Srinagar: The PDP-led coalition government’s reaction to reports about the setting up of a Sainik Colony in the Valley has been guarded to say the least. But in his play of words, government spokesman Naeem Akhtar has raised a fundamental question: Do ‘some officials’ act independently of the government?
“There is a proposal which has come from some welfare forum of retired soldiers but as a government spokesman I am telling you that we do not have any land and we are otherwise asking (army) for god sake to return the land that has gone here or there so that it can be used for developmental projects,” Akhtar told Hyderabad-based news channel ETV.
“There is no question about it (establishment of the Sainik Colony). An application has come and some officials have written something on it but the people who have to take decision doesn’t know anything about it and it has to come before the cabinet,” Akhtar said.
He added that both chief minister and revenue minister have clarified there is no such plan.
However, he did not identify “some officials” nor did he specify as to what was that “something” that was written on the application by these officials.
If state’s reply is taken on its face value, it appears that “some officials” warrant action for keeping the government in dark, if at all that is the case.
As reported last week by the Kashmir Read, the home department, which is headed by the chief minister, last month 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 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.
Asked about the comments as to whether the proposal for the Sainik Colony has come from those soldiers who served during their tenure in the state, Naeem said: “There is a state subject law and it’s clearly written that no outsider can reside in the state. This is even known to a child… Who is saying that the colony is being established for non-state subjects, we are not establishing any such colony at first place.”
A flash back to 2008 is apt here. When PDP was in government with Congress in party’s first shot at power, it approved diversion of 39.88 hectares of forest land to Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB). The formal order was issued on May 26, 2008 but it had to be withdrawn following massive protests that led to death in street protests of about 60 unarmed protesters.
BJP, VHP and Bajrang Dal officials enforced economic blockade in Jammu.
Then PDP forest minister Qazi Afzal had said that he did not know what he had signed (the transfer orders).
Another senior PDP leader Muzaffar Hussain Baig had said the party had been forced into signing the land transfer deal by its partner Congress.
“The Congress had threatened that it will block the construction of Mughal Road if the land transfer was stopped,” he had said.
Mehbooba Mufti had told a Delhi-based newspaper that “Congress started comparing the two things (Mughal Road and the land transfer). In fact, work on the road was stopped for some time.”
On June 25, 2008 then Chief Minister and senior congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad at a press conference blamed PDP ministers Muzaffar Hussain Baig and Qazi Afzal for land transfer.