BARAMULLA, Mar 19: Work on half of the 320 flats at the colony for migrant Kashmiri Pandit employees of the Prime Minister's Package in Baramulla district has been completed, officials said. “The new migrant colony at Khwajabagh is being built at a cost of Rs 40.22 crore. We have already spent Rs 35 crore. Ten blocks are ready to be inaugurated,” Deputy Commissioner (Baramulla) Syed Sehrish Asgar said. About 160 flats will be ready for inauguration by the month-end, she added. “A total of 320 flats are to be built. The rest will be completed within two-three months. Steps are being taken to provide other amenities as well and the colony has been built at a safe location,” Asgar said. The official said work on the boundary wall around the colony would also start soon. “The basic focus of the Lt Governor's administration is to accommodate those Prime Minister's Package employees not getting accommodation in existing colonies as soon as possible so that they can freely undertake their professional duties,” Asgar said. The migrant Kashmiri Pandit employees have also expressed satisfaction over the project, which they described as a “good thing”. “It is a good thing that colonies are being constructed but we cannot relate it with rehabilitation. Rehabilitation is a huge process. If all of the migrant employees living in rented accommodations are accommodated in these safe and secure places, then it will be a good step from a security point of view,” said Rohit Raina, a Kashmiri Pandit. Security for everyone has been a major concern for the community, he said. “So, this accommodation is a good component by virtue of which the minority employees would feel secure. We hope it is completed soon. We also appeal to the government to ensure security for all of the minority employees,” Raina added.
Muslims in the area have also welcomed the colony's construction. “The Pandit colony is a welcome step. We welcome our Pandit brothers to live here like we used to, showcasing the age-old Kashmiriyat,” said Tariq Ahmad, a local Muslim resident.
The Kashmiri culture and Kashmiriyat are “incomplete without our Pandit brothers”, he said. “Similarly, the Kashmiri Pandits are incomplete without Kashmir,” he added.
According to the Jammu and Kashmir administration, transit accommodations for the Pandit employees are coming up in Srinagar, Baramulla and Bandipora districts and about 1,200 flats will be completed by December.
The Prime Minister's Package employees had gone on strike after one of their colleagues was shot dead by militants inside the tehsildar's office in central Kashmir's Budgam district last May. The Pandit employees demanded relocation to Jammu till the security situation in the Valley improved. The government, however, said they could not be relocated or transferred as the posts were non-transferable. The government also threatened to withhold the salaries of employees who did not join their duties. It, however, assured that all measures for the employees' security would be taken and they would be put up in secure locations.