Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, Wednesday announced the decision of the State Cabinet to implement the National Food Security Act (NFSA) in the state, which is expected to benefit 1.19 crore people of Jammu & Kashmir. The Chief Minister made this announcement immediately after the Cabinet meeting in a press conference held here today. He also referred to some of the other major Cabinet decisions related to Skill Development Mission, Marriage Assistance Scheme for Poor Girls, proposal to grant financial autonomy to universities and approval to introduction of Cluster Universities Bill, both at Jammu and Srinagar, and a policy for taking up infrastructure projects in Public Private Partnership (PPP) mode. Deputy Chief Minister, Dr. Nirmal Kumar Singh, Minister for CA&PD and Tribal Affairs, Ch. Zulfkar and Minister for Education, Naeem Akhtar, were also present on the occasion. Disclosing the contours of the implementation of the NFSA in the state, Mufti Sayeed said 74.13 lakh persons from poor and marginalized sections of the society will be provided ration at highly-subsidized rates of Rs. 2 per kg for atta and Rs. 3 per kg for rice. “Another 45 lakh people will also be provided atta @ Rs. 8 per kg and rice @ Rs. 10 per kg,” he added. The Chief Minister also described as major achievement the government’s decision to disburse ration as per the 2011 Census, which was earlier being provided to people according to 2001 Census. Under NFSA, the people will get assured supply of ration right at their doorsteps in a hassle-free manner through Aadhar Card from February 01, next year. Any person who is denied ration shall be given ‘Food Security Allowance’ through an inbuilt mechanism which has been incorporated in the Act at state, district and block-level. Describing the present age as the Age of Skills, the Chief Minister announced Cabinet’s decision regarding the approval to Skill Development Mission, which is aimed at creating and managing skill-based enterprises in the state. “Training will enhance skills of our youth and improve their chances of employability,” he added. Under Skill Development Mission, a mechanism will be adopted to identify skill gaps and focus on specific skills in four broad categories which include Heritage Industry, Traditional and Modern Trades and Agriculture-based enterprises. Possibilities shall also be explored to enter into partnerships with private players and autonomous institutions for providing specific skills. Regarding the approval of the Cabinet to State Marriage Assistance Scheme for Poor Girls, the Chief Minister said an unmarried girl above 18 years of age belonging to BPL family will receive Rs.25,000 cash assistance and cost of 5 grams of gold at the time of her marriage. Mufti Sayeed also announced approval of the Cabinet to the introduction of Kashmir and Jammu Cluster Universities Bill, 2015 in the State Legislature and the proposal for creation of various posts for both the cluster universities. He also favoured financial autonomy to universities to ensure efficient utilization of resources. “This will provide freedom to the universities to generate their own resources so that these are professionally run,” he added. Union Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) has approved two Cluster Universities for J&K, one each at Jammu and Srinagar, under RUSA (Rashtriya Uchhatar Shikhsa Abhiyan) for addressing the critical gaps in distribution of higher educational institutions across the state. The Chief Minister also announced the Cabinet’s decision to adopt a sectoral approach for undertaking projects in PPP mode. He said the government lacks resources for which private players have to be encouraged to take up projects on a turn-key basis. Under the new policy, a PPP Cell will be created which will guide and provide appraisal to the Line Departments on projects to be undertaken in PPP Mode. Concurrence of the Finance & Planning Departments would be taken prior to bidding projects, which shall be undertaken only after seeking approval of the State Cabinet. While announcing another decision, the Chief Minister said the Cabinet approved Rs. 174 crore packages for the rehabilitation of those people who have been displaced by the Kishenganga hydel power project. The Chief Minister also announced commencement of the Budget Session of the State Legislature from January 18, next month, for which a recommendation shall be made to the Governor for summoning the Legislature. Later, while responding to a series of questions, Mufti Sayeed described as evolutionary process the improvement of relations between India and Pakistan. He made a reference to his earlier tenure between 2002 and 2005 when through a series of measures peace prevailed from Keran to Kathua, which culminated in the first cross-LoC bus travelling from Muzaffarabad to Srinagar. Mufti Sayeed highlighted his efforts to take forward the cross-LoC trade and travel, which he defined as the biggest CBM (Confidence Building Measure) between the two neighbouring countries. “I went to Chakan da Bagh in Poonch recently. We want to take the travel beyond ritual meetings between divided families and introduce banking and telecommunication facilities at the Trade Facilitation Centres. Our Central government is responsive, but Pakistan has some reservations,” he added. The Chief Minister highlighted several initiatives taken by the government to strengthen institutions like PSC and SSB so that vacancies both at gazetted and subordinate levels are filled up in a transparent and time-bound manner. He also referred to the measures taken for rationalization of schools in Education Department and strengthening of infrastructure in the healthcare sector. The Chief Minister said the State Accountability Commission (SAC) has been created under an Act of the Legislature and the powers of the Commission are envisaged under the Act. “While the focus is to address the concerns of graft, we also have to ensure that there is no witch-hunting,” he added. Expressing his satisfaction over the package announced for J&K, the Chief Minister said the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, from day one has been completely focussed on development of the state. He said the Centre also had for the first time announced Rs.2000 crore package for one-time settlement of PoK refugees and Chambh DPs as well as separate packages for Jammu and Kashmir migrants and victims of the colossal floods of 2014. “I am not an ungrateful person. I have seen many Prime Ministers in the past,” he said, while referring to the Prime Minister’s development package announced for J&K during his public meeting in Srinagar, last month. The Chief Minister also reiterated his commitment on holding local body elections in the state which, he said will facilitate the devolution of powers to the people at the grassroots level. Responding to another question on PDP-BJP coalition, Mufti Sayeed said as Chief Minister it is his responsibility to address the concerns of the alliance partners. “We have come together to respect the mandate of the people. I am here to resolve the issues,” he stated.
2015 Kashmir Despatch