The Jammu and Kashmir government has announced special ration cards, setting up of tribal research institutes and Eklavya Mode Residential Schools (EMRS) among various other initiatives in diverse sectors for inclusive development of the state’s tribal population.
Speaking in the state assembly on Tuesday, Tribal Affairs Minister Choudhary Zulfkar Ali said multiple steps have been taken in education, agriculture, dairy and sheep husbandry sectors to uplift the tribals.
Replying on Demand for Grants of Tribal Affairs department, he said a process has been initiated for preparing special ration cards that would be issued to nomadic beneficiaries under ‘priority household’ category, thereby entitling them for rations under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) and Mufti Mohammad Sayeed Food Entitlement Scheme (MMSFES).
The minister said setting up of tribal research institutes would be paramount in focusing efforts on development and preservation of tribal cultural heritage besides providing inputs for evidence-based planning and appropriate legislations, capacity building of tribals and institutions associated with tribal affairs, dissemination of information and creation of awareness.
“To promote and support education among Scheduled Tribe (ST) students, five Eklavya Mode Residential Schools (EMRS) have been sanctioned for Anantnag, Kulgam, Rajouri, Kargil and Poonch districts,” he said.
Ali said each EMRS has a capacity of about 480 students–240 boys and 240 girls– and would provide lodging, boarding and education to ST students free of cost.
Further, six hostels will be converted to residential schools in Kupwara, Bandipora, Kathua, Poonch and Doda at a cost of Rs 12.50 crore, he said.
The minister said financial assistance amounting to Rs 29.88 crore was provided to 1,97,933 students in the year 2016-17 under various scholarships for tribal students.
“For the year 2017-18, Rs 13.61 crore was provided to 1,77,273 students under pre-matric scholarship scheme for Ist to 8th class (for Gujjar and Bakerwal students),” he said.
The tribal affairs minister also informed the House that 1,100 ST students (50 from each district) would be trained in paramedical courses under the Skill Development initiative, during current financial year.
To boost milk production in tribal areas, various efforts are underway, including approving constitution of ‘milk villages’ at Agri Rajouri and establishing 125 milk collection units in Rajouri, Samba, Kathua and Jammu districts.
Later, the House passed grants amounting to Rs 51.01 crore for the tribal affairs department with voice vote.
Ali, who also holds the portfolio of food civil supplies and consumer affairs, told the Assembly that many steps have been taken to strengthen the Consumer Protection Act (CPA), 1987 like reconstitution of state consumer protection council, district consumer protection councils and designation of state consumer dispute redressal commission as State Food Commission (SFC).
“The state government intends to amend the CPA in order to make it more stringent and consumer friendly, besides reviewing other acts under the ambit of the department,” he said.
A grant of Rs 486.84 crore was sanctioned for the department by the Assembly.
With regard to distribution of sugar to consumers, the minister said 74.13 lakh beneficiaries were provided sugar by the state government out of its own resources as the subsidy on sugar was withdrawn by the Centre from April, 2017.
“Digitisation efforts have been launched in full swing to revolutionise the functioning of the department and increase transparency in the system. In this regard, electronic distribution system, e-PDS, has been introduced in the state,” Ali said.
He said various components of this system include online allocation of food grains, installations of ploint of sale (POS) machines, geographic information system (GIS), ration cards seeding with Aadhaar and GPS trackers.