Infrastructural development has been accorded much-needed priority in J&K

January 02, 2022
Construction of the Pir Panjal railway tunnel in the Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla Rail Link Project is underway.
Construction of the Pir Panjal railway tunnel in the Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla Rail Link Project is underway.

NEW DELHI — Over the course of the last two years since the Indian government decision to abrogate the Article 370 and repeal the Article 35A, the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir has witnessed development in various arenas: social welfare, infrastructural development and integration into the mainstream as well. Prior to the decision, a separate status for the erstwhile princely state of Jammu & Kashmir had further intensified secessionist tendencies along with widespread oppression of the vulnerable communities in the region. Most of the state control rested with a handful dynastic families that had remained as powerful for the past many decades in the region.

Many rights fundamental in nature and guaranteed to every Indian citizen by the Constitution of India remained out of reach for the common resident of the erstwhile state by virtue of Article 370 and 35A as well. In addition, a large number of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and women were at the receiving end of the backlash and patriarchy unleashed by the larger society as well as the political structures at the disposal of the erstwhile power brokers in the state.

Now, the administration has successfully conducted block development council elections and urban local bodies elections, thus putting a three-tier Panchayati Raj system in place to ensure grass roots development. The ‘Back to Village’ program reaching to the doorsteps of countryside residents and ‘My Town My Pride’ program were launched successfully for the progress and prosperity of city-dwellers amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Infrastructural development has been accorded the much-needed priority after spending more than seven decades in the shadows of other states that grew rapidly. To break the anomaly, the construction work towards the highest railway bridge in the world has already been undertaken. Being built under the Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla Rail Link Project, the bridge on the River Chenab should be able to see completion by the end of 2022.

In fact, there are multiple plans seeking approval for the construction of a corridor transit in and around the Kashmir Valley to expedite trade at the earliest. In furtherance of the same, a Light Metro Rail Transit Elevated Corridor to provide the state-of-the-art infrastructure facilities to those residing in the region has been sanctioned to be completed within a time period of four years. Of the 63 sanctioned projects worth Rs. 80,000 crores, 20 have already been completed while 43 are on track for completion by the end of the year 2022.

In an interesting turn of events, to provide for a linkage between Kashmir and Ladakh and the mainstream trade of the rest of the nation, construction work on the Zozila Tunnel has also taken shape and on a large-scale as well. The tunnel would provide all-weather connectivity, thereby ensuring an all-round economic and sociocultural integration for people who reside in the two regions.

Interestingly, it is on the social welfare front that significant changes have occurred in the last couple of years. In a historic moment, a rural enterprise acceleration program for self-help groups of women has been launched as part of the Jammu Kashmir Rural Livelihoods Mission geared at achieving economic empowerment in rural India. A common cry for help from women in these areas has been that the state has not adequately provided support to rescue these vulnerable few from the clutches of terrorism.

Therefore, the program — SAATH [Strengthening and Mentoring Women Self Help Groups (SHGs) of J&K] — has been tasked with providing mentorship and handholding support to these women through intensive capacity building so as to encourage them to upscale business ventures to an international level. This scheme is helpful in improvement of living standard of rural women, associated with SHGs and which are doing small works.

This initiative aims to teach women such skills and convert their businesses into Higher Order Enterprises. In a short span of time, the unintended but significant consequence of the successful launch of scheme has been the creation of a conducive ecosystem towards entrepreneurship in areas that were dominated by terrorists until as recently as a few years back.

All of us are privy to the fact that only education has the power to uplift a society from its extant position, with health being the solid bedrock on which any progress can be made for a society. Over the last two years, significant advancements have been made in both these sectors with the establishment of 7 new medical colleges in Baramulla and Anantnag with over 1,400 paramedical seats.

In addition, 2 new AIIMS are in the progress of being set up in Avantipur and Samba as well as 5 new nursing colleges and 1 cancer institute. To ensure that school-going children are monitored for ailments in time, the Student Health Card Scheme has been successfully launched by the administration through which more than 8 lakh students have benefited already.

Only such constant monitoring of health condition of children can help the medical staff to understand whether there is an issue with the diet or nutrition or exercise of the particular student. Further, In lieu of the providing opportunities, a scholarship scheme geared at encouraging students belonging to the pre-matriculation age group has been implemented benefitting over 4.5 lakh students in 2019-2020 alone.

For the economic development of the region, the government has come with concrete plan to boost agriculture, infrastructure and the industrial sector. Introduction of unique and innovative programs like e-markets for apple trade and a market intervention scheme was launched to ensure direct payment to cultivators' account that have multiplied incomes for the apple farmers of Jammu and Kashmir.

In addition, there has been cataclysmic change in cultivation pattern, harvesting and marketing to enhance the production and sale of other famous farm products from the region, including saffron, tulips, cherries, and mushrooms. At the same time, the recent geographical indication tagging of the world-renowned Kashmiri saffron will improve its exports and secure its special identity. The government has given much-needed boost to the agriculture, horticulture, sericulture and handicrafts industries in far-flung rural areas of Jammu and Kashmir also.

Jammu and Kashmir had missed IT revolution in India before 2019, is now moving ahead at fast pace in the region, providing easy, smooth and transparent digitized governance, along with other commercial services. The local bodies in the rural areas of Jammu and Kashmir were digitally integrated, allowing government to serve the villagers at their doorsteps.

On similar line, the government has injected fresh energy by establishing IT laboratories and computer-aided learning centers, along with the Knowledge Network Program for the children to access online study. This scheme of digital integration has offered basic health services online to people living in remote countryside, which is proved to be of great help in COVID-19 management efforts. The government has already implemented a mobile application for grievance redressal and digitizing day-to-day activities, such as ration procurement, business and trade registration as well as certification, which have made the life cozy.

Therefore, it seems clear that a new era of governance has kicked in over the last two years with the partnership between Srinagar and New Delhi stronger than ever. Undoubtedly, the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Act has brought in grass roots democratization, social equity and economic empowerment. The all-round administration, holistic development and implementation of schemes in an efficient manner have already helped Jammu & Kashmir chart a steady path towards progress and long-lasting peace. — Agencies

January 02, 2022
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