DCs of Srinagar, Budgam asked to ‘look into’ proposal floated by Sainik Board; Mehbooba ‘not aware’ of the issue
Srinagar: At a time when deputy commissioner Srinagar and Budgam have been asked to speedily identify land for setting up residential clusters for serving and retired army personnel in the outskirts of Srinagar, chief minister Mehbooba Mufti was as evasive as her deputy and education minister were when the issue was first reported by Kashmir Reader.
“I don’t know which proposal you are talking about,” Mehbooba told reporters at SKICC.
In April this year, the home department, which is headed by the chief minister, had in a letter told the deputy commissioners of Budgam and Srinagar to submit their comments on the establishment of Sainik (soldiers’) Colony “at the earliest”.
In August 2015, Kashmir Reader had exclusively reported that Sainik Welfare Department had proposed residential clusters for retired servicemen in 2012 and Rajya Sainik Board had cleared the proposal in 2015.
The board, headed by Governor NN Vohra, had cleared a proposal to establish a residential colony for soldiers near Srinagar’s old airport.
There is no such proposal for setting up of Sainik Colony in Kashmir before the government and the reports are “absolutely baseless”
—Naeem Akhtar on 19 August 2015
As many as 173 kanals (about 22 acres) of land identified by the Board had been cleared by the government for the Colony.
However, Mufti Mohammad Sayed-led government’s spokesperson Naeem Akhar had dismissed the report as “baseless”.
Also, deputy chief minister Nirmal Singh denied the government had any plans to build a Sainik Colony in the Valley because such a colony already existed in the Jammu region. He even blamed “separatists” for spreading such “rumours”.
There are some elements, including separatists, who do not want peace and are therefore spreading such rumours
—Nirmal Singh on 20 August 2015
On 16 April 2015, Vohra led Rajya Sainik Board during its 77thmeeting at Jammu Raj Bhawan had said the number of soldiers who applied for the plots had increased, and thus the requirement of land for the colony had also increased from 173 kanals to 350 kanals.
“…Divisional Commissioner Kashmir had agreed for allotment of 173 kanals of land on payment basis in old airfield area and accordingly the case was taken up with the state Home Department,” said the document of the meeting of the Board, a copy of which lies with this newspaper.
Kashmir Reader had reported that the documents did not specify whether plots would be allotted only to soldiers who are J&K subjects or non-state subject servicemen too.
However, Governor Vohra, in his opening remarks, is quoted as saying that the “state government must take every required step to ensure welfare of all serving and retired defence personnel and their families about 7.8 lakh presently (sic)”, implying that the Colony is meant for non-state subjects as well.
Pro-freedom, opposition parties and the J&K High Court Bar Association had opposed the proposed Sainik Colony.
Former editor of RSS mouthpiece ‘Panchjanya’ and BJP parliamentarian Tarun Vijay, who had submitted a proposal to Narendra Modi-led government last year, had demanded settlement rights for soldiers in the Valley.
Vijay had sought settlement rights for the soldiers who have served a minimum of three years in the Valley.
However, defence minister Manohar Parrikar had said that Vijay’s proposal had been forwarded to the state government as the land in J&K is state subject.