A Beautiful Shift

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SHEIKH ABID

JAMMU and Kashmir, particularly Kashmir has been a topic of debate and discussions for decades, for all the wrong reasons. It is said that one would never come to a definite conclusion regarding the Kashmir conundrum. Almost everyone claims to be an expert on the problems of Kashmir & Kashmiris. One witnesses much ‘expert’ commentary on Kashmir propagated by a number of think-tanks across ideological spectrums, giving their opinions on various geopolitical and ground realities unfolding here now and then.

One popular topic of discussion is the changing patterns of developmental scenario in Kashmir post abrogation, particularly for the last four years. We, at KC, try to break down this complex sounding debate into simple, understandable yet lucid compartments to offer a fair idea about the topic.

Since 2019, the government has undertaken a holistic approach for an all-round development in the UT covering crucial sectors like education, healthcare, employment generation, tourism, industrial growth among others. Let’s have a look at some of them:

  • A governance we so badly needed

Effective governance is the most witnessed change evident to all after the LG administration took over. We have been experiencing one of the finest governances & seamless public delivery process. From a top bureaucratic office of the level of chief secretary to the lowest village level worker or patwari of an area, the public governance institutes have become more accessible, dynamic, open & reachable to a common person which perhaps was not the case before. Activities like ‘back to village’ programmes, regular open public grievance darbars, updation of land records & its digitisation, adhaar updation services, e-sharam/ayushman bharat card (golden card) are seen across the length and breadth of J&K these days.

Besides, the present administration has maintained a clear-cut no-tolerance stand on corruption in any form and its propagators have been booked, irrespective of their political, professional affiliation. This is why we are witnessing a plethora of corrupt government officials, employees getting arrested red-handed and shown the exit door from the services.

Jan Bhagidari, a portal aimed at empowering people, helps them monitor the progress of various development projects and get an overview of the work done. This has ushered in a greater degree of transparency and built more trust in the dispensation.

J&K’s Budget Estimation, Allocation and Monitoring System (BEAMS) has also empowered people as they can apprise themselves of the government projects.

The administration is putting systems in place for time-bound delivery of projects. Whereas earlier just 35 services were online, the figure stands at 625 today.

Similarly, Jammu and Kashmir has achieved a significant milestone in e-governance by providing over 1,028 services in online mode to citizens, institutions and business establishments, surpassing Madhya Pradesh & Kerala in becoming the first in the country to punch its services on e-digital platforms.

Corruption is still a big issue at the lower levels of the government but with more and more services going online and with direct transfer of funds, there is confidence that it will be checked further.

  • A promising curve for the industry

Since Independence, J&K had received private investments to the tune of Rs 14,000 crore only. However, after the abrogation of Article 370 and introduction of the new Industrial Development Scheme, the UT has received investment proposals worth Rs 81,122 crore in the last two years.

This point was also highlighted during the recent hearing in the Supreme Court over the abrogation of Article 370. In almost three years since the Jammu and Kashmir government announced a new industrial policy in January 2021, the Union Territory has received proposals worth Rs 84,544 crore in as many as 42 industrial sectors.

Nearly 18,000 kanals (2250 acres) of land, as against a total 39,022 kanals (4877 acres) sought for setting up key units, has already been allotted across both Jammu and Kashmir divisions. Having said that, these exciting numbers and figures are still debatable and open to interpretations with a condition of being realised and implemented on ground positively.

  • For the sake of public welfare

The J&K administration has done an amazing job with respect to launching of some of the successfully implemented public welfare schemes particularly meant for the upliftment of the poor and marginalised sections of the society. Schemes like Ayushman Bharat golden card of upto 5 lakh of health insurance; Mission Youth catering to various schemes for the youth; Tejaswani and Hausla Scheme for budding female entrepreneurs; Sehat Scheme, Karkhandar Scheme for promoting arts and crafts by strengthening the handicrafts sector of the UT; Muhafiz Scheme for unorganised workers; Mumkin Scheme etc.

There has been a lot of work with respect to empowerment and self employement generation programmes through these schemes in which a good number of beneficiaries spread across age, class, backgrounds have taken benefit of.

  • Fair public employment, finally

Besides, private employment through various self-employment schemes, J&K under UT administration has witnessed historical public employment recruitments in various government departments selected through two major recruiting boards – the JKSSB for non-gazetted posts and the JKPSC for various gazetted posts.

The Jammu and Kashmir Services Selection Board (JKSSB) has filled nearly half of the over 20,000 posts for which recruitment advertisements were issued since 2020 and according to rough estimates, recruitment for nearly 2,000 posts is on currently, which is on at various stages of conducting of exams, verification of documents, and training. Likewise according to official sources, there are around 10,000 more posts identified and currently in the pipeline which will be advertised soon in the coming months. This makes us a witness to one of the biggest, fair and transparent recruitment drives during these years. This is unlike the past when for decades, the erstwhile state went through the practice of those in power appointing their favourites in lower-rung government jobs without holding any recruitment examinations.

  • Tourism in an upward swing

With a record breaking inflow of tourists last year only, J&K has grown immensely in this sector with a growth of 59% as compared to previous years. According to government officials, we had a whopping number of over 2 crore tourists from across the country and the world.

In 2023, Jammu and Kashmir became a global tourism hub, welcoming 2.02 crore tourists and over 50,000 foreign visits. Focus was on various tourism offerings including the MICE tourism with UT hosting key events like the G20 Tourism Working Group meeting. The year 2023 was the ‘year for J&K Tourism’ as was former secretary Tourism quoted as having said.

The authorities are looking at identifying 300 new tourist places in the UT. These include 75 sufi sites, 75 trekking sites and 75 heritage sites.

  • A capital boom

This sector has seen a humungous boom during the last few years with projects worth crores being completed under tight deadlines on stipulated time and thrown open to the general public for use. Some of the worth mentioning projects include the much needed USBRL (Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramula Rail Link Project) – a 272 km long railway line from Udhampur to Baramulla joining the Kashmir Valley with the Indian Railways network.

Similarly various other projects funded by the PMDP package, a new Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) and an Indian Institute of Management (IIM) are coming up in the UT. Similarly, in the field of medical education, two All India Institutes of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), seven new medical colleges, five new nursing colleges and a state cancer institute are being constructed for better healthcare services for the J&K people.

Even as we celebrate these recent developments, a lot still needs to be done to achieve our milestones. We still have a consistent threat of law and order problem prevalent here especially for the non-local and Hindu Pandit community. According to figures, at least 18 Kashmiri Pandits and non-resident Hindus have been killed in Kashmir since the abrogation of Article 370. Likewise, we also need to focus on accelerating more capital infrastructure, infusing more outside private investments, proper welfare-oriented swift governance and smooth and uninterrupted development.

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