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JK interlocutors for financial autonomy

JK interlocutors for financial autonomy
The report of Jammu and Kashmir interlocutors has recommended greater financial autonomy and cooperation across the Line of Control (LoC) to improve the financial condition of the state. Besides, it suggested establishment of special economic and industrial zones and public-private partnership projects to make the state economically and financially self-dependent.

'The topography of the state is such that it hardly allows for raising resources, physical and financial, for adequate investment in infrastructure and other socio-economic activities...

'All in all, the state is not only heavily dependent on the Centre for financial and other material resources but is also unable to fully utilise the available funds,' the report said.

The report said the overall investments are much below the volume needed for improving infrastructure and quality of human resources.

'The entire gamut of fiscal management, including mobilisation of internal resources, should, therefore, be urgently examined with a view to reconciling the concepts of political and economic components of the new compact,' it said, adding to 'promote cross-LoC cooperation in areas of common interest and concern'.

The report quoted the former prime minister and senior BJP leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee's remark that 'Jammu aur Kashmir ko insaniyat ke daire mein dekhna hai' (We need to look Jammu and Kashmir under the ambit of humanity) and suggested adoption of the best practices of other states for promotion of socio-economic activities under public-private partnership mode.

It recommended creation of SEZs for promotion of the industry, which should be extended financial and fiscal incentives on the pattern of the Northeastern states and to provide attractive export incentives for promotion of Kashmiri handicrafts, explore exploitation of minerals and other natural resources.

For better utilisation of funds, it has supported creation of three regional councils, one each for Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh, and devolve certain legislative, executive and financial powers to them. 'A further devolution of executive and financial powers to panchayati raj institutions at the level of a district, a village panchayat, a municipality or a corporation would be part of the overall package,' the report said.

It also asked for operationalisation of an international airport in Srinagar to attract tourists and expedite completion of all infrastructure projects, including rail-links and roads connecting different regions of the state and across the borders and need for an overall educational policy and effective implementation of health schemes and flagship programmes.

Explaining how financial constraints were hurting development, the report cited the example of Leh region where 'the immediate grievance is financial, that the principle of state budgetary allocations on population basis is by its nature biased in a region which is territorially large but sparsely populated'.

'The development of infrastructure suffers severely as a result and there is little doubt that for infrastructure development, allocations need to be made on territorial requirements rather than on the basis of the population,' it said.

The interlocutors charged various state and national political parties with not being able to take forward the reforms to improve financial conditions in the state, which were pointed out in many reports including the Regional Autonomy Committee (RAC) formed by it.

'This report, however, was not the one drafted by the original RAC... It represents the most comprehensive document by far on all aspects – political, cultural and financial – of regional autonomy. Its detailed recommendations were never considered by the state government,' the interlocutors said.

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) expressed surprise over the timing of making public the report of interlocutors on Jammu and Kashmir, saying it should have been tabled in Parliament which was in session till recently. 'Parliament was recently in session. This report should have been tabled in Parliament,' the state CPI(M) secretary Mohammed Yusuf Tarigami said on Thursday.

He, however, sought more time to give a formal reaction on the report saying, 'As it deals with very long-standing issues, the report needs a careful study.

'We have not yet studied it. We desire wider debate and discussion. CPM has been urging upon state for taking substantial steps to advance political dialogue with all shades of opinion in it,' he said.

'We have also been demanding scaling down of the deployment of the armed forces in the state, withdrawal of AFSPA and other draconian laws from the state and dismantling the oppressive security structure,' he added.

On the other hand, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) 'completely rejected' the report, alleging that it would 'weaken' India's position on the sensitive border state.

'We completely reject it. There are several areas of reservation. We condemn some of the suggestions,' the party spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman told reporters after an urgent resolution was passed on the issue at the party's national executive meeting in Mumbai with the leader of the opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley proposing it.

She described the interlocutors' suggestion to review post-1952 laws in Kashmir as a 'disastrous step'.

The BJP also criticised the home minister P Chidambaram for bringing out the report soon after the conclusion of the budget session of Parliament.

The separatists in the Kashmir valley rejected the report.

Both the moderate and the hard-line factions of the Hurriyat Conference, led by Mirwaiz Umer Farooq and Syed Ali Shah Geelani respectively, were dismissive of the report.

None of the separatists had met the three-member panel, but the moderate faction leader Maulana Abbas Ansari had a meeting with M M Ansari, one of the three interlocutors, after the latter had visited his house.
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