Sunday, April 12, 2009

Elections won't make any difference to Kashmir issue: CM

 Power Coporation would be listed company like JK Bank
 That PDP lies was proven by Bandipora incident
 Channels reported Taliban in Kashmir, which is not true

Jammu, Apr 11: Kashmir dispute has to be resolved whether there is four percent or eighty percent voting in assembly elections, whether assembly elections are held or not, and even if National Conference is in power it still believes the relevance of Kashmir issue, chief minister Omar Abdullah said on Saturday.
In an exclusive interview, Omar said his views on elections remain unchanged. “I have always maintained that whether you participate in an election or you don’t, your caliber cannot be gauged. What is important is that we all work toward finding a consensus around which the solution of the Kashmir can be found. Whether four percent or eight percent people participated in the elections, Kashmir issue is there, which must be resolved,” Omar said when asked if he still de-linked elections from the resolution of Kashmir issue.
Omar suggested a two pronged approach for resolving the dispute: a dialogue between India and Pakistan and a dialogue between New Delhi and Jammu and Kashmir. Both the dialogues are important and must carry, regardless of elections.
“The fact is that the National Conference being in power today doesn’t change its position regarding resolution of Kashmir issue. Even in power we believe relevance of Kashmir issue,” he said.
When he launched the election campaign for 2008 Assembly polls from Budgam, Omar had stated that elections were merely for development, and he wound not contest elections if the Hurriyat Conference and leaders who advocate boycott of polls would promise him that they would provide water, electricity, and bridges to the people. The chief minister spoke on some critical contemporary issues:

Omar said he was concerned about the exploitation of the water resources of the State and intended to make the Jammu and Kashmir State Power Development Corporation (JKSPDC) a listed company on the pattern of Jammu Kashmir Bank. Presently the JKPDC get its employees from different departments on deputation basis. “Before the term of this government is over JKSPDC would be the second listed company from the government,” Omar said. 
“I believe the JKSPDC has enough assets and should be de-linked from the government,” he said, adding once listed it would have valuation that would allow JKSPDC to mobilize resources and raise more money for constructing new power projects. He said the government would be the majority share-holder and will have its presence in the board the way it has in the JK bank.
“It wouldn’t meet the same fate as the JKPCC. There is big difference between a Construction Company and a Power Development Company. The JKSPDC has biggest assets in the form of Baghlihar; it has installed capacity. I believe even in this depressed market if you were to float JKSPDC you will get a very good valuation for your shares, simply because the corporation has the capacity,” the CM said.
Omar said the government, however, would need to bring in the necessary talent and corporatise its functioning before floating it as a listed company. “That would make huge difference to the JKSPDC’s ability to create and develop power projects,” he said.
Omar said the government mulls to set up several power projects in the state sector in future. He said the government has set up a committee to negotiate out of the court settlement on Sawlakote Project, adding several other power projects would be established on the BOOT (Built, Own, Operate and Transfer) basis.

Omar strongly denied presence of Taliban in Jammu and Kashmir, saying the report by the Director General of Police, Kuldeep Khoda, about presence of Taliban, in fact, referred to “proximity of the Taliban to Islamabad and its implications on Jammu and Kashmir.”
“At no point in time has anybody from the government given any indication that Taliban has come to Jammu and Kashmir. Some news channels reported that Taliban were in Kashmir, which is not true. There is no evidence that the Taliban has infiltrated into the state,” he said.
Asked to respond to charges of the PDP that the Taliban threat was invented by the NC government to ensure election boycott, he said, “I would love the PDP to explain how a boycott helps the NC. Even after good turnout of the recent elections I am sitting in the government and PDP is sitting in the opposition. So I think boycott never helps the NC; the NC is a cadre based party and the higher the number of voters the larger would be our vote share,” he said.

