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PM's grant to SOG leaves Sayeed red-faced

By Mukhtar Ahmad in Srinagar
August 30, 2003 03:08 IST
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While Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed wants to disband the Special Operations Group, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, it seems, has other ideas.

On Friday, Vajpayee announced a Rs 250 million grant, spread over five years, to the SOG.

Sayeed's People's Democratic Party-Congress coalition government had announced its intention to disband the SOG, considered as the vanguard of anti-terrorism operations in the state.

Disbanding of the SOG was the main poll promise of Sayeed.

The Union home ministry, however, believes the SOG has been doing a commendable job in tackling militants in the valley.

The statement issued by the prime minister in Srinagar after a three-day visit said, "Provision of Rs 25 crore at the rate of Rs five crore per year for next five years for incentive schemes for Special Operations Group personnel. Government of India has approved this, the Jammu and Kashmir government has been asked to implement it and claim reimbursement."

The Centre, according to the statement, has also approved Rs 5 crore for training and weaponry to Jammu and Kashmir Voluntary Force, a new counterinsurgency force.

There is also an increase in the ex-gratia relief to the next of kin of the Special Police Officers -- from Rs 125,000 to Rs 200,000.

The renewed allocation also makes provision for better weaponry to Village Defence Committees that had been raised to combat insurgency at the village level.

The statement said, "The state government has initiated the process of providing better weaponry on a selective basis and funds to the tune of Rs 1.25 crore have been released to Assam Rifles for providing 2500 self loading rifles (SLRs) to Jammu and Kashmir Police for use of VDCs."

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Mukhtar Ahmad in Srinagar