NEW DELHI: Every 'panch' and 'sarpanch' in Jammu and Kashmir vulnerable to threats from terrorists will get police security and insurance coverage of Rs 2 lakh each.
This was conveyed by Home Minister Amit Shah to a delegation of village heads and panchayat members from Jammu and Kashmir, the visiting panchayat members said on Tuesday.
Shah, they said, told the group of about 20 from Jammu region and Kashmir Valley that the demand for increasing the honorarium of those holding the post of 'sarpanch' and 'panch' will be considered.
According to a Home Ministry statement, on the issue of mobile connectivity and restoration of communications, Shah said the matter would be expedited and a solution found as quickly as possible.
Shah met three delegations on Tuesday -- the panchayat members, the representatives of fruit growers of Jammu and Kashmir and those of people displaced from Pakistan occupied Kashmir.
Zuber Nishad Bhat, a village head from Harvan in Srinagar district, told reporters that the home minister assured them that the mobile phone services in the state will be restored in the next 15-20 days and Rs 2 lakh insurance coverage will be provided to all of them.
Mobile, landline and internet connectivity was snapped in Jammu and Kashmir on August 5, when the Centre announced the revocation of the state's special status and its bifurcation into two union territories.
Shah clarified that the statehood of Jammu and Kashmir would be restored as soon as the situation warrants and asked the representatives to not believe any rumours, the statement said.
"He reassured the representatives that nobody's land would be taken away and government land would be used for the establishment of industries, hospitals and educational institutions. This would not only create employment opportunities for the locals but also enhance tax revenues for the state, which in turn would be used for the welfare of the people," it said.
Shah promised to begin recruitment for various government jobs at the earliest and said the government would ensure merit-based recruitment of at least five aspirants from each village.
Union Minister for PMO Jitendra Singh, who attended the meeting of panchayat members, later told reporters that at least five jobs will be given to youths from each village on the basis of merit.
Mir Junaid, a sarpanch from Kupwara, said they have requested the home minister to provide them security and "he has assured us that the administration will provide us security".
The security will be given to those panchayat members whose threat perception is high, Junaid, also a former president of Kashmir University Students Union, told reporters.
Panchayat elections in the state were held last year after a gap of six years.
More than 35,096 village heads and panchayat members were elected to 4,490 panchayats.
Junaid said Shah assured them that the election to the Block Development Councils will be held in next two months.
There are 316 blocks in Jammu and Kashmir.
"People are happy due to the abrogation of Article 370 as they were intimidated by the Muftis and the Abdullahs in the past," he said.
Minister Singh said a new leadership, free from any dynasty, is emerging at the grassroots level and they are happy about the abrogation of Jammu and Kashmir's special status.
Central funds will reach them directly now, he said.
"The delegation has assured full cooperation in implementing the government development projects and in return the panchayats will get adequate funds under various schemes," he said.
Singh, who is an MP from Udhampur in Jammu, said the delegation members were also assured that their concerns will be addressed.
Nazir Ahmed, a sarpanch from Ganderbal district, said there is complete normalcy in rural areas.
Manoj Pandita, a sarpanch from Pulwama, said the home minister told them that they should visit each village and each household and convey the benefits of removing Article 370.
Ali Mohammad, a sarpanch from Srinagar district, said they were keen to carry forward development work but needed uninterrupted funds.
Bobita Bhat, a sarpanch from Pulwama, expressed similar sentiments.
Neelam Kaul, a sarpanch of Kulgam, said she has urged the home minister to increase the honorarium of Rs 2,500 given to each panch and sarpanch and the home minister assured that he would consider it.
In his meeting with fruit growers from the state, Shah said it was essential to change the atmosphere and bring the people of Jammu and Kashmir to the mainstream, the statement said.
Shah promised to begin the process of block level elections as quickly as possible. He told the representatives, "your fight is against terrorism, as is ours, hence we should ensure an atmosphere of peace in Jammu and Kashmir at the earliest".
In another meeting with representatives of the people displaced from Pakistan occupied Kashmir, he assured them that they are being considered for inclusion in the scheme under which displaced families registered in Jammu and Kashmir are given financial assistance.
All three delegations congratulated Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the home minister for the courageous step of abolishing Article 370 and 35A, the statement said.
Shah informed the delegation of panchayat members that henceforth the provisions of the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendment Acts would be applicable to Jammu and Kashmir and this would serve to empower local governance and panchayati raj institutions in Jammu and Kashmir, it said.