In Kashmir, govt identifies 19 ‘transit accommodations’ for Kashmiri pandits

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In order to rehabilitate the Kashmir pandits who have or will return to Kashmir for the job opportunities, the government has identified 19 locations in the valley to build 6000 flats for their transit accommodation.

The project is  a part of Prime Minister’s Development Package [PMDP] in which the Government of India [GoI] was supposed to provide 6000 state government jobs and the construction of 6000 transit accommodation to the displaced Kashmiri pandits. The total cost of the package has been estimated at Rs 920 crore.

Talking to The Kashmir Walla, Nazim Zai Khan, Secretary to Government Disaster Management, Relief, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction [DMRRR] said that the idea behind the project is to rehabilitate  the return of the Kashmir pandits in the valley.

Khan said of 19 identified locations, the administration, in the first phase of the project,  has started building the flats on five locations that include  Wandhama, Bandipora, Baramulla , Budgam, and Qazigund.

“We have involved PWD [Public Works Department], JKPCC [J&K Projects Construction Corporation]  as executive agencies for the project. Some of the construction is already completed, and the rest of the construction work will be completed in the next few months,” Khan said.

Khan said that the construction work on all the 19 locations would be completed at the end of next year.

“By the end of 2022, we are expected to build all the 6000 flats, so that Kashmir pandits who return to the valley will have their own place to live in,” he said.

On December 5, Lieutenant Governor (LG) Manoj Sinha in a television interview said that a slew of measures are being taken for the return of Kashmiri Pandits, and after this winter season, they will be permanently settled in the valley.

In 2020, the Union Home Ministry under “Naya Kashmir” blueprint for Kashmiri Pandits had assured ten special townships to be created in ten districts of the Valley for the rehabilitation of the minority community.

The Naya Kashmir blueprint also comprises renovation and rebuilding of temples destroyed and “desecrated” in all the 10 districts.

As many as 1678 Kashmiri migrants have returned to Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370 for taking up jobs under the Prime Minister’s Development Package-2015, the GoI told parliament on December 1.

Union Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai also said that as per information provided by the government of Jammu and Kashmir, the land of 150 applicants has been restored.

“As per the information provided by the government of Jammu and Kashmir, after abrogation of Article 370, a total of 1,678 migrants have returned to Kashmir for taking up the jobs under the Prime Minister’s Development Package-2015,” Rai said in a written reply to a question.

The minister said the government has taken various measures to restore ancestral properties to migrant Hindus.

Under the Jammu and Kashmir Migrant Immovable Property (Preservation, Protection & Restraint on Distress Sales) Act, 1997, District Magistrates (DMs) of concerned Districts in Jammu and Kashmir are the legal custodians of the immovable properties of migrants, who take suo moto action on eviction proceedings in cases of encroachment.

However, sources told The Kashmir Walla, that out of Rs 920 crore, the government has only spent Rs 56 crore till date.

“The only two projects that have been completed include one in Vessu Qazigund and another one in Sheikhpora Budgam,” sources said.

In Sheikhpora, the government has constructed eight buildings consisting of 128 flats.

The construction work of Pandit colony in South Kashmir’s Vessu, Qazigund, which has 208 flats consisting of 13 buildings, is however, facing bureaucratic hurdles as the payments to contractors working on the project is stuck for the past two and a half years.

Despite the project being started in 2015 funded by the Prime Minister’s Development Package (PMDP), the non-payments to the contractors have delayed the completion of the work over the years.

Farooq Ahmad Dar, whose construction company has built the flats in Vessu, said though the project stands completed to the half-way stage, the work is delayed due to long pending payment.

“The total project cost of Vessu is Rs 64.65 crore, of which Rs 15 crore is work done liability,” Dar said.

Dar alleges that DMRRR has stopped the payment on the pretext that the project lacks accord administrative approval [AAA].

“Our company got the project through e-tendering from J&K Projects Construction Corporation (JKPCC) and the onus of getting the AAA is an internal matter of the government. We filed the tender as per the norms that were laid down by the department,” Dar said.

Meanwhile, an official said that the project violates the basic contract as against the approval of 1BHK costing Rs 12 lakh each flat, the contractor has built 2BHK flats worth Rs 22-23 lakh each.

“Under the PMDP guidelines, we have received the funds for only 1BHK flat. However, JKPCC without getting written approval from the concerned authority has verbally allowed the construction of 2BHK on its own,” official said.

Financial Commissioner (additional chief secretary) of Jammu and Kashmir, Finance Department Atal Dulloo talking to The Kashmir walla said, “that the inquiry about the matter is going on.”

On 18 July, 2021, Lieutenant Governor (LG) in a review meeting fixed the deadlines for the completion of transit accommodations for Kashmiri migrant employees across the valley.

LG had set November this year as the new timeline for completion of transit accommodation at Ganderbal. Directions were also passed for the completion of construction work at Shopian by March, 2022, and at Baramulla and Bandipora by November, 2022. 

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