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PM raises hope with twin thrusts

Srinagar, April 19: The Prime Minister finally did not let down the people of Kashmir when he announced today an economic package for the Valley.

After sorely disappointing an expectant crowd and state government yesterday, Atal Bihari Vajpayee today unveiled the Centre’s plan to generate employment in the state and boost its tottering economy.

The announcement came at the end of Vajpayee’s two-day visit to the Valley.

He promised 100,000 new jobs in Kashmir over the next two years to tackle unemployment, a major problem in the state.

A special task force, comprising representatives from the Centre, the state, key officials from industry, commerce, banks and financial institutions, would be set up for the purpose. The force would submit its report by June 30, which would be implemented from August 15.

Though the task force will not create new jobs in the government sector, recruitment will continue. The new openings will be in the thrust sectors of tourism, horticulture, agriculture, food processing, handicrafts, cottage and small industries, and infrastructure.

A comprehensive tourism revival plan, too, is on the cards to rejuvenate the mainstay of Kashmir’s economy, which is in a shambles after years of militancy.

A special committee, comprising representatives from the state and Union tourism ministries and local and national tourism industry, will chalk out an action-plan by June 30, to be implemented from August 15.

Around 1,200 houseboats in Dal Lake and 500 hotels in Srinagar will get long-term loans at low interest.

Earlier in the day, Vajpayee made good use of addressing the convocation of the North Kashmir University here by talking peace.

The country’s second prime minister after Jawaharlal Nehru to be the university’s chief guest at the convocation, Vajpayee urged the people to cooperate with the Centre in finding a solution to the Kashmir imbroglio.

There was, however, no talk of any invitation to the separatist conglomerate of the Hurriyat Conference, which has already indicated it will not meet N.N. Vohra, the Centre’s new interlocutor on Kashmir.

The Prime Minister, however, urged the people to talk to Vohra, who is scheduled to arrive here on Sunday for discussions.

He drummed up optimism, saying the visit had reinforced his belief that “light and hope are indeed arriving in Kashmir”.

The Centre pitched in with its share of hope-building by announcing a revival plan by June 30 to implement all viable ongoing power projects. For Ladakh, the Centre will help set up non-conventional energy projects, especially hydel and geothermal.

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