With the onset of militancy in Kashmir during 1989-1990, many Kashmiris had to migrate from Kashmir to safer places in Jammu and adjacent areas. According to the data from the Department of Relief and Rehabilitation Government of Jammu and Kashmir, 44,167 registered migrant families live in Jammu. Amongst them, 39868 are Kashmiri Pandit families, 2574 are Kashmiri Muslim families, 1642 are Kashmiri Sikh families, and seventy-eight belongs to other religions.
In 2008 during UPA-2, under the leadership of then PM Manmohan Singh, “The Prime Minister’s Comprehensive Economic Package’’ popularly known as PM Package for Kashmiri Migrants. This policy was one of the significant steps taken by the Government to rehabilitate the Kashmiri Migrants back in Kashmir.
Components of the Policy:
- Special 6000 jobs package for Kashmiri Migrant youth in Kashmir in their ancestral districts.
- Rs. 7.5 lakhs for repairing fully or partially damaged houses.
- Rs. 2 Lakhs dilapidated/unused houses
- Rs. 7.5 Lakhs for purchase and construction of house in a group housing society.
- Monthly cash assistance of 13,000 to each family
- Monetary support, medical allowances, scholarships.
- 6000 transit accommodations are being constructed for PM Package employees in different districts.
The aim of the policy was for the rehabilitation of Kashmiri Migrants through the economic route. The policy’s objective was to provide employment and confidence-building measures for Kashmiri Migrants in Kashmir so that employees would settle back in Kashmir with their families.
The provisions of the policy looked holistic in nature. But the progress of the implementation is languid. It took almost 14 years, from 2008 to 2022, for the successive Governments to employ 5928 migrants out of 6000 vacancies. It is important to note that these jobs were supernumerary in nature, and the employees do not avail of other benefits of permanent employees. Promotions and incentives were not provided to these employees till June 2022. But after the spate of targeted killings in Kashmir and subsequent protests by Kashmiri Migrants. The advisory council of Jammu and Kashmir devised an additional scheme to prepare a seniority list for promotions and incentives.
Another point that needs attention is the agreement signed between the government. Employer and employee of non-transferability means the Kashmiri Migrants who get employment under the said package will not be transferred from their districts. This agreement was signed so the employee could keep serving in their ancestral section, which will build confidence and reconciliation.
In 2022, there were 25 targeted killings in Kashmir of Kashmiri Migrants and minorities, which increased the sense of insecurity among Kashmiri Migrant employees. This led to widespread protest in the state, where the employee demanded relocation from Kashmir to safer places and abrogation of the non-transferability clause. For more than 150 days, the employees have stopped going to work and are in protest, demanding the scrapping of the clause and relocation to safer places from Kashmir.
The monthly monetary relief support of Rs. 13,000/month for each Kashmiri Migrant family is inadequate for the subsistence of the entire family. With the price rise of essential commodities. An average Kashmiri Migrant Family is facing difficulty in meeting their day-to-day needs. The migrant community also demands an increase in monetary support from 13,000 to 20,000 per month per family.
The construction of the transit accommodation is one aspect that demands immediate attention. The announcement of constructing 6000 transit accommodations in 2015 is one of the significant components of the policy; as of 2022, as per the reply to one question regarding the progress of the work by the Minister of State Home Affairs in parliament, only 17% of the construction work has been done.
Due to this, only one-fifth of 5928 employees live in safer transit accommodations. The other employees live in rented flats far away from their place of work, per the report from the Department of Relief and Rehabilitation Government of Jammu and Kashmir.
Suppose we discuss the policy’s fundamental objective for rehabilitating Kashmiri Migrants. As of 2022, one of the RTIs filed to know the exact number of Kashmiri migrants resettled back to Kashmir. The response of the Government is limited to the 6000 jobs provided out of 44,167 families living out in Kashmir. And the Union Government also said that the state government does not have any information on the number of Kashmiri migrants resettled back in Kashmir as of 2022.
There is an immediate need to reconstruct this policy to rehabilitate Kashmiri Migrants. We can observe a wide gap between the policy’s provisions and its success on the ground. It is essential to understand that the security apparatus of Kashmir is critical for this policy to work. The policy’s success demands a discussion with the Kashmiri Migrants and security forces for the roadmap. Here the process has to be decentralized. Right now, the procedure is formulated by the Ministry of Home Affairs. The reconstruction has to be done either by the state government in coordination with urban local bodies of Kashmir or by the department of Relief and Rehabilitation. There is a need to understand the requirements and issues of Kashmiri Migrants and consider the situation in Kashmir.
The Government should scrap the transferability clause and relocate /attach the employees to safer places until the surge of targeted killings is not stopped. The policy should also initiate a new employment package as the 6000 figure for 14 years is too little for complete rehabilitation.
The construction of safer transit accommodations should be done on a war footing. The aim of the Government should be to accommodate every employee. No employee should be left to rent a place far away from their workstation. The increase in monetary relief support should be done immediately, considering inflation.
The Government should set up an interlocutor’s commission to mediate between the Government and the migrant community. Here setting up a commission will ensure dialogue and discussion with stakeholders so that the changes in the reconstructed policies have the provisions from the community itself.
The views expressed in this article are the author's own.