The 800 kanal forest land diverted to SASB against a payment of Rs 2.5 crore remained the property of the forest department as was mentioned in the order, Mr Azad said in a televised interview late last night. However, he said, the order was still on papers as the SASB has not paid any money nor the land was handed over to them. The land was yet to be demarcated and handed over to SASB, he said and regretted the role being played by some parties to exploit the sentiments of the common people.
Mr Azad said he did not want to go in details how and who sanctioned the land to SASB. But, he said, it was a collective decision of the coalition government. The Chief Minister said the land was not sold to SASB as was being projected by some parties but it remained the property of the forest department.
Mr Azad said the government order clearly said the land will be used only for the Yatra purpose. It was also mentioned that only prefabricated structures would be constructed on the land which would be dismantled after the pilgrimage is over, he said.
He said construction of prefabricated structures for the Yatris was felt after more than 250 Yatris died in the 90s due to snowfall.
Later a committee was constituted by the then state government and the Centre. The committee suggested that a board be created for the annual pilgrimage and some structures must be made to avoid any such tragedy during the piligrimage.
Mr Azad said similarly SASB was constituted to look after all the arrangements for the pilgrimage. However, he said because of less number of Yatris, no such need to construct structures was felt in the past. As the number exceeded all previous records, the SASB decided to construct prefabricated structures where the Yatris could take shelter in snowfall or any other natural calamity.
He said after long process, the cabinet decided diversion of 800 kanals of land to the SASB against a rent of Rs 2.5 crore.
But, he said, the SASB has not deposited the money which they agreed to pay as rent to government for the land. No demarcation of the land was done as was clearly stated in the government order. The land was not yet handed over to the Board.
Mr Azad said about ten lakh Kashmiri Pandits, Hindus and Muslim have migrated to other parts of the country and are living there for the past 20 years.
We have made several efforts to bring them back, but failed so far, he said adding when our own people are not ready to come back how was it possible that people from other states will come and live in Baltal where the temperature goes down to minus 15 to minus 20 degree Celsius during winter.
He said even Kashmiris cannot live there in minus temperature, therefore there was no question of any outsider settling there.
About the withdrawal of support by Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from the coalition ministry over the land-SASB issue, Mr Azad said the decision was unwise and regrettable.
Instead of allowing themselves to get swept away, the PDP should have faced the situation to overcome the crisis. Running out from the crisis would not help, he said.
Referring to support withdrawal of PDP from the ministry, he said such crisis do occur in other states of the country when elections are few months away. He said people of the Kashmir valley are very innocent and they do not understand the politics of these parties who exploit innocents for their vote bank politics.
Mr Azad appealed to people to maintain peace and communal harmony and not allow themselves to get exploited by false and unfounded propaganda.
About the violence which has left several dead and scores wounded during the past six days, Mr Azad said the poor and common people who become victims as leaders always dictate things from their houses.
This, he said, is not only in the Kashmir valley, but in other parts of the country that only common people get affected while the leaders enjoy in their houses.
The Chief Minister said he came to Jammu and Kashmir from the Centre with the aim to help people to rebuilt the Naya Kashmir.
I was heading different ministries in the Centre where the annual budget was hundred times more than the budget of the entire state.
Mr Azad said he has enjoyed in the Centre after shifting to Delhi. I have visited about 98 per cent blocks of India, he added.
He said the development projects which were pending for years were completed by his government in double and triple shifts.
However, some leaders did not like it and they again exploited the people.
About his government, he said, he will complete the full three year term. Not a single hour less, Mr Azad said.