New Delhi: The Centre has asked the Jammu and Kashmir government to ensure that the ongoing process to recruit 10,000 Special Police Officers (SPOs) is free from political interference.
This was conveyed at a high-level meeting, chaired by Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday, which took stock of the progress in implementation of the Rs 80,000-crore development package announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the state.
The representatives of the Jammu and Kashmir government in the meeting have been told to ensure that the recruitment process of SPOs is free from political interference so that the people have faith in them, official sources said.
In the past, many surrendered militants were recruited as SPOs, who gained notoriety for allegedly committing excesses in anti-militancy operations.
The central government's blunt message came after apparently receiving reports that some leaders of PDP were trying to push their candidates for recruitment as SPOs, much to the chagrin of ally BJP, sources said.
Currently the recruitment process of 10,000 SPOs in the state is on. The home minister had given approval for hiring the SPOs, especially for security related requirements, last year.
There are already 25,000 SPOs in the state, engaged on a monthly honorarium of Rs 6,000.
When the recruitment process of the SPOs had started late last year, thousands of youths across Kashmir had turned up, defying militants' threats and the separatists' boycott call.
The authorities have received over 25,000 applications from aspiring candidates willing to serve as SPOs from across the 10 districts of the valley.
The highest number of applications at 8,600 were received from north Kashmir's Kupwara district followed by Budgam (4,000), Baramulla (3,853), Anantnag (2,400), Ganderbal (1,600), Kulgam (1,258), and Bandipora and Srinagar (1,000 each).
While 800 applications were received from Pulwama district, 500 youths applied for the job in Shopian district, sources said.
When the recruitment process of the SPOs began last year, Pakistan-backed militant group Hizbul Mujahideen had issued a warning to the youths against taking part in it.
"Whosoever gets appointed as SPO should also be ready to face the consequences," Hizbul Mujahideen commander Riyaz Naik had said in a video circulated through social networking sites.
Terming the recruitment of SPOs as a "ploy" of the government, Naik had said, "India wants to weaken our freedom struggle and wants us to fight with each other."
Separatists, on the other hand, had asked the youths to ignore the "enticement aimed at breaking their ranks", alleging that the government by absorbing the youths as SPOs was trying to revive "Ikhwan Militia" of 1990s to crush the "freedom struggle".
"The fresh recruitment drive is nothing but to revive the notorious Ikhwan culture in the state which in mid 90s wiped out almost a whole hatchery of freedom loving people throughout the Valley," hardline Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani had said in a statement last year.
An SPO will initially draw a salary of Rs 5,000 per month, Rs 5,300 after completion of one year and Rs 6,000 after completion of three years.
The reimbursement of the expenditure to the state government by the Centre in respect of 10,000 SPOs will be as per existing approved Security Related Expenditure (SRE) guidelines.
The central government is in the process of providing employment opportunities to 1.40 lakh youths in the state through various means, including skill development training and jobs in police and paramilitary forces.
Updated Date: Apr 28, 2017 15:42 PM