Time to take cross-LoC travel to next level

Will continue to aspire for friendly ties between India, Pakistan: Mufti

POONCH – Urging both India and Pakistan to bring down the walls of hatred, Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, Saturday said he will continue to aspire for friendly relations between the two neighbouring countries for embedding lasting peace in the region. 

He said time has come when the cross-LoC travel has to be taken beyond the ritual of members of the divided families meeting each other. “The scope of people-to-people contact across LoC has to be enlarged to include tourism, education and culture within its ambit,” he stated. 

The Chief Minister said this while addressing a huge public meeting during his tour to Poonch today, where he visited cross-LoC trade and travel point at Chakan da Bagh and laid foundation stone of Loran-Basam Gali Road at Loran. 

Referring to the positive impact of cordial relations between New Delhi and Islamabad on J&K, Mufti Sayeed emphasised upon creating an environment of reconciliation to break the deadlock and signal a new thaw between the two neighbours. “Indo-Pak bonhomie will enable us to deliver the rich dividends of peace to the people in the form of development,” he said, while handing out an assurance to the audience who had turned out in large numbers to hear the Chief Minister.

Referring to the fractured mandate in the 2014 Assembly elections, the Chief Minister said he was in a predicament as to which side he should align with. After thoughtful consideration, he realized that the indecisive mandate had actually thrown a historic opportunity in his lap to bind the three regions of the state together. “I have grabbed this and you will see the results,” he assured.        

On the issue of one-time settlement of PcK refugees, the Chief Minister thanked the Centre for keeping a provision of Rs.2000 crore in the development package announced by the Prime Minister during his rally at Srinagar. “The relief package will provide substantial succour to the PcK refugees,” he added. 

The Chief Minister also assured the flood victims of relief in lieu of the heavy damage caused to their houses in the September deluge last year. “Suitable allocations have also been made for taking flood protection measures to avoid any damage in future,” he said, while assuring people of taking further steps to fortify the river, which savagely breached its embankments last year. 

Promising to make people stakeholders in the state’s development process, the Chief Minister said he will hold elections to local self-government institutions to empower people at the grassroots level. “The decentralization of powers down below will further strengthen the roots of good governance besides making the system accountable,” he added. 

Unveiling his agenda for development of far-flung and remote areas of the state, Mufti Sayeed promised people an era of good governance and transparent administration that delivers justice right at people’s doorsteps. He said a team of officers will soon visit Poonch to recommend steps in making the border district a tourist destination. “Poonch has a glorious past. It is a place with rich heritage that we need to showcase,” he added. 

Referring to the attention his government had attached to development of road infrastructure, Mufti Sayeed said the Mughal Road, which provides alternate connectivity between Jammu and Kashmir divisions, has been prioritised in the state sector and a plan has been conceived to construct tunnel to further reduce the distance. “We will construct quality roads and bind contractors to a ‘Defect Liability Clause’ which will ensure they maintain roads for a period of three years,” he added.

In view of the difficulties confronting the people, the Chief Minister directed the R&B Department to take up the up-gradation of Thanamandi-Buffliaz and Buffliaz-Surankote roads under the State sector.  

The Chief Minister also made a reference to the fast-tracking of four-laning of Srinagar-Jammu National Highway, which is expected to be completed by 2017. “Once complete, the distance between the two capital cities will be considerably reduced,” he stated. 

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