IRCON, a Government of India enterprise, has advertised tender notices seeking tenders for the multi-crore Qazigund-Baramullah railway line in Kashmir from contractors of the Valley alone.
The Jammu and Kashmir Government will lodge a formal protest with the Centre and demand that "necessary corrections be made". This assurance was made by the Health and medical Education Minister Mangat Ram Sharma in the State legislative Assembly.
He said that such a thing was "unacceptable. The state cannot be divided on the regional lines. If the tendering has been done on the basis of particular regions that would have to be reversed and the works open to all regions in the state."
The Valley is out of bounds for all others, including the residents of two other regions of the State- Jammu and Ladakh- as far as these works are concerned, according to a senior official of the construction company.
The tender notice of the IRCON - Indian Railway Construction Company - specifically mentions that the contractors from the Kashmir valley alone are entitled for the works and supplies for the railway track being built there. "This is as per guidelines of the Government of India, that the contractors of the Valley alone should be allowed to bid for the work contracts,” according to Anshuman Sharma, General Manager IRCON, responsible for the construction of 117-Km-long rail link between Qazigund and Baramullah in the Kashmir Valley.
So far, about Rs 1000 crore has been spent on the works in the Valley, Anshuman Sharma said.
Asked why tenderers from the Valley alone are entitled for this particular project, Sharma told Hindustan Times, "this is as per the decision of the government of India so that the security concerns are taken into account and also to ensure that as per that decision the IRCON has been issuing tenders like that."
"It doesn’t entitle the contractors from other regions of the state,” he clarified .
The IRCON tender issued on January 18, published in local newspapers in Jammu and Kashmir, specifies that the “ tenderer should be a local Kashmiri Contractor."
"As a proof of being a Kashmiri”, IRCON has demanded that the “tenderer should have an office in Kashmir Valley and “ the tenderer should be operating in Kashmir Valley and their owner/partner having majority should be State subject of Kashmir Valley."
The state subject term denotes, permanent resident of Jammu and Kashmir, but IRCON General Manager made it clear that for railway track works, only the Valley residents were entitled.
"The idea is that the contractors from the plains should not grab all the contracts," Sharma said. "This is also to take into account the security concerns,” he said.
Jammu leaders have termed this as a "move that would fuel xenophobia in Kashmir”. Jammu Kashmir National Panthers Party leader and lawmaker Balwant Singh Mankotia and Jammu Mukti Morcha NLA Ashwani Kumar have joined hands to oppose this.
"This is not only having economic implications, but also has wider political and social impacts,” Ashwani Kumar said.
"We will mobilize public opinion against it. How the Government run agencies can be part of the discrimination campaign and sow seeds of discord among the peoples of the regions of the state ” Ashwani Kumar said.
These leaders feel that this was "part of a greater design to cause discord among the regions." ."It will not be tolerated and the Government will have to explain why the term state subject was being restricted to the Valley alone,” Mankotia asked.
"At the time when the government is talking of regional reconciliation, such tenders and tendencies exhibit that all the talk of the reconciliation and bridging bridges between regions was a hypocrisy,” he said.
"What is more shocking," he said, "is that when the government has thrown open even class four posts of districts foe all residents of the state, why there should be discrimination in discrimination of works.”
Health Minister Mangat Ram Sharma said that the state government will take up this issue with the Centre and get the necessary corrections made.He assured the lawmakers in the legislative Assembly that this matter would be " taken up at the earliest."
Even senior National Conference leader and former minister Ali Mohammad Sagar, who represents a constituency from the Kashmir Valley, said that this was a " wrong thing". " These works should be open to all people in the state. There should be no discrimination on the basis of regions. Kashmiris, Ladakhis and Jammuities should have equal rights. Our state is one."
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