With majority of stake holders up in arms against the proposal of the Indian army seeking re-notification of Central Kashmir’s biggest meadow–Tosha Maidan for 20 years–Chief Minister Omar Abdullah Tuesday constituted a high powered committee under the chairmanship of the Chief Secretary to re-examine the short term extension of the ranges while also considering alternate locations.
According to PRO Northern Command Lt Col Rajesh Kalia, Lt Gen Sanjiv Chachra during the meeting clearly stated “Most of the Field Firing Ranges, required for operational capability building for troops, are due for notification. While we have shifted our firing points to meet the needs of local population , we are willing to look at alternate sites should they be offered”, Gen Chachra said.
Responding to the points raised by the army commander CM stated that we recognise and appreciate Army’s operational, training and strategic requirements and conveyed a proposal to set up a high level committee under the State Chief
Secretary including Army and State Government representatives to re-examine the short term extension of the ranges while also considering alternate locations.
During the civil -military liaison meeting, which was held after a gap of four years Omar also agreed to extend the ex gratia relief to soldiers who lay down their lives in the service of the nation in counter terrorist operations in the state to those martyred on the Line of Control (LoC) and to J&K domicile soldiers who lay down their life in the Line of duty in operations in other states of the country.
He also agreed to remove the distinction in Ex-gratia amount for soldiers belonging to J&K and those belonging to other states. The CM also kindly agreed to the Army’s proposal of providing financial assistance to all World War-II Veterans and their Widows at the scale of Rs. 3000/- per month.
The Civil-Military Liaison Conference (CMLC) was also attended by Tara Chand, Deputy Chief Minister of J&K, Lt Gen Sanjiv Chachra,General Officer Commanding-in-Chief Northern Command, Senior Commanders/ Staff officers of the Northern Army and high ranking officials of the State administration.Before the start of the meeting Army Commander welcomed the CM and other Civil and Defence officials and mentioned that while the formal CMLC was being held after four years, the State govt has always been very responsive to requirements of the Armed Forces. “The volatile Internal Security (IS) sit in the State has been effectively controlled due to the Proactive and concerted efforts of all Security Forces (SF) & Civil Administration”, he said.
The General Officer, who has always held the welfare of the Ex-servicemen (ESM) and Veer Naris close to his heart, requested the CM and State administration to address the rehabilitation of ESM on priority and help the serving Soldiers, Veterans & Veer naris in finding a speedy solution to their problems.
The Army Cdr said that he had ordered a comprehensive audit of the Army’s land holdings & requirement in the entire state so that only essentially required land is retained and in the process a total of 12 buildings have recently been vacated by the Army and another 8 buildings would be vacated very shortly.
The Civil Administration was extremely forthcoming in agreeing to review the case for reduction in VAT for Army CSD items and re-introduction of Duty Free Rum for welfare of troops.
While speaking about the participative contribution of the Armed Forces, Gen Chachra said that he had passed directions that as far as possible the Army’s requirements for food & Supplies, Construction material and contractual requirement for infrastructure will be sourced from within the State to boost the economy, employment and generate growth. He further mentioned that Army would be happy to assist the State administration in fields of education, health and sanitation. “Our future Social projects have been re-oriented to look at small scale projects to meet aspirations of the people residing around our bases”, the Army Commander said.
Gen Chachra said that he would like to place on record the Army’s deep appreciation for the Hon’ble CM for being positive and alive to issues concerning the Armed Forces personnel in J&K.
The Deputy Chief Minister highlighted the issues of farmers whose agricultural land has been affected on account of minefields. The Army agreed to progress compensation to the landmine casualties and people displaced by the construction of LoC fence in the Border Areas. Both the agencies acknowledged the need for working together towards the cause of the people and security of the state.
In his adress CM mentioned that very few states in the country have the type of close relationship that the civil administration and the Army shared in the state of J&K. The Hon’ble Chief Minister was appreciative of the role of Armed Forces in difficult and inaccessible areas and mentioned that they have been complimenting the civil administration in difficult times and the very fact that though the conference has been convened after four years there were not many outstanding issues which clearly depict that there is absolute synergy and regular contact at the operational level.
He mentioned that he had been closely interacting with colleagues in and the civil administration will continue to provide support and assistance to nurture this important relationship. The Hon’ble CM thanked Gen Chachra for taking the initiative in organizing the CMLC and all Defence and civil officials involved in the prepatory work for the conference.
Lt Gen HS Sachdev, SM, Chief of Staff (COS), Northern Command offered the vote of thanks. The meeting ended with the Army Commander presenting a memento on behalf of all ranks of Northern Army to the Chief Minister.