley) are also being explored,” he said.

On SARFAESI Act

Vohra said that some concerns have been expressed about the recent Supreme Court Judgment on the applicability of SARFEASI. To put all speculative and ill intended interpretations to rest, the true position is that even if Banks sell immovable mortgaged assets, they can do so only to state subjects. To facilitate the creation of a market for distressed assets of state subjects, the Government has already put into motion the formation of an Asset Reconstruction Company in partnership with the J&K Bank.

On Refugees

Vohra said to extend monetary support to Displaced Persons of PoK (1947) as well as the Displaced Persons of Chhamb (1965 and 1971), an immediate settlement at the rate of Rs. 5.50 lakh has been provided in favour of each of the 36384 families who have been found eligible through the laid down procedure.

Vohra said yet another issue that is being played up is the issue of West Pakistan Refugees. As a part of the Agenda of Alliance, it was decided to sympathetically deal with this humanitarian issue. The State Government has facilitated their identification to enable them to get work in the paramilitary forces and other central government establishments. This identification does not change the status of the West Pakistan Refugees; they continue to be non-state subjects.

On GST

Another misplaced apprehension being created in the minds of the business community is with regard to the application of GST in the state. It is my Government’s decision to enact the required legislation, and implement other required arrangements, keeping in view the best interests of the State.

On Power Sector

He said in a major thrust to hydro power generation, Sawalakote project has been cleared by the Central Electricity Authority as also Kirthai-II and Kiru . The Government’s main focus now is to implement up-gradation of transmission and distribution networks on a time-bound basis, under varied projects like R-APDRP, DDUGJY, IPDS and Rs 4000 crore has been provided under PMDP. The Srinagar-Leh transmission line is under execution at a cost of Rs.1788.00 crore.

He said the UJALA scheme is being implemented by the Power Development Department in collaboration with Energy Efficiency Services Ltd. Under this scheme, about 80 lakh incandescent bulbs and CFLs would be replaced with energy efficient LEDs. The scheme has helped overcome the barrier of high initial cost, as five high quality LEDs of 9W each are being made available to 16 lakh registered domestic consumers at a subsidized cost of Rs. 20 each.  So far about 46 lakh LED bulbs have been distributed under this scheme and 8.5 lakh consumers have been covered.

On Tourism

Vohra said that as tourism is the mainstay of the State’s economy, it is imperative to devote high attention to the growth of this sector. While devoting attention to the proper maintenance of the existing tourist centers it is urgently necessary to establish new destinations as our State has numberless areas of enchanting scenic beauty. The Union Ministry of Tourism has sanctioned Rs 83.91 crore, and already released Rs 16.59 crore under the Himalayan Circuit of Swadesh Darshan. It has announced a package of Rs 2000 crore, to be utilized within 5 years under the Prime Minister’s Development Package, for the development of tourism circuits.

He said the Tourism Department is augmenting and attracting tourists by  creating facilities at different locations like Baba Chamliyal, Nowshehra-Chakan-da-Bagh, Salamabad (Uri), Karnah and Nubra-Turtuk. It is proposed to create four Tourism Development Authorities which would include Tosa Maidan Tourism Development Authority, Basohli-Bani Tourism Development Authority, Shopian-Dubjan-Peer-ki-Gali Tourism Development Authority and Nubra-Turtuk Tourism Development Authority.

He said the State Government is developing the Tawi River Front on the pattern of the Sabarmati River Front Project in Gujarat. Besides beautification of the city, the infrastructure to be developed shall attract visitors and enhance tourism. A pilot project of approximately 3.5 Km of the river stretch, on both its banks, has been identified to be taken up in the first phase.

On Food Security

Vohra said to supplement and ensure adequate supply of grains to the people, the Government has launched the Mufti Mohammad Sayeed Food Entitlement Scheme (MMSFES) which provides an additional 5 kg of food-grains per person to bona-fide beneficiaries who have a family size of 01 to 06. “This provision is over and above the existing scale under the National Food Security Act (NFSA). After the implementation of this new Scheme the monthly scale of rations per family has improved substantially,” he said.

On PMUY

To alleviate the lot of the poorest sections of society, the Government, he said, has launched the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) under which free LPG connections are being provided to BPL families. “As against 269860 applications which were received, 161848 LPG connections have so far been given to bonafide women beneficiaries in the State,” he said.

On MGNREGA

The Governor said that despite the turmoil, under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGA), about 82 lakh person-days were generated. “The targets set for geo-tagging assets generated under MGNREGA have been exceeded. Geo-tagging will bring transparency in the system and also improve monitoring at different levels,” he said.

On High Density Plantation

He said the High Density Plantation Programme, which has the potential to economically transform the rural economy of the State, has been launched. “During 2016-17, with funding from the State Government an area of 50 hectares is being covered. Nearly 1.25 lakh fruit plants have been imported and planted for post entry quarantine measures. Also, 2.22 lakh clonal root stocks have been imported and planted for multiplication to provide plants in the coming years,” he said.

