Urging both India and Pakistan to bring down the walls of hatred, Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, Saturday said he will continue to aspire for friendly relations between the two neighbouring countries for embedding lasting peace in the region.
He said time has come when the cross-LoC travel has to be taken beyond the ritual of members of the divided families meeting each other. “The scope of people-to-people contact across LoC has to be enlarged to include tourism, education and culture within its ambit,” he stated.
The Chief Minister said this while addressing a huge public meeting during his tour to Poonch today, where he visited cross-LoC trade and travel point at Chakan da Bagh and laid foundation stone of Loran-Basam Gali Road at Loran.
Deputy Chief Minister, Dr. Nirmal Kumar Singh, Minister for CA&PD, Ch. Zulfkar, Minister for R&B, Floriculture, Gardens & Parks, Syed Mohammad Altaf Bukhari, Minister for Education, Naeem Akhtar and Legislators, Shah Mohammad Tantray and Yashpaul Sharma were also present on the occasion.
Referring to the positive impact of cordial relations between New Delhi and Islamabad on J&K, Mufti Sayeed emphasised upon creating an environment of reconciliation to break the deadlock and signal a new thaw between the two neighbours. “Indo-Pak bonhomie will enable us to deliver the rich dividends of peace to the people in the form of development,” he said, while handing out an assurance to the audience who had turned out in large numbers to hear the Chief Minister.
Referring to the fractured mandate in the 2014 Assembly elections, the Chief Minister said he was in a predicament as to which side he should align with. After thoughtful consideration, he realized that the indecisive mandate had actually thrown a historic opportunity in his lap to bind the three regions of the state together. “I have grabbed this and you will see the results,” he assured.
Highlighting the need to create avenues for skill development to enhance employability of educated youth in the district, the Chief Minister announced setting up of a Nursing College at Poonch and a School of Skill Development at Mandi.
On setting up of NITI Aayog at the Centre, the Chief Minister said the state has been assured of its due share in Central taxes under the new scheme of financing. He said with J&K getting adequate funds under the Centrally-sponsored schemes in the ratio of 90:10, spending money will be a real challenge for the administrative machinery in the state. “Expending money at our disposal will be a real test for our executing agencies. We will ensure that all projects taken in hand are completed within timelines,” he stated.
On the issue of one-time settlement of PoK refugees, the Chief Minister thanked the Centre for keeping a provision of Rs.2000 crore in the development package announced by the Prime Minister during his rally at Srinagar. “The relief package will provide substantial succour to the PoK refugees,” he added.
The Chief Minister also assured the flood victims of relief in lieu of the heavy damage caused to their houses in the September deluge last year. “Suitable allocations have also been made for taking flood protection measures to avoid any damage in future,” he said, while assuring people of taking further steps to fortify the river, which savagely breached its embankments last year.
Promising to make people stakeholders in the state’s development process, the Chief Minister said he will hold elections to local self-government institutions to empower people at the grassroots level. “The decentralization of powers down below will further strengthen the roots of good governance besides making the system accountable,” he added.
Unveiling his agenda for development of far-flung and remote areas of the state, Mufti Sayeed promised people an era of good governance and transparent administration that delivers justice right at people’s doorsteps. He said a team of officers will soon visit Poonch to recommend steps in making the border district a tourist destination. “Poonch has a glorious past. It is a place with rich heritage that we need to showcase,” he added.
Referring to the attention his government had attached to development of road infrastructure, Mufti Sayeed said the Mughal Road, which provides alternate connectivity between Jammu and Kashmir divisions, has been prioritised in the state sector and a plan has been conceived to construct tunnel to further reduce the distance. “We will construct quality roads and bind contractors to a ‘Defect Liability Clause’ which will ensure they maintain roads for a period of three years,” he added.
In view of the difficulties confronting the people, the Chief Minister directed the R&B Department to take up the up-gradation of Thanamandi-Buffliaz and Buffliaz-Surankote roads under the State sector.
The Chief Minister also made a reference to the fast-tracking of four-laning of Srinagar-Jammu National Highway, which is expected to be completed by 2017. “Once complete, the distance between the two capital cities will be considerably reduced,” he stated.
In his address, the Deputy Chief Minister exuded confidence that the PDP-BJP alliance, being pragmatic and representative, will deliver on ground. He outlined the vision of the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, to transform J&K into a prosperous and vibrant state of the country. He referred to the Prime Minister’s speech in Srinagar where he had stated that the treasures of Delhi will always remain open to J&K. “The coalition government led by Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed will ensure equitable development of the three regions, especially its far-flung and remote areas,” he added.
Nirmal Singh also thanked the Central government for sanctioning a generous package for J&K which envisions holistic development of all key sectors in the state, particularly relief to the flood victims, PoK refugees and Kashmiri Pandits.
Speaking on the occasion, Ch. Zulfkar highlighted the steps taken by the government to ameliorate the difficulties faced by the people living in remote and inaccessible areas of the state. He made a pointed reference to the measures taken in strengthening the Public Distribution System, following transition to 2011 Census.
Describing Mufti Sayeed as a statesman, Naeem Akhtar spelled out the vision of the Chief Minister for forging an alliance with BJP. He credited the Chief Minister for taking the Generation Next into consideration rather than petty political and electoral gains. “Mufti Saab is the biggest connector of his time who has taken upon himself the challenge of bringing the people of three distinct regions of the state closer,” he added.
Altaf Bukhari, who is also the Chairman of the District Development Board, expressed his gratitude to the Chief Minister for the visit to Poonch and assured him that all the decisions taken in the last DDB meeting are being religiously implemented. He also gave a brief resume of the roads that have been taken up for blacktopping in the district.
Also present on the occasion were former MLA Sardar Rafiq Hussain Khan, Hamid Manhas and Iqbal Kazmi.