Lok Sabha approves demands for grants for Jammu and Kashmir

The Lok Sabha on Wednesday approved demands for grants for Jammu and Kashmir for the next fiscal and the supplementary demands for grants for the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir from April 1, 2019 to October 30, 2019.

The House also approved demands for grants in respect of the Union Territory of Ladakh from October 31, 2019, to March 31, 2020.

Replying to a debate in the Lok Sabha on the supplementary demands for grants and demands for grants for Jammu and Kashmir, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Wednesday said that “a lot has changed” in Jammu and Kashmir since the abrogation of Article 370 in August last year and there is no corruption in governance now.

Replying to a debate in the Lok Sabha on the supplementary demands for grants and demands for grants for Jammu and Kashmir, she refuted allegations of the opposition and said the people were getting benefits, which they had been denied in the past.

The debate saw opposition members sharply attack the government over its decisions relating to Jammu and Kashmir and BJP members hitting back. The two sides also exchanges barbs on the issue of forced exit of Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley.

The House passed the relevant Appropriation Bills. The budget for Jammu and Kashmir for the next fiscal is over one lakh crore rupees. Thirty-three members took part in the debate.

Sitharaman said, unlike the past, the projects in the state were allocated through a transparent tendering process. “There is no corruption,” she said. The minister said democracy was being fostered at the grassroots and there had been 98 per cent voting in Block Development Council elections.

Referring to the meeting of representatives of various sections with Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Sitharaman said the people can come to Delhi and have interaction at the highest level to sort out economic and other issues related to union territory.

She accused opposition members of not having cared for the human rights of people of the erstwhile state and said beneficial laws had been extended to women, scheduled tribes and other weaker sections. She said opposition members had also not talked of the rights of Kashmiri Pandits. “Do they not have rights,” she asked.

Congress member Manish Tewari said that Kashmiri Pandits were forced to leave the Valley when VP Singh government, which was supported by the BJP, was at the Centre. Sitharmaman said the BJP had later withdrawn support to the VP Singh government.

She said the Congress could have rehabilitated the Kashmiri Pandits when it came to power months later in the government led by PV Narasimha Rao. “If the intent was there, you could have done it.

“You could have instituted an inquiry,” she said. Referring to JKLF leader Yasin Malik, she said those involved in the killing of air force officers were put behind bars.

On concerns of opposition members including Hasnain Masoodi of National Conference, she said that the demands for grants did not provide “disproportionate” allocation to the home department.

The minister said three tourist circuits including a tourist circuit have been approved.

She said lakhs of beneficiaries were getting money direct in their accounts after the government revoked Article 370 in August last year and the state was bifurcated into two union territories. The minister said people were getting benefits from new schemes also.

She said 1355 acres of land in the Union Territory will be brought under high-density apple plantation and money allocated for horticulture had been significantly increased. Sitharaman said the Centre was working to revive traditional jewellery craft in the state.

“We are promoting start-ups, We will fund start-up activities,” she said and added that people from other parts of the country will share their skills. The minister said the youth in the state will be encouraged to find local issue-based solutions through start-ups.

The minister said thousands of projects had started in the union territory after August 5 and projects that were languishing were being speeded up. She said local-level planning was also being given a boost by providing appropriate support.

“The health sector has been a stellar performer,” she said, adding that seven new medical colleges were being created. The minister noted that exports from Jammu and Kashmir were increasing.

The House also passed the second batch of supplementary demands for grants in 2019-20. It includes 78 grants and four appropriations.

Sitharaman said that authorisation has been sought for gross additional expenditure of Rs 4,80,881 crore of which Rs 3,63,201 crore is for repayment of market loans, which is cash neutral item and the net cash outgo is Rs 53,963 crore.

She said demands for grants includes payment arising out of court decrees, additional expenditure on account of enhanced dearness allowance, increase in the number of pensioners, payment of leave encashment of judges of high courts and payment of interest on delayed deposit on contribution under the defined contributory pension scheme.

The minister said Rs 7000 crore was for meeting additional expenditure for army, navy, air force machine and equipment.

The minister said that allocation for the national rural employment guarantee scheme has also been increased from Rs 60,000 and to over Rs 71,000 crore so that money goes in hands of those who need in rural areas.

Participating in the debate, Minister of state for home G Kishan Reddy said the Modi government was working in a way that youth of the Jammu and Kashmir hold the national tricolour and books, instead of flags and stones.

He rejected Trinamool Congress member Saugata Roy’s reference that Jammu and Kashmir has been converted into an “open jail”.

“It is open for all today. It is open for tourists and shut for terrorists,” he said.

He said that casualties of security forces have come down by 76 per cent after the abrogation of Article 370.

Union minister Jitendra Singh said the last eight months has been the most peaceful period in Jammu and Kashmir in the last 30 years.

He said opposition members had been talking about detention of three former chief ministers but over 40,000 people who have been killed due to militancy in the last 30 years.

He said some people say that there had been more peace in the last eight months as some leaders were under detention. His remarks drew protests from opposition benches.

The minister, who is MP from Udhampur, said that prophets of doom have been proved wrong.

Referring to the efforts of the government, he said a special package had been announced for Jammu and Kashmir by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

He said Modi spent his Diwali after becoming Prime Minister in 2014 in Kashmir with flood victims and will be in Ladakh in June for International Yoga Day.

Jamyang Tsering Namgyal, BJP MP from Ladakh, accused the Congress of not having carried for sentiments of people of Ladakh. He said Modi government has enhanced allocation for the new union territory.

The House approved with voice vote supplementary demands for grants for state of Jammu and Kashmir from April 1, 2019 to October 30, 2019.

The Lok Sabha also approved demands for grants for Jammu and Kashmir for the next fiscal and demands for grants in respect of the Union Territory of Ladakh from October 31, 2019, to March 31, 2020.

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