Under the Prime Minister’s Development Package (PMDP), Mr Vohra said, the Government of India has approved Rs 500 crore action plan spread over 03 years starting from 2016-17, which includes 329 hectares being bought under high density plantation, restoration of damaged horticulture area with imported plants, and development of post-harvest infrastructure.

On Investment

The Governor said that though the image of the state as a destination for foreign, domestic and local investment has suffered a dent, the Government has been assiduously supporting micro, small and medium enterprises, which are now showing good results. “Over the past 10 years, the average investment in J&K’s Industrial sector has been about Rs 250 crore per year. It is gratifying to note that in one year the Government has cleared proposals worth Rs 2500 crore, which is a tenfold increase. These clearances are expected to boost the prospects of creating greater employment opportunities for our unemployed youth,” he said adding that the Central Package of Incentives has been extended upto June 2017. We are hopeful that the Government of India will extend this scheme beyond 2017, he said.

On SBM

Vohra said through Swachh Bharat “Clean India” Mission, the Government of India has proposed a multi-stakeholder initiative focusing on cleaning up 100 places across the country which are “iconic” due to their heritage, religious, and/or cultural significance. In the first phase, 10 iconic sites in the country have been selected to be cleaned up on a “learning and demonstration basis”, among which the Vaishno Devi-Katra area has been selected from our State.

Establishment of AIIMS

He said land has been identified for the establishment of two AIIMS in the State, one each in Kashmir and Jammu. The Government has also secured funding of Rs 120 crore for a State Cancer Institute at SKIMS, Soura. It is likely that we shall receive funding for another Centre at GMC, Jammu. “Of the five new Medical Colleges sanctioned by the Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, construction work is in progress at Anantnag, Baramulla and Rajouri. For the other two colleges, work is expected to start soon,” he said.

World Bank Funding

Vohra said work has begun for the drawdown of World Bank assistance of USD 250 million for Disaster Management. To start with, land measuring 50 kanals is being transferred to Relief & Rehabilitation Department for establishment of an Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) in Budgam.

Augmentation of Potable Water

He said the Water Supply Scheme of Tangnar (Srinagar), with its source at River Jehlum, has been completed. This has added 10 million gallons of potable water per day to Srinagar City, benefiting almost three lakh people. Further, a scheme for the augmentation of water supply to Jammu City from River Chenab, which will add 240 MLD of drinking water to Jammu, has been submitted to the Union Ministry of Urban Development for obtaining funding from the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

Conservation of Heritage

Vohra said the Government is engaged in preservation of the cultural heritage of the State with renewed focus. Apart from restarting the work on Mubarak Mandi, out of the 52 State Protected Monuments, 08 have been taken up for renovation/up-gradation during the current financial year and work on 05 monuments will be completed soon. The Government also envisages taking up 50 listed structures for conservation and restoration of monuments.

He said a draft Culture Policy has been placed before the General Council of the Cultural Academy which met after 35 years. It sets out the objectives, guidelines and framework in the field of culture and will be placed in the public domain for seeking comments of the civil society.

Conduct of State Cases

He said in order to have a comprehensive mechanism for successful conduct of State cases and to ensure that State resources are not unnecessarily wasted in the conduct of frivolous litigation, the State Litigation Policy has been rolled out. In the quest to provide alternative means of dispute resolution for facilitating the rights of common people through speedy and in-expensive justice, 380 Lok Adalats were organized in the previous year in which more than 40,000 cases were settled.

Modernization of Land Records

Vohra said under the Digital India Land Records Modernization Programme the State is striving to achieve uniformity in Land Records Management System. This integrated programme costing Rs 375.00 crore will modernize the management of land records, minimize scope of land/property disputes, and enhance transparency in land records and public delivery maintenance system.

On e-Learning Initiative

The Government, he said, has initiated the establishment of smart classrooms and introduction of e-learning in schools. “These smart classrooms are envisaged to develop as focal centres for promoting e-literacy in the State under the National Digital Literacy Mission. So far, 440 schools have been covered and an additional 627 schools shall also be covered.

On Establishment of Institutions

He said establishing institutions of higher learning is one of the priorities of the Government. The Union Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) has approved the establishment of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) at Nagrota, Jammu, at an outlay of Rs 1000 crore approved under the PMDP.  Land measuring 159 acres, has been earmarked for the establishment of this Institute. “MHRD has also approved establishment of the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) in Jammu with an outlay of Rs 1000 crore, under the PMDP. Land, measuring 200 acres, has been identified at Nagrota, Jammu, for creation of infrastructure. An off-site Campus in Kashmir has also been approved and MHRD has requested the State Government for 200 acres of land near Srinagar Airport. Two Cluster Universities, one each in Jammu and Srinagar, are being established,” he said

On Skill Development

Vohra said the Government has taken the initiative of providing skill training, simultaneously with formal education, to students so that they become employable after crossing the Secondary or Higher Secondary stage. Vocational education in the field of Information Technology and Information Technology Enabled Services (IT/ITES) has already been started in 132 schools and an additional 220 schools are also being brought under the ambit of this programme.

