PM announces comprehensive rehab package for KPs, Pak, PoK refugees

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Jammu, Apr 25 (UNI) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today unfolded a comprehensive rehabilitation package for the Kashmiri migrants and refugees, including those from Pakistan and Pakistan -ocupied Kashmir, even as he expressed confidence that India and Pakistan would convert the existing atmosphere of mutual confidence into permanent friendship.

Dr Singh, while addressing a public rally at Akhnoor after inaugurating the 160-meter-long bridge on Chenab river, the largest span for balanced cantilever construction in the country, said the Kashmiri Pandit migrant families who had to sell their property in distress and were desirous of returning to the Valley would be given assistance of Rs. 7.5 lakh each in one go and asked the State government to identify land for setting up a group housing society for them.

He said similar assistance had been decided for the families whose houses had been damaged or had collapsed. The expenditure of temporary accommodation would also be taken care of under this, he added.

The J&K Rehabilitation Council assistance for children of houseless families was under consideration, the Prime Minister informed and added that the State government had offered to provide jobs to 6000 Kashmiri Pandit youth, out of which the Centre would pay salaries to 3000 youth till they were regularized within a decided timeframe.

Highlighting the need for financial support to the Pandit families whose business was affected by militancy, he said assistance in one go would also be given to those with small agriculture land holdings while similar assistance would be provided for rehabilitation of destroyed orchards.

All this, besides incentives under consideration like settlement package for Kashmiri migrants for waiving of interest on loans obtained before migration would be available to those forced to leave their homes after 1989, were being worked out on the principle that everyone had a right to resettle with peace and dignity on the land of his forefathers, Dr Singh said.

Besides this, the Prime Minister also annuonced the acceptance of the State government proposal for a one time compensation of Rs. 5 lakh each in lieu of the sanctioned job to the families whose members had been killed in militancy and other financial assistance for widows and children orphaned by any kind of terrorism.

Government's sensitivity towards the problems facing the Pakistani refugees in J&K was also highlighted when Dr Singh they could not be deprived of facilities (though not being a permanent resident of the State) to lead a prosperous life and accordingly announced that a special package for them was being formulated.

He also addressed the problems of the people who migrated from PoK in 1947. He said on the recommendation of the State government, the centre has earmarked Rs. 50 crore for ameliorating their problems.

Saying that all these developments were a pointer towards improving Indo-Pak relations, the Prime Minister said both countries had realised that misunderstandings should be removed through mutual dialogue. He said the people of the two countries could move forward and convert the atmosphere of confidence into a lasting friendship. He said 1.15 lakh Pakistani citizens were given visas to visit India last year, a figure double than that of previous three years.

Dr Singh said he wanted to see the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad and Poonch Rawlakote roads to be used for trade and travel like Attari-Wagah and Khokhrapar-Munnabao roads. He said triple entry permit was being considered to facilitate this.

The opening of Kargil-Skardu and Jammu-Sialkote roads, bus service on Srinagar-Muzaffarabad and Poonch-Rawlakote and increased cross-LoC travel and strengthening cultural, educational and trade relations also figured in his address.

The Prime Minister hailed the return of democracy in Pakistan, hoping that India and Pakistan could together address social and economic problems like price hike to a great extent.

Terming the construction of the Akhnoor bridge as part of economic reconstruction of J&K being pursued by the Union government, Dr Singh complimented Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and his predecessor, Mufti Muhammad Sayeed for their focused attention on the development of the State.

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