Srinagar, Oct 9: Jammu and Kashmir Government Tuesday said 63 persons lost their lives in Tosa Maidan area of central Kashmir's Budgam district due to unexploded shells during the past 48 years. The revelation comes at a time when the Union Defence Ministry has requested JK government to extend the lease of the meadow. But the locals are strongly opposing the same, saying the area has turned into "killing field" due to artillery exercises conducted by Army there.
In response to a query by PDP legislator, Naeem Akthar, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah admitted that 63 fatalities have taken place in the meadow due to unexploded ordnance (UXO) as on date.
"Since 1965 till date, 63 persons have lost their lives and 41 received injuries due to unexploded shells in Tosa Maidan," Omar informed the Upper House in a written reply.
Omar, however, said no case of permanent disability has been reported in the region.
The government disclosed that neither compensation nor jobs have been provided to the families of deceased and injured persons due to artillery exercises.
And not a single penny has been paid as rent by the Army to the Forest Department for using its hundreds of kanals, the government revealed.
Spread over around 3000 kanals of land, Tosa Maidan meadow in district Budgam was taken over by the Army for 50-year lease in 1964 for the purpose of conducting artillery drills in the area. The Army has now approached the state government for extension of the lease as it has made a permanent base in the alpine meadow.
The Home Department admitted that the Defence forces have requested for extension of lease agreement of thousands of kanals of forest land beyond March 2014.
"The case is under examination," the reply reveals.