On Recruitments

Vohra said it has been one of the major initiatives of the Government to restore and institutionalise transparency in the recruitment processes. In the year 2016, 470 selections were made by the J&K Public Service Commission while another 4029 selections were made by the J&K Service Selection Board.

For recruitments in Police, he said, the Government has adopted a Transparent Recruitment Process (TRP). To significantly cut down human intervention this process involves the use of technology and out-sourcing. In 2016, 3622 Constables were appointed through TRP. The recruitment for raising 5 IR Battalions has also been notified through this system. Further, recruitment for 624 posts of Sub-Inspectors in J&K Police Executive/Armed Cadre has also been notified.

On Connectivity

He said a massive investment of Rs 42,668 crore is being made by the Government of India under the Prime Minister’s Development Package on major National Highway projects and tunnels in the State. Work has commenced on the remaining stretches of the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway, viz Udhampur-Ramban and Ramban-Banihal. The 9.00 km. Chenani-Nashri Tunnel will be completed and opened to road users before the end of the current financial year. Besides, work on the Z-Morh Tunnel is under progress and the civil work for the Zojila Tunnel Project will be awarded during 2017-18.

Under the PMGSY, Mr Vohra said, the State has received sanction for project proposals worth Rs. 2842.32 crore, which is the highest amount sanctioned to the State so far. This would connect 595 un-connected habitations by constructing 2732 kms of road across the State. After the completion of this package, by March 2020, the road connectivity in J&K is expected to increase from 76% to 84%. “Under Central Road Fund (CRF), 150 projects with an estimated cost of Rs. 2111.75 Cr have been sanctioned for the up-gradation of arterial and other roads of economic importance in the State,” he said adding Independence the Jammu-Udhampur-Katra-Qazigund-Baramulla Railway line is the largest mountain railway construction project.  While the possibility of its extension beyond Baramulla to Kupwara is under consideration, a fresh survey for rail connectivity to Rajouri and Poonch and for a rail link between Kathua and Kishtwar are being conducted by the Union Railways Ministry.

Vohra said while the expansion of Jammu Airport is in progress, the expansion of Leh Airport and up-gradation of Kargil Airport will be undertaken expeditiously. Efforts will be made to see that Srinagar Airport effectively functions as an International Airport.

Mr Vohra said the Government is seriously engaged with the issue of operationalisation of helicopter services to the inaccessible areas of the State. The Government of India has approved subsidized helicopter services for 10 critical and far off/snow-bound areas of the State. Only 20% of air fare shall be recovered from the passengers while the rest will be borne by Central and the State Government.

On Welfare Schemes

To address the issue of declining child sex ratio, he said, the Government of India has launched the ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Scheme’ through a mass campaign across the country with focussed intervention and multi-sectoral action in 100 gender critical districts. The scheme is under implementation in 15 districts of the State with the main objective of celebrating the birth of a girl child and enabling her education.

On Cooperatives

He said for moving towards sustainable growth of cooperative institutions, the State Government is committed towards providing the required support and a total recapitalization plan of Rs 313.20 crore has been worked out, of which the Government of India has provided financial assistance of Rs.111.20 crore for the Central Cooperative Banks of Jammu, Anantnag and Baramulla.

On Science & Technology

Vohra said the J&K State Science, Technology and Innovation Council (ST&IC) is constructing a Regional Science Centre in Srinagar at an estimated cost of Rs.6.00 crore, in collaboration with the National Council for Science Museums, Union Ministry of Culture. This Centre would house scientific exhibits, both stationary and interactive. It is expected to become a great source of learning for the student community.

On Model Villages

The Governor said that the Government is committed to introduce and internalize the concept of model business villages. It intends to do so through the creation of an integrated business infrastructure with the aim of fostering a culture of modern business practices in such villages. Among others, work has started on basmati, rajmah, mango and apple villages.

On Kashmiri Migrants

With the Government’s commitment towards facilitating the return and dignified rehabilitation of Kashmiri Migrants additional transit accommodation, on the lines of Vesu in Anantnag and Sheikhpora in Budgam, is being planned in the Kashmir Valley. They will be provided the required facilities till the situation normalises for them to go back to their homes.

On Sports

“To end on a cheerful note I would like to recall that in the past months a number of our young boys and girls have made us really proud. Tajamul Islam, an eight year old girl, has created history by winning a gold medal for India in the under-eight World Kick-Boxing Championship in Italy; Hashim Mansoor won a gold medal in the Asian Youth Karate Championship; Meenal Gupta and Rakshak Jandiyaal have brought laurels to the state by winning the U/14 Commonwealth Chess Tournament and the Asian Roll Ball Championship, respectively. We congratulate all these outstanding performers who give hope for a bright future of our State. The State Government is committed to establishing high standard sports infrastructure in every district and making sports an important element of education,” he said.

Earlier, on his arrival at the Legislature Complex, the Governor was received by the Minister for Parliamentary Affairs and other dignitaries.

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