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Atal hands incentives to special force

Srinagar, Aug. 29: Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee today belied the claim of chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed that the Special Operations Group would be disbanded by announcing Rs 25 crore grant to the state as incentives to the force over a period of five years.

The People’s Democratic Party-led government had announced that the force would be disbanded, in tune with Mufti’s main poll promise. However, the home ministry believes that the force — considered the vanguard of anti-militancy operations in the state — has been doing a commendable job.

A statement issued here on the departure of the Prime Minister after a three-day visit said the Centre had allocated Rs 25 crore for incentive schemes to the force at the rate of Rs 5 crore per year for the next five years.

“The Government of India has approved this. The Jammu and Kashmir government has been asked to implement it and claim reimbursement,” said the statement.

The Union government has also approved Rs 5 crore for training and weaponry for the Jammu and Kashmir Voluntary Force, which the Centre wants the state to train and give incentives to on a selective basis.

The fund allocation has also provided for an increase — from Rs 125000 to Rs 200000 per person — in the ex gratia relief to the next of kin of special police officers. Most of these officers are given a consolidated monthly payment and are attached to the force.

The allocation also provides for better weaponry to village defence committees, raised here to combat insurgency at the village level. The statement said the state government has “initiated the process of providing better weaponry on a selective basis” and Rs 1.25 crore has been released to Assam Rifles for providing 2,500 self-loading rifles to Jammu and Kashmir police for use by the village committees.

Vajpayee’s statement would put Mufti in a spot as the chief minister has been harping on the disbanding of the force, which has been attracting a lot of flak for alleged excesses.

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