Open Trade Routes Between Divided J&K: Rana

“Tough reforms inevitable for improving J&K’s economic health 

JAMMU- Seeking pragmatic approach and consistent policy for addressing the fiscal legacy issues, Member Legislative Council Mr Devender Singh Rana on Monday called for tough measures and political consensus to steer out Jammu and Kashmir from the morbid situation on the financial front.

“We should rise above political considerations to meet this challenge”, he said.

Participating in discussions on budget in the Legislative Council this afternoon, Rana elaborately referred to the fiscal legacy issues which include widening gap between revenue realization on account of power distribution and  expenditure on its procurement; release of arrears to the state employees in the wake of Sixth Pay Commission Report and the state’s own deficit.

He made a fervent appeal to the political parties for meeting these challenges unitedly and said unless pragmatic reforms were initiated and implemented the state cannot overcome the crisis. He said the present dispensation has initiated these reforms and solicited support of all in this regard.

He said all political parties should collectively come out with a road map to tackle the fiscal issues and not embroil them in petty politicking for the overall good of the people and the state

Rana regretted over non-seriousness in addressing these grey issues in the past and said vote bank politics has come in the way of implementing much needed reforms. In this context, he referred to the budget speech of the then Finance Minister in 2006, which, inter-alia, admitted release of Rs 1,300 crore to the State by the Centre under Power Reforms Grant.

“Had these grants been utilized properly for the purpose they were supposed to be utilized for, the State would have not inherited big liabilities and today the T&D losses would have been bare minimum. He said Rs 3300 to 3900 crores were instead spent on procurement of power thereby loosing an opportunity provided by the Union Government through this dispensation of Rs. 3900 crores. He lamented: “It is sad that the then government preferred to mis-utilize the funds to score few brownie political points, sacrificing the larger picture which should have brought dividends today and made a remarkable change in the power scenario, thereby also improving the fiscal health of the state.

In his 45 minute speech, intermittently interrupted by the PDP members, Mr Rana accused PDP of shying away from enforcing unpleasant reforms as a populist measure. “We cannot sit over this important issue and want all the stake holders to be on board for taking tough measures by adopting consistent approach to deal with the situation”, he maintained.

Rana complimented Finance Minister Mr Abdul Rahim Rather for presenting growth oriented, progressive and forward looking budget that addresses the concerns of all segments of the society. He hailed proposed provision of Rs 21 crore for clearing the pending 69,000 cases of physically challenged people and destitute. He expressed his happiness over keeping a provision of Rs 30,000 for the marriage of orphan girls belonging to Below Poverty Line population. He strongly advocated for lowering the educational criteria from matriculation to middle for larger coverage of poor girls.

Rana also welcomed the provision of honorarium for Panchs and Sarphanchs and urged for enhancing honorarium to Rs. 1000 for the Panchs, saying it should not be linked with their sitting fee.

Emphasizing the need for focused attention towards priority sectors like health and Education, Mr Rana called for special dispensation in improving infrastructural facilities and addressing to the paucity of manpower in this vital sector, He pleaded for capacity building of the manpower as it concerns the vast majority of people living in difficult and remote areas. He welcomed opening of 100 mobile schools for nomads.

Referring to the unemployment problem, he said the government has focused on a two-pronged strategy to provide employment to unemployed educated youth besides enhancing employability to open up vistas of opportunities to the targeted segment. He said the initiatives taken by the present dispensations has instilled a sense of confidence among youngsters which is reflected by the fact that the number of unemployed registered with employment exchanges has risen from 80,000 to six lakhs. To satiate their aspirations, he said the government has initiated SKEWPY under which Voluntary Services Allowance is being provided to the eligible candidates.

For giving impetus to economic activity in Jammu and Kashmir, Mr Rana sought opening of Jammu- Sialkote, Kargil-Skardu, Mendhar-Tatapani routes between the divided Jammu and Kashmir. This, alongside opening of Silk Route will prove economic boom for the state which has passed through a very difficult phase during the past over two decades. He, however, expressed satisfaction that despite economic slowdown in the country, the GDP has increased to 7.01 in the state

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