Emphasizing upon making economically-weak and socially-disadvantaged communities equal partners in state’s development, Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, Saturday said the government has created a separate Tribal Affairs ministry to ensure empowerment of weaker sections, especially Gujjars and Bakerwals. He also placed high priority on allocating certain portion of funds in departmental plans for upliftment of Gujjars and Bakerwals. “These funds should be released on time so that the benefits trickle down to the intended beneficiaries at the grassroots’ level,” he stressed. The Chief Minister said this while chairing the 34th meeting of the State Advisory Board for Development of Gujjar and Bakerwal community, at SKICC, here this afternoon. Besides Member Parliament, Mehbooba Mufti, Minister for Heath and Medical Education, And Lal Singh, Minister for Rural Development, Abdul Haq Khan, Minister for CAand PD and Tribal Affairs, And Zulfkar, Minister for Finance and Culture, Dr. Haseeb A. Drabu, Minister for Social Welfare and Forest, Bali Baghat, Minister for Education, Naeem Akhtar and Minister for PHE, Iand FC, Sukhnandan Kumar and Vice Chairman State Advisory Board for Gujjars and Bakerwals, And Zafar Ali were also present on the occasion. Describing education as the key to empowerment of Gujjars and Bakerwals, the Chief Minister announced setting of two girls’ hostels at Udhampur and Kupwara districts. He also passed directions for upgrading GB schools at Srinagar and Jammu as institutes of excellence, on the pattern of Model School Scheme in the Education Department. “I also announce enhancement of food stipend in hostels for schoolchildren from Rs. 50 to Rs. 100,” he said, while stressing upon improving the dilapidated condition of existing hostels. The Chief Minister also ordered framing of a committee that will choose the best wardens so that the hostels are run in a professional manner. Calling upon hassle-free movement of livestock and nomadic Gujjars, Mufti Sayeed announced distribution of nearly 10,000 solar lights amongst the community who don’t have access to electricity. He also said the government will consider extending guarantee to SC/ST Corporation to avail bank finance for alleviation of the socially-weak community. Mehbooba Mufti, in her address, said the government needs to take effective steps to instil a sense of security in the Gujjar and Bakerwal community. She stressed upon the need to socially empower them on vital indicators in road connectivity, health, power and education sectors. “A dairy cooperative movement and livestock insurance are among several confidence building measures which are required to be taken for giving the community a sense of inclusiveness,” she said, while supporting earmarking some percentage of funds for welfare of Gujjars and Bakerwals by the Finance Department. Referring to the hardships faced by the Gujjars and Bakerwals, And Lal Singh highlighted the pathetic condition of the community and called for steps for their social and economic upliftment. He said the community is marginalized and special focus is required to improve their lot. In his address, the Tribal Affairs Minister highlighted the difficulties faced by the community and hailed the Chief Minister for creating a separate Tribal Affairs Ministry. “I assure that the money and resources allocated will be optimally utilized for the betterment of the community,” he said, while stressing upon promotion of education sector by setting up of more schools and hostels. He said the Tribal Affairs Ministry, in coordination with the Education Departtment, will make Gujjar schools institutes of excellence. Minister for Social Welfare and Forest also spoke on the occasion. During the meeting, the matters pertaining to preparation of separate Tribal Plan and flow of funds from Normal Plan to Tribal Plan, conversion of existing GB Hostels into residential schools on pattern of Jawahar Navodalayas, creation of posts for running these hostels, and opening of new hostels for students and PGs were discussed. During the meeting, several members spoke and flagged various issues like inclusion of Gojri language in the VIII Schedule of the Constitution, setting up of model villages, construction of dwelling units, free vaccination for animals, mobile livestock and healthcare centres for nomadic population, availability of power and water and proper road connectivity concerning the community. Also present were Chief Secretary, B. R. Sharma, Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister, B. B. Vyas, Principal Secretary Forest, Ecology and Environment, Rakesh Kumar Gupta, Administrative Secretaries of School Education, Higher Education, Social Welfare, Tribal Affairs, Animal Husbandry, PHE, Iand FC, Director General, Information and PR , Zaffar Ahmad and Secretary CAand PD. All the members of the State Advisory Board attended the meeting which included Chaudhary Abdul Hamid, Deen Mohammad Cheetah, Gulzar Khatana, Advocate Javaid Choudhary, Salam Deen, Haji Noor Ahmad, Farooq Ahmad, Fazal Hussain Chouhan, Dr. Nasreen Chaduhary, Mohammad Yusuf Gorsi, Yusuf Khan and Chaudhary Siraj-ud-din.
2015 Kashmir Despatch