NATIONAL

Mufti gets assurances from Centre

The Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, with the Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, at his residence in New Delhi on Saturday. — Photo: V. Sudershan  

NEW DELHI JAN. 25. The Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, today received some firm assurances and financial commitment from the Centre for various developmental activities in the State.

In the capital today, Mr. Sayeed had a meeting with the Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, the Human Resources Minister, Murli Manohar Joshi, and the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, K.C. Pant.

From Mr. Vajpayee, the Mufti received a commitment that the much-discussed rail-link to Srinagar would be completed by 2007 and the former would inaugurate a railway station in the Valley during his visit in April this year. Mr. Vajpayee will also lay the foundation stones for upgradation of the Srinagar airport to international standards.The project will cost Rs. 45 crores and the prestigious national highway development project, which envisages connecting the four corners of the country.

Construction of a rail-link between the Valley and the rest of the country has been on the agenda of the Centre for the last three decades and three former Prime Ministers, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and H.D. Deve Gowda, have laid foundation stones at three different places.

The Railway Minister, Nitish Kumar, is also expected to visit the Valley on February 3 to distribute payment to people from whom land had been acquired to lay railway lines.

Another assurance that the Mufti received from the Prime Minister was the restoration of power supply to the State, which was cut by the northern grid this month, due to cold weather.

The State had been facing unprecedented load-shedding, since January 1, due to the power cut.

Mr. Sayeed also discussed with the Prime Minister the issue of exploitation of Jammu and Kashmir's huge hydel power resources, estimated at 15,000 MW. He also brought up the issue of financial closure of the ambitious 950 MW Baghilar hydel power project with the help of Central lending institutions, so as to complete the project by December 2004, according to schedule. The release of Rs. 65 crores for an information technology project in the State was also raised by Mr. Sayeed.

Mr. Joshi told the Mufti that the Centre had decided to release a one-time grant of Rs. 20 crores to the Kashmir University and establish two residential schools in the Valley and one in Jammu.

Stating that such residential schools could help combat "tendencies of separatism" by ushering children into the mainstream through proper education, Mr. Joshi said the schools would be of the standard of the Kendriya Vidyalayas.

With Mr. Pant, Mr. Sayeed discussed various developmental projects and programmes under execution in the State and sought the Centre's cooperation for their early completion.