Why no one in the Valley buys Prime Ministers job sop

Written by Muzamil Jaleel | Srinagar | Updated: Aug 17 2010, 04:37am hrs
There is a reason why Prime Minister Manmohan Singhs assurances of a high-powered panel on jobs and a discussion on autonomy have failed to find an echo on the street here. The PMs latest expert group will be headed by former RBI governor C Rangarajan who is currently the chairman of the Prime Ministers Economic Advisory Council.

This is the third expert committee led by Rangarajan and set up by Singh to look into the same issue over the past five years. Nothing has come out of the first two groups.

The PM reached out to the Valley on August 10. In the five days since he spoke, the protests have not subsided, and the number of civilian deaths has risen from 50 to 57, surpassing the average daily toll since the current phase of unrest began on June 11.

Five years ago, on March 29, 2005, Singh had constituted the Task Force on Development of Jammu and Kashmir, headed by Rangarajan. The groups mandate was to devise a long-term development strategy for J&K. The task force held eight meetings between April 2005 and October 2006. It submitted a 61-page report to the PM in November 2006. Among the key recommendations: transfer of 390 mw Dulhasti Hydel Power Project from NHPC to J&K government, making long-term capacities in Independent Power Producer projects in the power sector, improving road connectivity, enhancement of telecom connectivity, setting up a satellite city and an IT city, and generating employment. Five years later, the Centre has failed to come up with any follow-up action on the recommendations.

The task force report isnt the only one gathering dust.

In May 2006, the PM announced five working groups on a range of themes, from strengthening relations across the LoC to good governance. Rangarajan was made head of the working group on economic development of J&K. This working group reiterated the need to implement recommendations made by the task force, called for prioritising the four-laning of the Srinagar-Jammu highway and the early completion of the Qazigund-Katra rail project. The group called for vacating properties occupied by security forces and upgrading existing vocational and technical training institutions. It suggested inviting the private sector to open high-end IT training institutions in the state. Once again, the Centre did little to implement these recommendations.

J&K finance minister Abdul Rahim Rather said, Our government has been demanding the implementation of the recommendations made by the working group and other committees, including the task force, ever since we took over (in January 2009).

The fate of the recommendations of the other working groups is no different.

The group on confidence-building measures across segments of society in the state, led by current Vice-President Hamid Ansari, recommended repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, saying it impinged upon fundamental rights of citizens. Nothing has moved on that.

The PMs statement that he was willing to discuss autonomy within the ambit of the Constitution also failed to find an echo. During the Assembly polls, the National Conference had come up with autonomy plus to compete with the PDPs self-rule doctrine. Separatists, hawks and doves are not ready to engage in any direct talks with the Centre at this juncture while the principal opposition party PDP sees autonomy as too little.

In fact, the autonomy proposal is seen as a negation of two other recent proposals. The J&K Assembly had unanimously passed the State Autonomy Resolution in 1999, which was summarily rejected by the Centre. The PM-constituted working group to look at state-Centre relations led by Justice Saghir Ahmed then recommended the restoration of autonomy. The Saghir report was submitted last year and the Centre is sitting on it.

PDP spokesman Nayeem Akhtar said setting up of a new committee and promising discussions is a futile exercise. First there was dialogue to create dead ends, now it is these working groups and committees. Instead, they needed to act, he said. They (the Centre) dont have to make any new discoveries here. The real problem is known to them, especially to the Prime Minister himself."