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J&K route to rebel rehabilitation

New Delhi/Guwahati, March 6: The Union home ministry has cleared a fresh rehabilitation scheme for surrendered militants of the Northeast.

The new scheme is on the lines of the revised package established in Jammu and Kashmir last year.

The new surrender and rehabilitation scheme, which is more generous and attractive, is likely to be put in place later this year after all formalities are completed.

Last year, the Union home ministry approved the package for Jammu and Kashmir that provides every surrendered militant a monthly stipend of Rs 2,000 for three years and a fixed deposit of Rs 1.5 lakh, which can be withdrawn after three years if the surrenderee exhibits 'good behaviour'.

Also on offer are vocational training and assistance in obtaining bank loans for starting a business. The scheme was cleared at the request of the Jammu and Kashmir government, which initially sought a grant of Rs 3 lakh for each surrenderee but settled for Rs 1.5 lakh.

The revised scheme for the Valley ' also funded by the Centre ' had prompted demands from northeastern states for a similar revision. An official said the home ministry has approved it.

The sources, however, conceded that the fresh package was not likely to convince militants to surrender but was aimed at allaying fears over an uncertain future after laying down arms.

In Jammu and Kashmir, for instance, the number of militants laying down weapons has not risen as a result of the revised scheme.

In 2002 and 2003 respectively, just about 159 and 119 militants had surrendered to security forces in Kashmir. Till early December last year, this figure was around 123. In contrast, nearly 1,060 insurgents had surrendered in the Northeast last year, 710 of them in Assam alone.

Under the current scheme, which began in April 1998, militants who surrender would be lodged in rehabilitation camps for a year, where they would be imparted training in a suitable trade. They are paid a monthly stipend up to a maximum of Rs 2,000 every year.

In a related development, a Bodo Territorial Council delegation will soon leave for New Delhi to hold discussions with the home ministry.

The team will seek a rehabilitation package for around 1,000 surrendered militants of the Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT), which has been disbanded.

Following a tripartite agreement in 2003, no less than 2,682 BLT rebels had laid down arms to join the mainstream.

The government has already launched the process of rehabilitating around 1,300 surrendered BLT rebels by absorbing them into the paramilitary forces and Assam police.

The CRPF will also accommodate 550 surrendered rebels, the BSF 300, the Assam Rifles 150 and state police another 300.

The GOC 4 Corps, Anup Jamwal, said in Tezpur yesterday that the army was imparting vocational training in various trades to surrenderees and helping them start their own self-help groups.

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