Modi announces Rs740-cr relief package for flood-hit J&K

In a Diwali gift for flood-ravaged Jammu & Kashmir, Prime Minister Narendra Modi yesterday announced a package of Rs740 crore from the Prime Minister's Relief Fund as well as other measures for the state.

Modi began his visit to the state at the troubled icy border region of Siachen, where he interacted with troops dressed in woolen battle fatigues.

''It is because of your courage that 125 crore Indians are celebrating a peaceful Diwali in their homes,'' said Modi. ''I am fortunate that as a servant of the nation, I got to see in what circumstances the soldiers have to live here. It is my duty to see that you and your family live in pride.''

The Siachen conflict between India and Pakistan has claimed more than 2,000 lives on both sides since 1984, with most soldiers falling victim to inhospitable weather and altitude-related illnesses rather than actual battle.

A special plane carrying Modi landed at the technical area of Srinagar airport around 2.10 pm where he was received by governor N N Vohra, chief minister Omar Abdullah and members of his council of ministers besides senior officers of civil, military and police.

Later in the day, after announcing the flood relief package in Srinagar, Modi said Rs570 crore would be provided by the centre for renovation of houses, and Rs175 crore for start of immediate renovation work of six major hospitals across the state.

More than 280 people had died in the floods a couple of months back, which had caused an estimated $17 billion in damage to homes and businesses.

The PM told reporters after meeting Chief Minister Abdullah that he was ''seriously considering'' a demand made by people whose houses were damaged by the flood waters that the money for their renovation be directly sent to their bank accounts.

Briefing reporters about the Prime Minister's visit, Union home secretary Anil Goswami said Modi also announced free replacement of books and notebooks to all the children up to primary and upper primary schools.

Modi's visit was marred by a bandh call as well as the aftermath of the floods which slowed down procedures.