Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president, Mehbooba Mufti Wednesday said the large Gujjar community after having suffered centuries of neglect and exploitation need a focussed and composite development plan to ensure their progress and decent life.
As per a statement Mehbooba while addressing a gathering of community representatives of Gujjars and Bakerwals at Peer-ki-Gali, on the historic Mughal road, has said, “While making efforts to give a push to the development of this most backward section of our society, it has to be ensured that their traditions and environment are preserved.”
Mehbooba has said Gujjars are an important community of the state and their input to economy and cultural variety has been immense, but unfortunately the benefits of progress have failed to reach them. “These innocent people have always been exploited and used as a vote bank and audience for public meetings without ever trying to address their problems of survival, leave alone their issues of development,” she said.
Stressing the need for improving education and health care facilities to Gujjar community, who are spread all over the state and living in far flung places, Mehbooba has said the number of schemes, launched by the Government of India, for their focussed welfare, have in Jammu & Kashmir been derailed by the present government. She claimed that the mobile schools and mobile dispensaries have almost become dysfunctional, leaving the children and other members of nomadic Gujjars without any access to basic education and health care. She said, similarly, the tribal sub plans, approved for the community, have generally been sabotaged by allocating funds on political considerations, which has resulted in frequent suspension of allotment of funds by government of India.
She has also said that the tension and fear along the LoC and borders, which had ended following the ceasefire pact between India and Pakistan in 2003, has returned to haunt the people there among them is the larger section of Gujjar population.
Mehbooba said, “Even though the community had traditionally supported and voted for National Conference, but all key welfare majors, benefiting the community were taken when NC was out of power.” And added the tribal status to the community was granted by Janata Dal led government in 1991, and the NC and Congress were not in power then. Similarly, mega projects like the Mughal road and the Baba Ghulam Shah Badshah University, which are of special significances for Poonch and Rajouri regions having larger concentration of Gujjars, were initiated by the Mufti Mohammad Sayeed led government.”
In contrast to this, she has said, “The present government has failed to construct the model schools sanctioned by the Government of India for tribal students at every district headquarter. Similar is the fate of Gujjar Bakerwal hostels which are in a mess and the special scholarship schemes offered by the government of India to tribal students.” She said the wool and wool products which in the past were significant source of income for the community have suffered a slump in the market as a result of changed customer preferences. The wool board, which was supposed to support prices to sheep breeders, has ceased to function and the government needs to revive the market intervention in wool.
Appealing the community leaders to appreciate the difference between different parties, Mehbooba said it is high time that the people and especially those from Gujjar community, who have been forgotten for decades, assess the performance of NC its allies and the PDP. She said the party has clear vision about solving the problems of all sections of society including the more neglected Gujjars. She said the area opened up with the construction of Mughal road has immense potential for developing tourism. While doing so the party would ensure that young people from the community are provided appropriate skills and financial support to establish hospitality units and find dignified avenues of employment in their own environment and localities.