He said the government was serious about revocation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). “No chief minister has ever made a statement about its revocation on the floor of the assembly,” he said.
On the PDP’s criticism that NC-Cong coalition government was not visible, Omar said if visibility “is what the PDP did in three years then we prefer to be invisible.”
“We prefer to make less noise and do more,” he said, adding, “In three months we did more than PDP’s healing touch statements in six years. I would like to see one place, one single incident where PDP led government of Mufti Muhammad Sayeed made anybody accountable for incidents of human rights violation or conceded to demands of people or shift an army camp,” he said.
He said his government has proven that PDP is smitten by a habit of lying. “We proved it on the floor of the Assembly. No less a person than the PDP president made an irresponsible allegation that 35 houses have been demolished in an encounter in Bandipora area. Previously such allegations would have gone uncontested and people would have believed them to be truth. I am the first chief minister who immediately sent the local MLA, DG Police, and one of our ministers to the spot, and it was proven that they were in habit of lying,” Omer said. He said his job would be to deliver on the ground and it would not be subservient to what PDP says.
To charges of PDP regarding encouraging political corruption by nominating Ghulam Qadir Pardesi for the upper house, he said the PDP should first answer what they did with Rafi Mir and Nizamuddin Khatana. “If anyone talks about the political corruption PDP at least shouldn’t be the one to talk about it,” he said. Unlike the PDP, he said the NC represents all regions and doesn’t indulge in double talk. “In Valley PDP talked about revocation of land transferred to the Amarnath Shrine Board and in Jammu Mufti Muhammad Sayeed gives press conferences and says PDP was never interested in cancellation of the transfer of land allotment order,” he said. “One statement in Jammu, another in Srinagar over the same issue. Somewhere he is telling lies. Either he is telling lies in Kashmir or in Jammu,” he said.
“The PDP is extremely uncomfortable with the growing acceptability of this government in the state as well as in Delhi. The credibility this government gained due to its strong stand on the unfortunate killing of two civilians in Bomai dealt a serious blow to the PDP’s credibility,” Omar said.
He said the relations between New Delhi and the state were harmonious, and that was reflected in the quick response by defense and home ministries on the Bomai incident.

He said the government’s performance would improve due to right to information bill that has been amended by his government. He said the Act would make the government more accountable to people. “Every department has to make charter about its functioning. If we found they are not performing we will look into it,” he said, adding, people would demand more accountability from the government.
He however refused to comment on whether the rise in pay scale after implementation of the sixth commission would be linked with the performance of the officials. “If we see people are not performing we would do what we need to do,” he said.
He said the deputy chairman of the planning commission and other members of the commission had fruitful interaction with the State government. He said the planning commission however can’t approve the plan given that the central government is functioning on the vote of account. “After the parliamentary elections our plan size would be determined, and we will go with full budget,” he said.

Asked why NC conceded all the seats to its ally Congress in Ladakh and Jammu and confined itself to the Valley, he said, “The congress would find it very difficult to win these seats without the NC’s support.”
He said the NC was not in business of hoodwinking people by getting into alliance then going for friendly contest. “The NC continues to be in three regions. Whether we fight elections for parliamentary seats or not,” he said. He said in the course of discussion we arrived at what is the most optimum and best decision for the coalition. “We could have disagreed over Ladakh and fought a friendly contest, but that would amount to fooling people. Being in an alliance demands propriety,” he said.
Asked in other regions regional parties are more assertive with the Congress, he said the State of Jammu and Kashmir shouldn’t be compared with Bihar where parties have sharing arrangements for 40 seats. “Here we have only six seats,” he said.

He said most of the leaders arrested during the summer of 2008 or during the election boycott have been released. “We aggressively follow the policy of reviewing Public Safety Act detention cases and releasing the detainees,” he added.
Asked why the pro-freedom leaders have been restricted to their homes when you were talking about giving them a level playing field during the assembly election campaign, he said, “There is a level playing field. But it is not level playing field if you start asking people to throw stones. There are also responsibilities,” he said. 
Asked government was releasing people whose sentences under PSA were already quashed by the High Court, he said the Review Committee constituted to review these cases has recommended the release of other PSA detainees, too, and several detainees whose cases are still pending in the court have been released.

The Chief Minister said the Mughal Road had been opened for brief period and a convoy of jeeps already traveled over it. He said work on road was in progress and it would be completed in time. Simultaneously, work on other roads including Simthan Road, Doda-Desa-Kapran road linking Kishtiwar and Doda districts respectively with the valley would be started soon. He said relying on Jammu-Srinagar road that gets closed often was not prudent. “You will see much greater connectivity between the Valley and other parts of the state at the end of the term of our government,” he said.

Promising to pump funds for developing Srinagar city, Omar said water logging was a major problem in the city that would be tackled. Besides improving electricity distribution and checking power theft, traffic management would be improved and a satellite city for Srinagar would be developed, Omar said. These projects would be taken when the funds become available, he said. He said the Government has given right portfolios to the right people.  He however insisted that no district would be neglected in any sector. “We will pay particular attention to the road connectivity to the remote and far-flung areas and we will give due attention to all districts of the state,” he said.

The chief minister said that the government was going to improve the functioning both the Medical Colleges of the State. Asked why the GMCs are not being governed under the MCI rules and run through SROs, he said health was crucial sector and the government would do whatever it can for its improvement. Asked about ad hocism in the SKIMS, GMC and Directorate of Health, he said, “We have certain things particularly with the case of Directors of Health of both Jammu and Kashmir. The guidelines that have been set are such that it makes a reasonable choice very difficult and we are streamlining the guidelines based upon which a director can be appointed,” he said. He said there will be no further extensions of the Director Health Kashmir. He said government would come up with the guidelines and once the guidelines in place; it would be making appointments to these crucial points.

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