Srinagar : Stressing the need for rationalization of land under the use of defense forces in Jammu & Kashmir, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president, Mehbooba Mufti Wednesday said the entire issue needs a detailed and sympathetic consideration by the Government of India.
Addressing a series of rallies at Redbugh, Muqamshahwali and Hirri Qamerabad in Kupwara constituency, she said the development process in the border district has been handed over to brokers and its agents. Referring to the debate about the extension of lease of Tos Maidan as a firing range for the army, Mehbooba said the highland has tremendous tourism potential and that fact needs to be considered by taking a decision on the subject. But, she said, it is not just Tos Maidan but the entire issue of land needed for defense purposes and currently under use of the forces needs to be seriously examined for a rational decision.
She said Jammu & Kashmir is facing a serious land crunch because of the increasing population and the fact that most of its territory is under mountains and very little flat lands are available. Apart from that, the impact of land use on the environment and the ecology of the state has to be weighed while taking decisions. As it is, many places important from tourism point of view are under the use of defense force, which has an adverse impact on the economy of the state, she said and added that the serious issue will have to be addressed with an open mind, and right balance struck between defense needs and the requirements of civilian population, apart from its impact on environment of Jammu & Kashmir which is crucial to most parts of South Asia.
Mehbooba said it is worrying that Jammu & Kashmir is a home to the maximum firing ranges in the country as brought out in a recent media report. Apart from this the state is perhaps the only state where ammunition dumps have been established in civilian areas, which is an obvious hazard as we some saw some years back in Khundroo in Anantnag district.
She said in our meting with the Defense Minister, A K Antony , she had taken up the issue of extension of lease of Tos Maidan and other related matters a few months back and expressed the hope that the whole issue will be sorted out amicably without allowing it to develop into a confrontation.
About Kupwara district, Mehbooba said this border area has borne the maximum brunt of militancy and government excesses. While the general masses face humiliation and atrocities, there were numerous individual tragedies resulting in devastation of households, killings, atrocities against women and creation of widows, destitutes and orphans. She said, though, 2002 had witnessed a turnaround in the situation but the present government could not carry out welfare and rehabilitation provided for the target groups.
Mehbooba said the so-called rehabilitation policy for those youth who had crossed the LoC, has proved an eyewash like all other pronouncements of Omar Abdullah government.
Referring to unprecedented development interventions made under the Mufti government, Mehbooba said Prime Minister’s economic package had provided funds for all sectors which unfortunately the present government has not been able to spend gainfully. On previous occasions such understanding between the state and centre remained confined to matters of political power whereas Mufti used it for an institutionalized development of the state. Similarly for the first time multilateral funding was obtained from the Asian Development Bank for core infrastructure development like roads, bridges, flyovers, sewerage and drainage.
On this occasion district president and MLA Ab Haq Khan said that the unlimited funds available for various developmental programmes could have transformed the state into the most developed region but the government’s inability to utilize them had resulted in huge setback to these schemes and programmes. Referring to the problems of youth, Khan said the NC had historically exploited them on emotional issues without doing anything for their growth and was treating everybody in the state as beggars.