By Ahmed Sharfuddin
NEARLY two years after the abrogation of Article 370 — a temporary provision in the Indian constitution — the recent All-Party Meet on June 24 this year in New Delhi chaired by PM Modi ushered much hope for restarting the political process in the Union Territory.
Former Chief Ministers Omar Abdullah, who attended the meeting besides other representatives of all major political parties, openly admitted that “It was foolish to demand the restoration of Article 370 of the Constitution”, while Mehbooba Mufti announced that she would not contest the Assembly elections until Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) got back its special status. She claimed that Article 370 and 35A were a means for J&K people to protect their identity and also ensured job security.
Kashmir-based leaders have been claiming that by abrogating Article 370, “everything has been snatched” from the people of J&K. However, the reality seems to be totally different. In fact, J&K has not witnessed a single protest against the decision taken by the Indian government to abrogate Article 370. Neither a voice was raised opposing the move; nor was a reaction against it perceived anywhere. People remained busy with their daily lives as usual.
During the past two years, the UT has been marching on the path of development as a result of the government’s initiatives, which included various developmental schemes executed under the Prime Minister Development Package (PMDP) focusing on individual beneficiaries and reviving long-pending projects lying dormant for several decades by removing the obstacles, through ensuring effective and transparent administration.
Both the Union and the UT governments have been leveraging technology to provide a number of benefits to the local population of the UT. In the field of IT, a number of procedures have been framed such as providing “subsidy on rent” to the outside investors, building two large sizes IT parks (spread over half a million square feet) — one each in Jammu and Srinagar.
Among some other initiatives, the UT administration also released a real estate policy equipped with a transparent bidding process to disburse government-created “land banks” to private developers. The all-around developmental approach adopted by the J&K government has a special focus on developing a network of roads and highways only.
In order to ensure growth in the valley and enable the UT to come at par with the other states of the country, almost all the projects across various sectors that were ignored during the past political regimes, have been infused with new life.
In 2015, a huge package of Rs.800 billion was allocated by the Modi government to the state government for initiating various development projects. PM Modi had expressed his “heartfelt desire” that the J&K government would utilize this grant for the welfare of the Kashmiris and convert J&K into a modern, prosperous and progressive place. While allocating the grant, Modi had stated that “Not only our treasury, but our heart also beats for the people of Kashmir”.
However, in the first four years (2015 – 2019) the J&K government could spend only 37 percent of the huge financial package, under which several developmental works were to be completed by the end of 2020.
According to the official figures, only 18 out of a total of 63 projects could be completed with the help of Rs300.49 billion that was released till March 31, 2019, for J&K. In 2020, the parliamentary panel had expressed dismay over the slow pace of work under the package.
While remaining in power for nearly 70 years, Kashmir-based politicians misled the common people with slogans like self-rule, autonomy, etc, but forgot to address people-centric issues despite the magnanimous central government’s monetary grants meant for the development of J&K.
The so-called special status of J&K deprived people of the benefits of the centrally sponsored schemes and the progressive laws that were devised by the Indian parliament.
For example, the reservation laws for the weaker sections of the society were not applicable in J&K and gender bias had encroached upon equality in property rights for men and women in cases of marriage outside the erstwhile state.
On the eve of the second anniversary of the abrogation of article 370, Jammu and Kashmir is a changed place now. The benefits of the merger of J&K with the Union of India have started to trickle down to the people. Articles 370 and 35A deprived outsiders from buying land in J&K and thus repelled outside investors. As a result, Kashmir didn’t witness much industrial growth.
However, after Aug. 5, 2019, the J&K government received investment proposals worth Rs.150 billion from around 40 companies from sectors like Information Technology, Defense, Renewable Energy, Tourism, Skill, Education, Hospitality, and infrastructure.
During the past two years, the J&K government has achieved 100 percent household electrification with 24×7 power for all. Household water connections have reached 43 percent of rural households which is double the national average of 21 percent, and a road map has been prepared to ensure 100 percent coverage of piped water supply to all 10816 million rural households by December 2021.
The Indian government in February 2020 approved Rs60 billion for a multi-purpose irrigation cum power project in J&K’s Kathua district. From 2014, National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) has been in charge of power projects to overcome the acute shortage of electricity in J&K.
In September 2019, Union Power Minister R.K. Singh and then J&K Governor Satya Pal Malik jointly inaugurated 15 power projects and laid the foundation stone for 20 others worth Rs.100 billion. The formation of Kashmir Power Development Corporation Limited (KPDCL) and Jammu Power Development Corporation Limited (JPDCL) has been helping J&K to become self-reliant in the power sector. All these facts contradict Mehbooba Mufti’s claim that J&K has lost its identity.
Since 2019, the government has undertaken a holistic approach for all-around human development in the UT covering crucial sectors like education, healthcare, employment generation, tourism, industrial growth among others. With the aim of providing quality education to Kashmiri children and youth, the government has established hundreds of schools and 50 new educational institutions offering 25,000 seats to students, launched scholarship schemes benefitting more than half a million students so far.
Funded by the PMDP package, a new Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) and an Indian Institute of Management (IIM) are coming up in the UT. Similarly, in the medical education field, 02 All India Institutes of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), 07 new medical colleges, 05 new nursing colleges and a state cancer institute are being constructed for better healthcare services to the J&K people.
J&K’s transition into a Union Territory restored the confidence of the people in the Indian democratic scheme.
Kashmir-based leaders, including Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, need to understand that no government at the center would even think of rolling back Article 370 and there are no takers for their rhetoric that they will get everything back. J&K is prospering and people have already associated themselves with “New India” where they know that their future is secure and they will grow. (Article courtesy Saudi Gazette)