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HindustanTimes Thu,21 Aug 2014

Omar takes measures to ramp up NC prospects in assembly polls

Toufiq Rashid, Hindustan Times  Srinagar, May 22, 2014
First Published: 22:24 IST(22/5/2014) | Last Updated: 23:39 IST(22/5/2014)

Drubbing in the parliamentary polls has Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah necessitated taking what he calls a 'series of corrective measures' to woo his voters back.

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One of the steps was lifting the four-year-old ban on short messaging services (SMS) on prepaid phones in place since the summer agitation of 2010. The decision was soon followed by cabinet approving a proposal of giving jobs to families of those killed during law and order problems-like stone-pelting, street protests and scrapping of a job recruitment policy.

Around 117 youths were killed in street protests in 2010. The ban was put in place as the government feared that rumours were being spread through the SMSes which made controlling the situation difficult.

Abdullah announced the decision in a late evening tweet on Tuesday, the day he had announced his plans to scrap 'the new recruitment policy' -- the three-year fixed pay scale job policy in the state.

"On a separate note in continuation with the corrective measures based on the mails from thousands of youth, I've ordered the lifting of the SMS ban," Abdullah wrote on microblogging site twitter.

The decisions got approval of cabinet on Wednesday. The three-year-old ban on SMS, which the NC government had claimed was a policy decision by central government was lifted as Abdullah felt that with other services, like WhatsApp, the ban was irrelevant.

The lifting of ban will benefit millions of prepaid subscribers in the state as more than seventy percent users have prepaid services in Jammu and Kashmir. The BSNL which is the biggest service provider has 4.75 lakh prepaid subscribers compared to one lakh with post paid connections.

"It's good news for me as I don't have a smart phone and don't have messaging services like WhatsApp. But the problem is it's still very expensive, they are deducting Re 1 per SMS as of now," said Wasim Ahmad, a postgraduate student from Kashmir University.

The decision, however, was criticised by many as `too late'. ``The world has moved on since the ban, the move is worthless. You get an internet pack for Rs. 10 these days,'' said another student who did not want to be named.

Calling the step a "corrective measure", Abdullah said that the decision was based on the mails from thousands of youths he had received, and more such decisions were likely to come soon. The step is seen as a part of series of such steps likely to be taken in the run-up to the upcoming assembly elections.

"This is based on mails I've received from thousands of youths spread across the length and breadth of the state over the last two days," he said in another tweet.

Speaking to Hindustan Times, Abdullah said, "I have got feedback from thousands of youths and surprisingly a very few were abusive. I have read more than thousand mails in which youths have listed their grievances. The steps taken are based on that feedback''.

Omar had given a designated email address (gupkar@gmail.com <http://gmail.com/>) to people asking them to list reasons for the party's defeat in the Lok Sabha elections. The National Conference had lost all the seats it had contested in the Valley including, the prestigious Srinagar seat considered to be the family's bastion.

Lifting of ban on SMS comes after cabinet scrapped the recruitment policy. According to the policy in place since, the new appointees were given full salary only after completion of five years in the service.

The policy, which was approved by the state cabinet in 2011, new appointees for Class-III and Class-IV posts were paid fixed monthly salary equivalent to 50% of the basic pay (pay band + grade pay) for the first two years.

The policy was widely criticised as daily wage labourers were getting more salary than the "new government employees".?

In a separate decision, Abdullah also got the cabinet approve a proposal of providing jobs to families of victims killed during law and order problems, like stone pelting or protests.

According to sources, the families will be entitled to a government job besides Rs. 4 lakh compensation. The compensation was generally given to government employees or civilians who died in militancy-related incidents. Government is now planning to add the words 'victims of a law and order problem' to the clause.

On whether the steps taken are too late, Omar said, "As they say it's never too late. After the drubbing we have got in the elections, it's peoples' verdict that they are dissatisfied with certain policies of the government. If we still do nothing it will be disregarding the people," he said.

Regarding critics saying its desperate attempt to bounce back, he added, "There are people who regardless of what I do will continue being dissatisfied, so they don't matter to me".

 

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