Srinagar: The government of India’s Rs 1,618.40-crore package for the return and rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits in the Valley has failed to woo the community, with only one Pandit family returning to live in the Valley since the package was announced in 2008. Of the various kinds of financial assistance provided under the package, just one has been availed of – the Rs 7.5 lakh given for repair of houses – and by only two Pandit families.
It was the Manmohan Singh government that announced in the year 2008 a “package” of Rs 1,618.40 crore for the return and rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits. The package contained a housing assistance of Rs 7.5 lakh per family to repair fully or partially damaged houses, Rs 2 lakh for dilapidated/unused houses, and Rs 7 lakh for purchase/construction of house in a group housing society. The financial assistance could be availed by those who had sold their properties in the years after 1989.
Official documents accessed by Kashmir Reader show that except for two Pandit families, no one has availed of any financial assistance given under the package. These two Pandit families have taken the Rs 7.5-lakh assistance to rebuild their damaged houses. The zonal officer of the Relief and Rehabilitation department told Kashmir Reader that only one of these two families has returned to live in Kashmir.
Pandits say that the financial assistance is too meagre to be of any attraction. “More than 95 percent of the Pandits had sold their land and houses in the Valley. How can anyone buy land or construct a house from the Rs 7 lakh given under the package? The cost of land and construction material has skyrocketed,” said Sahil Dhar, a Pandit who has left Kashmir.
Sahil said that the government once assured the Pandits that the assistance of Rs 7.5 lakh would be raised to Rs 20 lakh, but nothing has been done so far. “A proposal has gone to the central government for assistance of Rs 20 lakh, but it has not been approved yet,” he said.
Arun Ganjoo, another migrated Pandit, said that every Pandit family is eager to return to their ancestral and native places. “The government is not making serious efforts for our return. Many families will return if the assistance amount is raised,” he said.
The Zonal Officer at the Relief and Rehabilitation department, Latafat, told Kashmir Reader that only one Pandit family has returned to Kashmir after availing of the Rs 7.5-lakh housing assistance.
“We don’t have the latest records, but last year’s survey confirms that only one family has returned. That family is staying in Mehtab Bagh area of Srinagar,” he said.
The financial package also provides incentives for construction of transit accommodation for migrant Pandits, 6,000 government jobs, 9,000 additional jobs through establishment of “income generating units”, a one-time grant for revival of agricultural and horticultural land, a scholarship to school-going children, and waiver of interest on loans.
As per official data, 687 transit accommodation flats have been constructed and provided to nearly 2,000 migrant Pandits employed under schemes for which the package provides money, in six districts of Kashmir.
“Another 644 flats are under construction in four districts of the Valley,” the data says.
A report by the Indian Home Ministry has said that the PDP-BJP coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir has identified 90 acres of land in Kashmir for setting up more than 3,400 transit accommodation flats for migrant Kashmiri Pandits.
There are about 60,452 registered Kashmiri migrant families in India, of which 38,119 are residing in Jammu and 19,338 are living in Delhi. Besides Jammu and Delhi, 1,995 families are settled in other states of India.