Two years after the provisions of Article 370 and Article 35A of the Constitution were made inoperable, Jammu & Kashmir is witnessing progress.
A decade ago while analyzing the development scenario in Jammu and Kashmir, the Planning Commission (Now NITI Aayog) lamented the slow growth in the region and attributed it to various factors. It said the climate of armed militancy in Kashmir and low productivity in agriculture and allied sectors has impeded employment and income generation. Poor industrial infrastructure along with the poor investment climate has left the industrial sector in its infant stage.
It mentioned that there has not been a suitable strategy for the potential sectors to achieve higher economic growth. It further mentioned that the lack of good governance and sound fiscal management has also been responsible for the poor economic growth of the state.
It now looks that since 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government has been able to address the ills as mentioned by the NITI Ayog, more than a decade ago in the report entitled Jammu and Kashmir Development Report.
During the past two years, the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir 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 several benefits to the local population of the UT. In the field of IT, several 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.
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”.
Huge financial package
However, in the first four years (2015 – 2019) the J&K government could spend only 37 per cent 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 benefits of the merger of J&K with the Union of India have started to trickle down to the people. 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 per cent household electrification with 24×7 power for all. Household water connections have reached 43 per cent of rural households which is double the national average of 21 per cent, and a road map has been prepared to ensure 100 per cent 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.
Since 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.
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. To provide 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.
Further, the number of terrorist incidents in 2020, decreased by 63.93 per cent as compared to 2019 in Jammu and Kashmir, according to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). The Ministry informed that there was also a decrease in fatalities of Special Forces Personnel by 29.11 per cent and a decrease in casualties of civilians by 14.28 per cent in 2020 as compared to 2019.
The home ministry while giving a brief about annual achievements also said that the Adaptation of Central Laws and State Laws in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir and the Union Territory of Ladakh is one of the key achievements of the Central government.
“Orders were notified for adaptation of 48 Central Laws and 167 State Laws in respect of UT of J&K. Orders relating to adaptation of 44 Central Laws and 148 State Laws in UT of Ladakh were also notified,” MHA said.
The MHA also said that one-time financial assistance of Rs 5.5 lakh per family was provided to 36,384 displaced families from Pakistan occupied Jammu and Kashmir and Chhamb under the Prime Minister Development Package. One-time financial assistance at the rate of Rs 5.5 Lakh per family for the 5,764 families of West Pakistan Refugees (WPRs) in Jammu and Kashmir is also being provided at par with displaced persons of PoJK and Chhamb, it said.
Political head to govern
Last year also Jammu and Kashmir saw a swift leadership change with senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader from Uttar Pradesh, Manoj Sinha, taking over as the Lieutenant Governor (L-G) of the Union Territory.
Sinha, a three-time Member of Parliament (MP), was the Minister of State for Railways and later held independent charge of the Ministry of Communications in the first term of the Narendra Modi government.
There was a strong purpose behind sending him to Jammu and Kashmir after the region came under President’s rule.
Bureaucrats needed political leadership to be answerable to, and they appear to be assuming an exaggerated sense of entitlement in Jammu and Kashmir. The work to be done in the region is still in progress, and it cannot afford to be derailed due to petty infighting.
The Indian Institute of Technology-Banaras Hindu University alumnus Sinha has vast political experience and is adept at dealing with such situations.
He is no lightweight to be bogged down by the manipulative and coercive strategies of civil servants. There was a dire need to put the administrative work in motion without trivial hindrances arising out of personal arrogance.
Jammu and Kashmir were governed by bureaucrats for a considerable period. Despite their commendable work in several fields, common people are not very forthcoming in interacting with such officials.
Sinha’s sober and rational attitude inspires confidence and belief amongst those with genuine grievances as they have a capable government representative to speak to.
Sinha was in the frontline to become the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, before being pipped to the post by Yogi Adityanath. Hence, it is crucial to note that he is a seasoned campaigner, and is someone who can balance both the administrative and political side of issues equally well.
Sinha’s journey within the party started from his Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) days back in the 1980s. As the historically troubled region begins witnessing the numerous infrastructural, educational and residential plans laid outpost the abrogation of Article 370, people will arguably begin to associate him with the developmental plans taking shape.
Moreover, to keep a leader of his stature away from mainstream politics does not bode well for the BJP. His capabilities were very well known when he held two key portfolios in the Union government in the previous term.
The dhoti-clad leader and BHU alumni must have missed out on the chief ministerial post of Uttar Pradesh, but the responsibilities and challenges that come with his current post can have far greater consequences.
Under his Governorship the conduct of district development council (DDC) elections for the first time was indeed a huge and historic success so far as the response of the political parties and the people is concerned.
The people of Jammu and Kashmir especially from Valley consciously exercised their political preference for democracy and idea of India,that encompasses,peace, pluralism,equality,terror free right to ,life and liberty,as against death and destruction inflicted by terrorists on the people of Kashmir.
The idea of India in Kashmir and Plural Kashmir’s ethos is meaningless for Kashmiri society and rest of the world unless the Exiled Kashmiri Pandits are physically repatriated back to homeland with dignity and political-economic empowerment.Exiled population is longing to return.Three decades is a long enough exile.If not now then when? Say the Kashmiri intelligentsia.
The enactment of the law regarding Zila Parishads under the Panchayati Raj system and itsextension to the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir post abrogation of Article 370/35A was a great step aimed at introducing grass-root level democracy and administration. In other words, it means taking the governance to the doorstep of the people living in the remotest corner of the UT.
Though it is being done for the first time in J&K that the three-tier Panchayati Raj stands implemented, yet the people in the UT have responded like mature and responsible citizens and voters in the whole process of elections. The near normal and peaceful election process has added to the happy and satisfactory situation for all concerned.
An overall percentage of 50% voting in the UT despite severe cold, Covid19 situation and the background of the boycott politics in the valley, in particular, is not a mean achievement.
Kashmiri are sick of ongoing terror violence for more than three decades and are longing for peace and peaceful right to life and liberty.
They see India as a promising land of opportunities. people of Kashmir Valley have chosen democracy,the mainstream political narrative and liberal Sufi Islamic way of life and have once again rejected the separatist rhetoric and religious extremism. New Delhi is doing its best to win the hearts and minds of people.Kashmiris on their part have to make extra efforts to defeat terrorism and separatism and create an atmosphere for peace and a new beginning for regaining their land’s lost glory.”