Srinagar: The Jammu and Kashmir government has identified 200 kanals or 25 acre land in Budgam district to set up Kashmir’s first Sainik colony, ThePrint has learnt.
The colony, according to a senior J&K government officer, is being primarily set up to provide housing facilities to retired armed forces personnel and their families belonging to the union territory. The colony will also cater to widows and families of deceased personnel of the armed forces.
Three Sainik colonies already exist in Jammu division, but plans to establish a similar housing facility in the Valley didn’t take off earlier due to opposition from political parties and separatist outfits, senior J&K government officials said.
The 25 acre grazing land and its transfer to the relevant authorities will take place after completion of all the bureaucratic processes, central and union territory officials added.
They said the J&K revenue department had been coordinating with the Sainik Welfare Department in Jammu and Kashmir for months. The process to identify land was expedited in October this year when the district administration of Budgam was taken on board to coordinate with the Zila Sainik Welfare Office (ZSWO) in Srinagar.
The Sainik Welfare Department, like the Kendriya Sainik Board at the Centre, functions under the Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare in the Ministry of Defence and essentially looks after the welfare and resettlement of ex-servicemen belonging to the union territory.
The department, among other things, is responsible for implementing various schemes for the benefit of ex-servicemen and their dependents, issuing ex-servicemen identity cards, assisting them in settlement of pension cases and providing them re-employment assistance.
The department in Kashmir has been active in pursuing the J&K administration to establish the Valley’s first colony, sources in central and J&K governments added.
ThePrint reached Shaleen Kabra, principal secretary of the revenue department, through calls and text messages for a comment on the matter, but there was no response till the publication of this report.
‘Establishment of the facility has been pending for too long’
According to a second senior J&K government officer, details of the 25 acre land, including revenue papers, had been forwarded to ZSWO on 3 October after the district administration identified the land on the directions of the J&K government.
On 16 October, the ZSWO sent a communiqué to the revenue department, stating that the land was feasible for the establishment of a Sainik colony.
“The details of the land identified by the district administration had been forwarded by the Zila Sainik Welfare Office, which deemed the patch of land feasible. Now, the Zila office will forward its request for the official transfer of land to the revenue department. The request will need clearance from the Home Department and the office of the chief secretary,” said the senior officer, requesting anonymity.
A central government official said “unfortunately, the establishment of the facility has been pending for too long because of all the misreporting that has been done on the issues”.
“It has been said the government wants to bring in troops from outside and settle them here. It is simply not true. The proposed facility will first take care of ex-servicemen who are natives of J&K. They were state subjects and now domiciles,” he added.
‘Modalities yet to be worked on’
The above-quoted central government official said there are around 8,000 ex-servicemen in Kashmir Valley.
“A lot of retired servicemen live in far-off places like Gurez or Tangdhar. They want their children to become IAS and IPS too. They want their children to have access to better education and opportunities. If they wish to have an accommodation in Srinagar or in districts around it, they should be given the opportunity,” said the official.
“Besides this, there is also the issue of security. (In) Past few years, we have seen at least 3-4 killings of ex-servicemen. Serving personnel were also killed when they went home for holidays. All these concerns are genuine,” he added.
The official said that in Jammu, there are three Sainik colonies — two for ex-servicemen, and one for war widows.
“There should be no issue to have the same in Kashmir, especially given that all these people are from the UT. Furthermore, the ex-servicemen will be purchasing the facilities at government rates. Those modalities are yet to be worked on,” he added.
Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it
India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.
But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.
ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.