Modi spends first Diwali as PM with Army in freezing Siachen

Announces Rs 745 crore for flood-hit Kashmir

NEW DELHI/SRINAGAR (TIP): Prime Minister Narendra Modi spent his Diwali morning on October 23 at the Siachen glacier, lauding India’s armed forces and saying “125 crore Indians can celebrate Diwali today and go about their lives in comfort because the jawans guard the borders.” He also tweeted that he was wishing the entire country on the occasion “from the icy heights of the Siachen Glacier & with the brave Jawans & Officers.” This was the third time in less than a month that Modi was using a public holiday to connect with the people.

On October 2, that is Gandhi Jayanti, he launched the Swachh Bharat campaign, and on Dussera, he delivered his first radio speech on the government-run All India Radio. Modi made a day-long visit to Jammu & Kashmir which was hit by floods in September. Addressing troops at Siachen ahead of his visit to the state capital Srinagar, he said all of India was behind them. “As the country’s pradhan sewak, I have the opportunity to be with you here.

I have come to spend my first Diwali as prime minister with you,” he said. “The nation,” Modi said, “sleeps in peace because you are awake and prepared to make every sacrifice.” He said he had come unannounced to the glacier posts but “one does not need to announce arrival when coming to meet one’s own.” Pointing out that jawans had done exemplary work during the floods, the PM pointed to the inhospitable conditions at what has often been described as the world’s highest battlefield. “Till the time someone does not see these icy glaciers, he will not know the way our jawans work in the remotest parts of the country.

Many slept pulling over a white snow blanket. Someone’s body is recovered after 21 years. Don’t know how many such families are there, still waiting for their loved ones,” he said. The first PM in 10 years to visit Siachen, he then tweeted a series of pictures showing him mingling with jawans and sharing sweets and exchanging gifts with them.

In one tweet, he said, “Wished President Pranab Mukherjee a very happy Diwali from Siachen! I am sure this would be among the most unique greetings Pranab Da received.” Indian soldiers control almost all the dominating heights, ranging from 16,000 to 22,000 feet, in the Siachen glacier- Saltoro Ridge region, where more soldiers are killed due to harsh weather and avalanches than enemy fire. Around 900 Indian soldiers have been killed in the region since 1984, though casualties have come down drastically in recent years with India building better infrastructure there. Pakistan has lost even more soldiers in the region.

Arriving in Srinagar in the afternoon, the PM announced Rs 570 crore for repair of houses damaged during the September floods in the state and Rs 175 crore for renovation of six major hospitals which had also suffered damage. He said the financial help would be transferred directly to the bank accounts of the flood-hit. People of the state, he said, had demanded that the aid reach them directly, and he had assured them their demands would be considered.

Making a special mention of children who had lost their textbooks during the floods, Modi said he had directed the authorities to provide notebooks and other books immediately. “I met the locals, businessmen and other delegates and tried to take a closer look at issues pertaining to the flood-hit people,” he said. The J&K government had asked the Centre for financial assistance of Rs 44,000 crore for rehabilitation of the flood-hit.

In Srinagar, the PM met nearly a dozen delegations comprising representatives of political parties (among them the NC and PDP), flood victims and traders’ groups at the Raj Bhavan at Cheshmashahi.At the end of Modi’s visit to the state, home secretary Anil Goswami said the PM had stated that good governance, quick restoration of public infrastructure, revival of economic activity and creation of conducive environment for bringing tourists to the state was the key to bringing back normalcy.

The PM said his visit to Srinagar on the occasion of Deepawali will send out a signal that everything was fine in the valley and this would help promote tourism, Goswami said. The home secretary said the PM had reviewed work related to reconstruction and restoration of public infrastructure and held detailed discussions with Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and J&K state officials to take stock of work on assessment of losses and steps taken for providing relief to the affected people particularly to meet the challenge of the impending harsh winter.

Goswami said the Rs 1,000 crore announced by the PM during his last visit to the valley had been released by the Central government. Meanwhile, the shutdown call given by various separatist leaders, including Syed Ali Shah Geelani, in the valley on October 23 received poor response. While private transport was plying as usual, public transport was partially off the roads. Shops and business establishments in areas such as Rawalpora and Airport Road were open.

No sweets offered by BSF to Pak Rangers on Diwali AMRITSAR (TIP):

In the wake of repeated ceasefire violations by Pakistan along the LoC, the BSF has not offered sweets to the Pakistan Rangers here on Thursdsay on the occasion of Diwali festival. “In the light of present scenario with Pakistan, this time India has decided not to offer sweets to Pakistan on the eve of Diwali Festival,” BSF IG, Punjab Frontier, Ashok Kumar said. The step comes close on the heels of no sweets being offered on the eve of Eid festival by the Pakistani side. The message that India would not offer them sweets was already conveyed to Pakistan during the flag meeting at Indo-Pak Attari border on Wednesday evening, the IG said. There were repeated ceasefire violations by Pakistan along LoC as well as International Border in Jammu and Kashmir recently, he said, adding, therefore, offering of sweets to Pakistani counterparts was “totally out of question”. The two neighboring nations, for the past long time, on reciprocal basis, were following the custom of offering of sweets on various occasions like their Independence Day, besides on the occasion of their scared festivals.

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