Lt Governor Manoj Sinha in an exclusive conversation with Kashmir Newsline
Sadiq Shaban | Special to Kashmir Newsline
In a freewheeling conversation, Lt Governor of J&K Manoj Sinha touched upon a host of hot button issues facing the Union Territory and how his administration is firmly handling the economic and political situation in Jammu and Kashmir.
Assuring Pandit employees working in Kashmir of their safety, security and well being, Lt Governor told Kashmir Newsline in an exclusive chat that most of the Kashmiri Pandit government staff have been posted to safer locations within the Valley following a spate of targeted killings.
Elaborating on the demands by a section of Kashmiri Pandit staff to be relocated from the valley, Sinha reiterated his administration’s pledge to address their grievances. “We have re-designated posts for employees working under the Prime Minister’s package from district to the divisional level. Employees have been transferred to district headquarters from the villages where they were posted.”
The PM scheme for the return and rehabilitation of Kashmiri migrants to the valley includes various incentives like housing, employment and transit accommodation.
“Sustained efforts are being made by the government to ensure safer housing for Kashmiri Pandit employees serving in the valley. The fact remains that Kashmiri Muslims want the Pandits to be among them.”
On the pressing topic of assembly elections in J&K, Manoj Sinha said that polls in the Union Territory will be held by the Election Commission after the completion of the ongoing revision of electoral rolls. The restoration of statehood would follow, as promised by the Union Home Minister Amit Shah on the floor of the Parliament.
“This is a process. Delimitation in the union territory has already been completed. Elections will follow and then restoration of statehood at an appropriate time is scheduled to take place. Assurance to this effect has been given in the Parliament and the government of India is committed to carry out the exercise in a time-bound manner,” Lt Governor noted.
Talking about the prevailing drug menace in J&K, the LG noted that his administration has decided to launch a frontal assault on drug abuse and addiction.
“We have started a comprehensive action plan for addressing this social menace that has assumed the magnitude of a silent epidemic in J&K. We have a drug de-addiction policy in place in which concerned departments and the masses are involved to combat substance abuse,” Sinha told Kashmir Newsline.
Ironically J&K is the first UT/state in the country (barring Punjab) that has a drug de-addiction policy of its own in place. “This menace is very widespread here and our policy is to have a multi-pronged strategy that factors in social, medical and legal aspects to address the problem. Drug de-addiction centres are being set up in all district hospitals under a centrally-sponsored scheme to improve the access of facilities for those seeking help for substance abuse with proper guidelines and standards of care,” LG added.
On the issue of electricity in Jammu and Kashmir, the Lieutenant Governor said that the era of free
electricity is effectively over and strict action is being initiated against power theft in the UT.
“We do not get free electricity. There is a huge power debt of Rs 11000 cr left by the previous governments. The UT pays almost Rs 6000 cr for electricity to the Centre but the fees collected from consumers adds upto Rs 3000 cr. That is a deficit of Rs 3000 cr per annum. It is a highly unsustainable situation, which cannot be allowed to continue,” Sinha averred.
LG also spoke at length about developments under the Srinagar Smart City initiatives. “Srinagar Smart City is a dynamic concept that will increase livability, sustainability and efficiency for all citizens. The aim is to achieve five long term goals: smart mobility, smart economy, smart environment, smart living and smart governance,” Sinha revealed.
Already steps have been taken to ensure that Srinagar has access to modern technical tools for sustainable and integrated urban living. “Effective management of services like water, electricity, mobility, education, healthcare, environment, and security is what we are aiming for,” he noted.
LG trailed off with his comments on Har Ghar Tiranga — a nationwide campaign to encourage people to hoist the national flag to mark India’s 75th Independence Day. “This is not some binding order. It is a GoI initiative to reach out across the country under the aegis of Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav and envisages inspiring citizens everywhere in the country to hoist the national flag. Some fringe elements here are trying to spread disinformation regarding the programme and a section of media gives them space to create sensation. I’d ask people to ignore such elements.”
Sadiq Shaban is the Opinion Editor at Gulf News