New dimensions of peace, growth and democratic development have been created in Jammu and Kashmir in the last two to three years. The shift in the political and development process of the region was evident during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the UT on April 24, his first since the abrogation of Article 370.
As PM Modi pointed out, the “special status” was misused by a few political families ruling the state in connivance with Pakistan-supported militants and separatists to deprive the residents of the benefits of the 150-odd pro-people laws enjoyed by the citizens in the rest of India.
Addressing a mammoth gathering in Palli village of Sambh district in Jammu and Kashmir, the Prime Minister flagged off several developmental projects worth over Rs 20,000 crore and noted with great satisfaction that democracy had percolated down to the grassroots level in the region.
The newly launched projects include the Banihal-Qazigund road tunnel that is expected to reduce travel time between Jammu and Srinagar by two hours and a 500KV solar power plant at Palli. Foundation stones were laid for the Rattle and Kwar hydel projects on river Chenab, and the Delhi-AmritsarKatra Expressway, among others. Referring to a change in work culture in the Union Territory, the PM said that there was a time when a Government file from Delhi used to take two to three weeks to reach Jammu and Kashmir.
“Today, I feel happy that a 500KV solar power plant gets commissioned within three weeks and also starts generating power,’’ he said, adding that all the houses in Palli village will now get solar power, making it carbon-neutral and self-reliant in energy.
The symbolism of the gesture was clear. Palli would be the first of many carbon-neutral villages across India, thanks to the solar plant. In addition to increasing Government funding in various development schemes, private companies have shown their keenness to invest in Jammu and Kashmir.
The region has attracted investments worth Rs 33,000 crore in the industries and service sector in the last year, which is more than double the investment of Rs 15,000 crore made since 1947. The administration is expecting a possible investment of Rs 75,000 crore by the end of the calendar year 2022.
In this context, it was significant that top business leaders from the UAE accompanied the PM on his visit. It underlined the backing of industrialists and investors from a leading Islamic block as the Modi Government sought to pitch a new phase for J&K post-Article 370. The UAE firms are expected to propose investments amounting to over Rs 3,000 crore, a first for J&K’s infrastructure development. The Prime Minister’s address from Samba bordering Pakistan coincided with the National Panchayati Raj Day and saw the participation of members of rural local bodies from across the Union Territory as a projection of grassroots democracy.
With insurgency at an all-time low, life in the troubled region is fast returning to normal. Signs of this change are visible in any sphere of life. Rioting on the streets is a thing of the past, Jihadi terrorism has been effectively crushed and separatist narratives replaced by the Indian tricolour. Tourists have started flocking to the Valley, boosting jobs and income.
The Centre has been more than generous in granting funds to J&K for development and poverty-alleviation programmes. Due to a lack of requisite checks and balances as well as accountability, however, J&K’s ecosystem of corruption had thrived for several years. This deprived the ordinary people of the benefits they deserved. Now the Centre is not only ensuring speedy implementation of development works but also cracking down on the corrupt with a heavy hand
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