NEW DELHI: The Jammu and Kashmir Government has so far identified only 1,054 Jammu migrant families. Verification to extend the benefits to them is still under process.
The home ministry’s note to the PMO on Jammu migrants mentioned that a package similar to the one given to Kashmiri migrants will be offered to 1,054 identified Jammu division migrant families. The ministry finalised the offer after a month-long consultation with various stakeholders and representatives of the affected families. “Migration started in Doda district in 1990s and subsequently in districts of Udhampur and Reasi. Mass migration took place after the incident of massacres of the minority community (Hindus in J&K) in April 1998 in Prankote (Udhampur) and subsequent incidents in Reasi and Mahore areas of the then Udhampur and Rajouri districts,” the home ministry said.
NEGLECTED FOR TOO LONG
Hundreds of families from Manjakot Tehsil in Rajouri district fled their homes in fear during the ’90s, but due to lack of government assistance, they have been forced to work as menial labourers, said local activist Devinder Sharma. He told The Sunday Standard that some families, which belong to the Scheduled Castes as well as Brahmins, have shifted closer to the cities like Rajouri and Jammu. A total of 1,004 persons from 172 families were forced to flee their homes in Rajouri district.
“I remember some families from Argi village moving to the outer periphery of Rajouri town. But, they did not receive any substantial financial assistance except the monthly rations from the public distribution system. The demand to identify these families and provide them assistance at par with Kashmiri migrants was not implemented despite protests by migrant associations in Jammu,” Sharma added.
CHILDREN OF LESSER GOD
Families that migrated from the hilly areas of Jammu division and registered with the state government have been rehabilitated at 4 places—Jammu, Reasi, Udhampur and Ramban. However, Munshi Ram, a migrant living in Doda said around 4,000 families, or an estimated 20,000 persons are yet to be verified and registered as migrants to avail of government benefits. The Erstwhile Doda Migrant Committee (EDMC), a social organisation which supports the cause of these displaced families, asked the state government in June to register 251 families that had migrated from Doda district in the ’90s and are now living in different parts of Jammu. Of those identified, 154 families, consisting of 745 people, were shifted to Jammu. 659 families consisting of 3,700 persons were moved to Reasi; 158 families of 810 persons in Udhampur and 83 families of 443 persons were shifted to Ramban.
“The J&K government is providing Rs 400 per person per month in cash up to a maximum of Rs 1,600 for each family a month, cash assistance of Rs 300 per animal every month for the purchase of fodder, dry rations of 9 kg of atta and 2 kg of rice per person per month and 10 litres of kerosene per family per month,” the note further added.
Munshi Ram said a family of even two persons cannot survive on the assistance offered by the government. He said a majority of the families did not leave their homes even during Partition in 1947 when tensions ran high in the state. However, fear and exploitation by militants forced the villagers, who would come down to the towns only once or twice in year for supplies, decided to escape.
Rajesh Gupta, the BJP MLA from Jammu (East) agreed that the Home Ministry measures were due for a very long time. “We have decided to treat migrants from both regions equally and it is our policy to ensure they can return to their roots. We are representatives of Dogra culture and it may not survive for long if we continue to stay away,” Gupta added.
Dalip Parihar of Doda district said the government must initiate a verification drive to ensure that the maximum number of migrant families be brought under the proposed scheme.
FINANCIAL PACKAGE FOR RETURN TO ROOTS
The Home ministry’s note sent to PMO stated that a proposal of Rs 91.56 crore was received from the J&K state government on May 12, 2014 for the return and rehabilitation of Jammu migrants to their place of origin. “It is felt that the Jammu migrants can be motivated for returning to their native places permanently if a rehabilitation package on the pattern of Kashmiri migrants is provided to them,” the note said, further adding that the home ministry is in the process of seeking approval of Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) to implement its historical initiative.
The proposed package will include Rs 7.5 lakh as financial assistance per family towards housing, continuation of cash relief, assistance in employment or business ventures, waiver of interest on unpaid loans, scholarships to students and assistance to agriculturists.
Although, the government’s “Return of Kashmiri Migrants” scheme launched in 2008 proved to be a dud, it is hoping that the similar package for Jammu migrants will be a success due to the comparatively peaceful situation prevailing in the hilly regions of Jammu.
The Home ministry has admitted that the progress on implementation of the Kashmiri migrant package has been tardy as only one family has availed the benefit of Rs 7.5 lakh for construction of house. A package of Rs 1,618 crore was announced by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2008 to facilitate the return of migrants and their families to their homes.
At last, the wheels of justice seem to be moving.