Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday said that the previous year has been a year of a new development journey for Jammu and Kashmir adding elections will be held there once the delimitation exercise is over. “Development has reached every village in Jammu and Kashmir in the past one year”, Modi said while delivering his seventh consecutive Independence Day speech from the iconic Red Fort in India.
Modi’s remarks were widely welcomed by over seven million Indian expatriates living and working in the Gulf states. “This one year is a year of the new journey of development for Jammu and Kashmir. This one year is the year of the rights received by the women and the Dalits in Jammu and Kashmir. This one year is also the year of a life of dignity for the refugees in Jammu and Kashmir,” Modi said.
To this end, it is important to note that Jammu and Kashmir will further receive at least 25 development projects worth an estimated cost of Rs 25,000 crore by March 2021. After his visit to Kashmir recently, India’s Union Minister Piyush Goyal said that several positive changes have taken place in terms of development in Jammu and Kashmir in the last one year which reflect return to “complete normalcy”.
Elections have been held to block development councils in October 2019, the first ever ‘Khelo India’ winter games were held in March 2020, schools re-opened, new educational facilities are being established, there are provisions of better healthcare with new health facilities coming up, infrastructure development has taken place and long pending projects have been completed, he said, listing the positive developments in the union territory in the past one year.
On August 5 last year, the Indian government announced its decision to withdraw special powers of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcate the state into two union territories. To a question on whether India has briefed friendly countries on Jammu and Kashmir around the first anniversary of the Centre’s decision to revoke the special status of the region, the Indian foreign ministry said Indian envoys in various countries keep meeting their interlocutors and briefing them.
“During their briefings, they speak about the socio-economic changes and the development that has taken place in J&K. Briefings are given on important steps taken by our government in the sectors of education, health and infrastructure development and in other sectors which have brought about a change in the lives of the common people,” said the statement released by the India’s Ministry of External Affairs recently.
The statement said that Jammu and Kashmir will get at least 25 projects worth an estimated cost of Rs 25,000 crore by March 2021. Minister Goyal asserted that development work has gathered pace in Jammu and Kashmir, especially after 18 June 2018 when the erstwhile state came under Governor’s rule. He also described Jammu and Kashmir as a “jewel” of the country and said the Indian government would come out with an industrial package for the Union Territory soon and expressed hope that it would attract large amounts of investment to the valley.
The Minister for Railways and Commerce also announced that Kashmir would be linked with the rest of the country by train by December next year. “I am very happy at the progress (of development) that I have seen on the ground and I am sure that in the days and months to come this process will continue relentlessly. We will soon come out with an industrial package and we hope to see large amounts of investment coming to Kashmir,” he told reporters at the Jammu airport before returning to Delhi recently.
He was part of the second batch of seven Indian union ministers who reached Jammu and addressed a series of public meetings and inaugurated various projects in different districts. Besides Goyal, other Union ministers who visited different parts of Jammu as part of the week-long outreach program included Smriti Irani, Mahendra Nath Pandey, Arjun Ram Meghwal, V Muraleedharan, Anurag Thakur, Jitendra Singh, RK Singh and Ashwini Kumar Choubey.
Goyal inaugurated a flood protection project, an indoor stadium and various roads completed under Prime Minister’s Grameen Sadak Yojna, besides addressing a public gathering in Akhnoor on the outskirts of Jammu. “Jammu and Kashmir people have become the monitors of development and with their participation, it is reaching to the grass-roots level. The work on the railway bridge over Chenab river, which was facing slow progress over the years, has gathered speed and for the first time the allocation of funds was utilised fully,” he said.
The minister said the prime minister gave his nod when more funds were demanded to speed up the work of the railway bridge which will link Katra and Banihal towns in Jammu and complete the railway track from Baramulla in north Kashmir to Kanyakumari. “After the completion of the railway line, the whole country will get connected. Anyone travelling from Kanyakumari to Kashmir can feel proud…the bridge is an engineering marvel and our engineers and workers are doing a great job by building the world largest bridge,” he said, adding “we will continue the pace of work next year and are hopeful of connecting this vital 111-km railway track by December 2021”.
He said the union ministers get encouraged when they visit this “sacred land”. Referring to various development projects that were completed after the fall of the erstwhile PDP-BJP government, he said many development projects which were left incomplete over the past many decades witnessed fast-paced work under the administration of a lieutenant-governor. “I understand that people want improved services, impartiality in development works and high-speed development, accountable government and information about the work being done,” he said.
“In the past five years, we had the ability, each one of us would go to the northeast and the very presence of all of us helped generate so much enthusiasm that the entire landscape in the North East is now transformed and we would wish to see the same transformation journey and progress and development in Kashmir,” he said.
The situation in Jammu and Kashmir is calm and has returned to normalcy as the Indian government has been extending all support to help the people with new welfare projects and plans. A statement released by the Indian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that “lives of hundreds of thousands of men and women across the Kashmir valley have been transforming for the better by innovative and diligently implemented programs adopted by the new union territory.”
“These include schemes for the old-age pension, merit scholarships for students, supplementary nutrition for lactating mothers and pregnant women, and for keeping thousands of children safe and healthy staying at public and private orphanages,” said the statement. Also, all the residents can reap the benefits of a comprehensive and free medical health insurance. The result has been a phenomenal rise in the happiness index in the region, which has been in the news for violence all these years.
Ever since the erstwhile state was reorganized as two union territories, one that of Jammu and Kashmir and another of Ladakh, on August 5, 2019; a flurry of new social welfare schemes have been pursued with diligence by the respective local authorities. The Union Territory celebrated the first years of its foundation on August 5 this year. The majority of the beneficiaries include senior citizens, young students, women, and orphans. Even transgenders can now avail of pensionary benefits from this year.