'Sainik colony' in J&K faces uncertain future after PDP gives it thumbs down

The ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Jammu and Kashmir on Friday said that it would oppose any initiative to set up a ‘Sainik colony’ for serving and retired servicemen in the Valley even as the state government sent a fresh reminder to deputy commissioners of Srinagar and Budgam. This has raked up a fresh controversy in the state.

Dr Mehboob Beg, the chief spokesperson of PDP, told Firstpost on Friday that his party would stick to its earlier stand of not allowing Sanik colony in the Valley, which would allow the non-state soldiers, who have served in Kashmir, and their families, to settle in the Valley.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

Beg said allowing a Sainik colony in Srinagar for the non-state subjects would be a clear violation of the state's Constitution.

“Only yesterday, CM Mehbooba Mufti told people in Anantnag that when we swear by the Constitution of the state, we also respect and work for strengthening the Indian Constitution. Respecting Indian Constitution also means opposing any move to settle any non-state subject trooper or ex-servicemen in Jammu and Kashmir. That would be a clear violation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir (under Article 370 of Indian Constitution,” Beg told Firstpost.

The Rajya Sainik Board (RSB) in 2012 had floated a proposal of setting up a residential cluster for serving and ex-servicemen in one of its meetings. Governor N N Vohra, who heads the board, approved the proposal and when the state came under his rule, he expedited the process of setting up of the ‘Sainik colony,’ early this year.

The state’s home department, headed by the late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, last year had identified a plot of 173 kanals near Humhama for the 'Sainik Colony' in Humhama area, on the outskirts of Srinagar.

“My party (PDP) stands clear on this issue, any move by anyone to settle the non-resident soldiers, even if they have served here for 26 years, would be opposed by us. I don’t want to comment on the Governor's decision and why he wanted to expedited the matter, when he ruled the state,” Beg added.

The move to settle the soldiers in Kashmir was vehemently opposed by the National Conference and Hurriyat leaders.

But a senior official in the state home department said on Friday that the Government of India was committed to building the cluster of colonies for the soldiers, who has served in the state during the worst years of insurgency. He, however, did not specify if it was meant for state or non-state subjects.

“The Centre is serious about this proposal. The land is a state subject that is the reason there has been a delay. It won’t be a challenge to the state’s special statues because this would be undertaken under a lease agreement,” the officer, who did not wish to be named, told Firstpost.

According to the proposal cleared by Governor Vohra, a commissioned officer would be allotted 11 marlas of land, a junior commissioned officer 8 marlas and a soldier of the subordinate rank 5 marlas of land. Initially, almost 40 retired Kashmiri Pandit officers, who had served in the state and outside along with 300 soldiers, had applied for the plots.

BJP Parliamentarian and RSS man, Tarun Vijay, had submitted a proposal to the Narendra Modi-led government, demanding settlement rights for soldiers in the Valley, who have served a minimum of three years. Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had said the “matter had been forwarded” to the state government since land was a state subject.

Now, the Mehbooba Mufti-led PDP-BJP government has sent a fresh reminder to the deputy commissioners, seeking their response at the earliest.

Sources said that almost 7,000 serving and retired soldiers have applied for the plots in the colony.

BJP spokesperson Khalid Jehangir told Firstpost that his party's stand is clear — the colony should be developed for the soldiers and their families.

“There is a misunderstanding that this colony is meant for soldiers from outside the state, but it is not. In fact, the state government should expedite the matter and allow the board to come up with the colony soon,” said Jehangir.

On 15 April, 2016 in a meeting in Raj Bhavan, Jammu, secretary of the board, Brig RS Langeh, according to sources, had apprised the members that the number of soldiers — both serving and retired — who have applied for the plots, have increased and thus the land requirement should be increased to 350 kanals. Subsequently, a fresh proposal was sent to the state government headed by Sayeed for the allotment of 350 kanals of state land.

“After obtaining written commitment from the beneficiaries, the number of aspirants increased to 26 officers, 125 JCOs and 900 others, requiring a total of 350 kanals (44 acres) of land,” the RSB wrote to the state home department.

The previous government led by Mufti Mohammad Sayeed had dismissed the reports as “baseless.” Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh had told Firstpost last year, there was no need to build the Sainik colony in Srinagar, as one such colony already existed in Jammu.

Despite repeated attempts, government spokesperson, Nayeem Akhtar, could not be reached. However, Hurriyat Conference led by Sayed Ali Shah Geelani threatened to launch an agitation if the proposed move for settling or allotting of land "to any Army personal or any citizen of India was given a go-ahead."

Updated Date: May 06, 2016 17:39 PM

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