Srinagar, Aug 10 (IANS): At a time when India celebrates 75 years of Independence, Jammu and Kashmir completes its three years since the government of India abrogated its special status under Article 370 of the Constitution.
Despite the much-publicised special status of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, it never came up to the universally acclaimed 'Heaven on Earth' status that various poets bestowed upon Kashmir. In fact, the region suffered immeasurably due to insurgency, lack of political will and efforts by the previous state governments to improve the situation.
Though cross-border terrorism is often looked at as a major reason for our paradise having turned into hell, the state leadership surely owes an explanation on the same. After the promulgation of the historic decision to abrogate Article 370 and mainstreaming Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh with status of Union Territories, there have been rapid strides in various sectors such as infrastructure, power, health, education, agriculture, tourism, industrialisation, investment opportunities, skill development, employment and above all, individual security, gender parity, social justice, welfare and empowerment in the region.
Though the country is celebrating 'Azaadi ka Amrit Mahotsav' (75 years of Independence), ironically most of our railway network belongs to the British era. As if to rectify this anomaly, the highest railway bridge in the world has almost been completed over Chenab river under the Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla rail link project at an estimated cost of Rs 1,327 crore.
The visionary and all-inclusive budget in the tune of Rs 1,12,950 crore for the financial year 2022-23 reflects the care for the aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir as the Central government is firmly determined to empower and enable them to lead their lives with peace, dignity and prosperity.
In recent time, a new Central sector scheme aimed at ensuring industrial development of J&K has been approved by the government of India with a financial outlay of Rs 28,400 crore. These are all schemes funded entirely by the Union government and one of the first such industrial incentive schemes to take shape towards the Union Territory as well.
These provide for an incentive at the rate of 30 per cent in Zone A and 50 per cent in Zone B on investments made in plant and machinery (in manufacturing) or construction of building and other durable physical assets (in service sector).
Also, it provides for a 6 per cent capital interest subvention for a maximum seven years on loans up to Rs 500 crore. At the same time, an incentive on the Goods and Service Tax has also been put in place to encourage more such investments in the region.
The government of J&K has reported receiving proposals for investments worth approximately Rs 51,000 crore so far. Moreover, in order to boost industrial development in the UT, the J&K government has already notified the J&K Industrial Policy, J&K Private Industrial Policy, J&K Private Industrial Estimate Development Policy and J&K Industrial Land Allotment Policy.
In conclusion, it is certain that this would encourage substantial expansion as well as proper upkeep of the existing industries in the territory.
Making such expansion possible is the potential construction of a transit corridor in and around the Kashmir Valley. Planned to be completed within the next four years, this would give a significant thrust to better infrastructural facilities for the people of the region who have been deprived largely due to state government's apathy and cross-border terrorism.
The idea with all such schemes is to create jobs to the tune of 5-6 lakh and create a momentum that would help garner further capital investment in the areas of manufacturing and services.
On that front, two significant projects have been successfully functional -- the Qazigund-Banihal tube tunnel on the Jammu-Srinagar-Ladakh National Highway as well as the Z-Morh tunnel between Sonmarg and Gagangir.
A number of more hydroelectric projects have been commissioned which will supply power to the industries as well as add revenues. Special drive has been adopted to improve the agricultural and allied sectors viz. livestock, fisheries, horticulture and sericulture that have enhanced the production substantially. Eventually, the income of the people have increased, boosting the economy.
At the same time, special emphasis and due importance has also been given to the social sector -- J&K has become the first state to devise comprehensive district good governance index.
As per the latest data, the region has been able to perform impressively in the commerce & industry sector with improvements in the agricultural and allied sectors, public infrastructure, women empowerment,welfare and social justice. A record number of development projects were completed in the last financial year with 50,276 projects being completed including construction of about 3,285 kilometres of roads under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana.
Along with these, a rural enterprise acceleration programme for self-help groups of women has also been launched as part of the Jammu Kashmir Rural Livelihoods Mission aimed at empowering rural women of the region.
Government initiatives like SAATH, HAUSLA, UMEED, and TEJASWINI have created a culture for women to become financially independent. With these advancements, the region has been ranked third among all the Union Territories in terms of monthly income of households. Today, women of the region are at the forefront of all entrepreneurial initiatives.
Adding to these impressive statistics is the fact that the region recently carried out its largest-ever recruitment drive, with more than 11,750 candidates being selected from the vulnerable sections of the society. These included a special consideration being given to the widows, divorcees, judicially separated women and orphaned girls.
Under the welfare schemes, the One Nation, One Ration Card scheme has been implemented by Jammu and Kashmir, while the Central government introduced Ujjwala, Direct Benefit Transfer, Saubhagya, and many other schemes here.
The ambitious plan of the Centre to provide clean drinking water to every household by 2024 is going to be realised by August 15, 2022 in the UT. Jammu and Kashmir is the only UT where every person has got the benefit of the Pradhan Mantri Ayushman Bharat Yojana. Under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana - urban and rural - houses are also being provided to the people.
Significant advancements have been made in the health and education sectors as well with the establishment of seven new medical colleges, two new AIIMS, two state cancer institutes and 15 nursing colleges. Intake capacity of 854 seats was added, which includes 600 MBBS, 50 PG courses, 26 BDS, 38 MDS and 140 DNB, as per reports.
The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Jammu, and Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Jammu, have also been made functional. The number of government degree/engineering colleges has increased from 96 to 147.
The hill people are not used to getting the benefits of reservation, but now they are entitled to them. Electricity is reaching every house in Jammu and Kashmir. While preparing the plan for industrial development in J&K, special care has been taken so that those who set up industries in less developed areas get more benefits.
Also, democracy has reached every door in the UT. The elections to the three-tier panchayat system in Jammu and Kashmir were completed peacefully. Today all the eligible citizens of the UT are exercising their rights. These elections marked a new dawn of development in Jammu and Kashmir.
The tourism industry in Kashmir is buzzing. Picturesque and enchanting, Kashmir is cradled high in the lofty green Himalayas and hailed all over the world for its incredible natural beauty. Good governance, reliable security system, and maintenance of law and order in Jammu and Kashmir have assured the tourists and made the destination irresistibly tempting.
The arrival of tourists in Kashmir has broken a decade-old record as more than 12 lakh tourists have visited different places in the Valley this year till June 26. As per the Union Tourism Ministry, around 1.42 lakh tourists visited the UT in February alone. March 2022 broke the 10-year tourist arrival record in Kashmir, signalling that the tourism industry is finally on the path to recovery and back with a bang.
Today an average man of J&K is overjoyed with the wave of developments brought in by the Centre. In the last three years, these initiatives and the approach undertaken till now has created beacons of new hope among the residents of the region, re-affirming their faith in the country and their fellow Indians.
With a strong synergy-driven approach, there is an increasing likelihood of mainstreaming the vulnerable sections of the region along with winning the hearts and souls of all its people. These are clear signs of the times to come for the region with ensuing peace, order and development along with meaningful participation of the people.