By Farooq Wani,
It is now two years since Article 370, which gave a special status to Jammu and Kashmir was abolished, and the state bifurcated into two union territories (UT) of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. This change has facilitated socio-economic development in the new UTs by empowering people, removing unjust laws, bringing in equity and fairness to those discriminated against since ages.
Thus, the marginalised Kashmiris are now getting their due through comprehensive development and this is paving the way for peace and progress as abrogation of Article 370 has enabled benefits of all the flagship schemes of the Centre to reach and benefit the people of J&K and Ladakh.
After removal of Article 370, the central government under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has left no stone unturned to help the people of Jammu and Kashmir to improve their lot. The most important aspect is that instead of splurging money on populist schemes, the center is instead investing in infrastructure and capacity building, which will provide Kashmiris a continuous opportunity to improve their career prospects.
For example, the government has released nearly Rs 80,000 crore under the Prime Minister’s Development Package, of which a substantial amount has been utilized for setting up Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and Indian Institute of Management (IIM). These facilities will go a long way in helping local youth to fulfil their aspirations.
The AIIMS at Samba and Avantipora that were stalled due to land and forest issues have now been cleared for completion. Five new medical colleges at Baramulla, Anantnag, Rajouri, Kathua and Doda have been approved. The government is also making efforts to fast-track stalled projects such as the Shahpur Kandi Dam project that has been in limbo for 40 years. Similarly, work has begun on several other such projects to ensure constant power supply, a crucial factor in the region’s growth and development.
J&K is at the cusp of major advancements and a lot of progress has been made in integrating the state with the country’s overall development agenda. The positive development is that the government isn’t resting on its laurels, but continuing to strive to ensure that the region achieves its fullest potential. This region, which has never been known for its infrastructure, employment opportunities and professional colleges, but now things are set to change.
For the first time after seven decades, the Indian Constitution and all the 890 Central laws are fully applicable to J&K. This has meant the application of 170 more Central laws to J&K, including many progressive laws such as:
· Scheduled Caste and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1954.
· Whistleblowers’ Protection Act, 2014.
· National Commission for Safai Karamcharis Act, 1993.
· Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forests Rights) Act, 2007.
· National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992.
· Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009.
J&K will soon boast of the world’s highest railway bridge over river Chenab that will connect the Valley with the rest of India. This state-of-art bridge, which has a central span of 467 meters, is being built at a height of 359 meters from the surface level and will be functional in 2022.
Some of the other positive developments are:
· The government has introduced an array of insurance schemes including the Atal Pension Yojana in the newly carved Union Territory of J&K and Ladakh.
· Under the new domicile law, all those who have resided in J&K for 15 years or studied here for seven years and took their class 10 or 12 examination in an educational institution in J&K are now eligible for domicile.
Another praiseworthy government initiative pertains to remedying injustice to women. After abrogation of Article 370, women in J&K can now buy real estate and transfer property to children, even if they get married to a non-resident. In addition, many schemes have been launched for empowering women and helping them to earn their livelihood.
Youth has been identified as the center of gravity of the development process. Sustained effort is being made by the UT Govt for creation of skill sets by providing financial support for education, training and entrepreneurship and generation of employment in both the Government and private sectors. The youth have a fixation for government jobs and though this is a good sign, there is a need to promote entrepreneurship and private enterprise so that the youth can realise their full potential.
Towards this, the Government has taken the initiative of giving soft loans and assistance to enhance private entrepreneurship. It has in place schemes like the Seed Capital Fund Scheme (SCFS), Youth Start-up Loan Scheme (YSLS); National Minority Development Finance Corporation (NMDFC) and Women Entrepreneurship Programme (WEP) to extend credit facility to prospective entrepreneurs. The amount extends from Rs 4 Lakhs to Rs 30 Lakhs depending upon the project and the educational level of the applicant. The funding extends to the ratio of 90 % as state share and 10% as beneficiary contribution. A system of “Self Help Group (SHG)” of Engineers has been instituted to facilitate group self-employment in taking projects like Government contracts etc.
Along with public empowerment and welfare initiatives, the center has made a concerted effort to strengthen democratic institutions of the region and usher development through clean and transparent governance. A big victory came in the form of the District Development Councils (DDC) and Block Development Council (BDC) elections.
Development alone cannot bring in results in an environment where structured alienation over several generations is a reality. The response has to be beyond the blinkered thinking of the bureaucracy. It needs statesmanship, good leadership and a humane touch. Necessary course corrections should be carried out to ensure that the desired result is attained soonest and, in a time- bound manner.
There is a new dawn in J&K as the region moves forward to enjoy all fruits of democracy and freedom guaranteed under the Constitution of India. The people of J&K have two options- one, to act wisely and improve their lot by active participation in the development and empowerment process being undertaken by the center, or two, behave immaturely by rejecting and sabotaging the same. The ball is now entirely in the court of the people of J&K and it’s for them to decide whether they wish to make or break their destiny and shape the destiny of the younger generations.
(The author is Editor Brighter Kashmir, TV Commentator, Political Analyst and Columnist. He can be reached at Email:[email protected](dot)co(dot)in. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of Financial Express Online.)