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Kashmir takes first step to bring back Pandits

Srinagar, Sept. 16: The Jammu and Kashmir government today formally launched the process of bringing migrant Kashmiri Pandits back.

The government has constituted a committee, headed by revenue minister Raman Bhalla and including senior Pandit leaders, to monitor the implementation of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s Rs 1,618-crore package meant to facilitate their return.

“The government wants an early return of Kashmiri Pandits and the committee has been constituted to speed up the process of bringing them back,” Nasir Aslam Wani, minister of state for revenue, said. “We want the Pandits to suggest measures about how fast we can achieve that goal, (that is) the reason (why) we have included various Pandit voices in the committee,” he added.

Around 35,000 families are registered as migrants in Jammu and more than 20,000 outside the state. Most of them are Pandits. More than 15,000 families receive a cash compensation of Rs 4,000 per family in addition to 9kg of ration per person a month.

The Prime Minister’s package envisages financial assistance of Rs 7.5 lakh per family for renovation or reconstruction of houses located in the Valley.

The migrants will also be given temporary accommodation till they complete the reconstruction of their houses. In case any family wishes to stay in their chosen rented accommodation, the government will reimburse the rent.

“The package has also allowed different families who have sold their houses to form cooperative societies and accordingly each member family of the society will be given financial assistance of Rs 7.5 lakh for purchasing land and constructing house,” an official spokesperson said.

Besides, 6,000 Pandit youth will get jobs in the government sector in the Valley.

All the Kashmiri Pandit migrants will continue to get the relief for two years and their children will also be given a monthly stipend.

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