Omar Abdullah govt completes four years
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Last Updated: Saturday, January 05, 2013, 16:17
  
Srinagar: It has been a roller coaster ride for Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah who today completed four years in office as he faced the worst street protests in two decades but put the state back on track with record tourist arrivals in 2011 and 2012.

The National Conference-Congress coalition government headed by Omar Abdullah took charge of the state following elections which took place after the Amarnath land row agitation in 2008 that had threatened to divide the state.

Omar, who became the youngest Chief Minister of the state, was seen as a ray of hope by the youth to bring it out of the quagmire that has dogged it since eruption of militancy.

Burgeoning unemployment rate and lack of avenues in private sector ? thought to be the main reasons for the discontent among the youth ? were seen as major problems to be tackled by the young leader.

However, widespread street protests over the death of two women in Shopian district of south Kashmir due to drowning was the first real test of the new government as allegations flew thick and fast that the women were raped before being murdered.

Although a CBI probe ruled out any foul play in the deaths, the issue had remained alive in public perception.

During a discussion in the assembly over the Shopian incident, Omar lost his cool and announced that he will submit his resignation to the Governor as an MLA from the opposition PDP alleged that the Chief Minister's name had figured in the infamous Srinagar sex scandal of 2006.

Omar tendered his resignation but it was not accepted by the Governor after Union Home Ministry clarified that his name did not figure in the list of the accused.

The biggest test of Omar government came in 2010 when protests against alleged fake encounter killing of three youths by army in Macchil area of the Kupwara district lead to a vicious cycle of violence that left over 120 youths dead in five months.

Omar, as the head of the government, had to face a lot of criticism over his handling of the situation which led to speculation that ally Congress might pull the rug. However, the allies stood together in the worst of the times.

The Chief Minister recently admitted to making a mistake while handling the 2010 summer protests. "I made the mistake of not being seen or heard in the summer of 2010 when the trouble first started," he said in one of his tweets.

Some administrative changes were affected and the new men at the helm, particularly in police, managed to bring the situation under control.

Everyone including those in the Government had their fingers crossed at the start of 2011 as some separatist groups had threatened to launch an agitation in June of that year.

The efforts of the government and army to engage the youths of the Valley through civic action programmes like holding cricket tournament worked wonders as the year passed off peacefully and the Valley saw a record number of tourists.

Despite reservations from some mainstream political parties, the government also conducted panchayat elections in the state after a gap of over three decades which saw astonishingly high voter turnout of over 80 per cent.

Omar had to fend off another attack in autumn last year following death of a ruling National Conference worker in police custody. Haji Mohammad Yousuf was accused of taking money from his party colleagues for securing MLC berths for them.

The Chief Minister confronted the accused who admitted to his guilt. He was handed over to Crime Branch where he died of heart attack. The family of the deceased alleged that he was beaten up at CM's residence before being turned in. A Commission of Inquiry headed by retired Supreme Court Judge Justice H S Bedi was set up to probe the incident. The Commission, which submitted its report last month, ruled out any foul play in Yousuf’s death.

While there were many incidents during 2012 that threatened to subvert the fragile peace in Kashmir, some deft handling of the situations ensured that there was no repeat of 2010.

Two revered shrines were gutted in mysterious fire incidents leading to protests. However, this time the government was hands on by first pacifying the protestors and promising to restore the shrines to original glory.

Dividends of peace were again reaped by people of Kashmir in general and those associated with tourist trade in particular as more than 12 lakh tourists visited the Valley an all time record.

The government also took up several development projects. Roads, bridges, colleges, schools and health care institutions remained the focus. Power sector also got major attention of the government as many projects were tendered that will augment the generation capacity of the state rich in hydel resources.

On the security front, the militants have been pushed to the wall as many top commanders were eliminated during the past four years. It showed in the dropping levels of violence year on year even though the ultras made desperate attempts to carry out some attacks.

The Chief Minister has also been pressing for partially revoking the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which has been opposed by the Army. He had publicly stated that he would ensure that the AFSPA is revoked from the state during his tenure as chief minister.

Having completed four years in office, Omar took the opportunity to thank the people for their support to put back the state on the path to peace, progress and prosperity.

"Thank you ... To the people of J&K for their faith, support and participation in moving the state towards a peaceful and prosperous future," Omar said in an advertisements carried by all major local dailies of the state.

"Four years ago, with hope in our hearts, we pledged to bring peace, prosperity and progress to the state. The journey has been long but we have moved forward because of you, the people of J&K," he said.

The Chief Minister claimed that while the state has been transformed over the past four years and a lot has been achieved, a lot more has to be done in this direction. "Today, four years on, we re-dedicate ourselves to reach greater heights," he said. Omar became the first Chief Minister of the state in the past decade to hold the office for more than three years. Omar's father, Union Minister Farooq Abdullah, was the last chief minister in the state to last full term from 1996-2002.

Omar's predecessors Ghulam Nabi Azad and Mufti Mohammad Sayeed -- held the post for three years each from 2002 to 2008 as part of power sharing agreement between PDP and Congress.

PTI


First Published: Saturday, January 05, 2013, 15:35


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