The Valley rises

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Faisal Akhoon

THE Valley, after experiencing decades of violence stared right into a grossly uncertain economy. Things looked really gloomy till a remarkable transformation began to happen following the abrogation of Article 370.

The abrogation, in no uncertain terms, has paved way for greater economic integration with the rest of India, leading to a surge in foreign investment and a conducive business atmosphere. Thanks to the UT attracting significant investment and adopting a robust approach towards infrastructural development, the region is witnessing a new era of growth and prosperity.

Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha proudly asserts that the region has overcome obstacles, paving way for people-friendly policies and fostering a conducive environment for new businesses and industries to thrive. The steps taken by the administration have resonated positively with the locals, creating a sense of empowerment and equal opportunities for all.

Breaking free from the shackles of Article 370 which had long been associated with secessionism, terrorism, nepotism, discrimination, and corruption, Jammu and Kashmir is now witnessing a fresh burst of progress and growth. LG Sinha stresses that his administration’s policies are deliberately designed to empower the youth and all sections of the society, ensuring that every individual gets a fair chance to prosper.

  • Up the economic ladder

After Article 370 was repealed, Jammu and Kashmir became subject to 890 central laws, while 250 unfair state legislations were eliminated, making it more attractive for businesses. Foreign businesses, such as the Lulu Group, Apollo, EMAAR, and Jindal, have already made significant investments in the region, signalling their confidence in the new opportunities.

In 2021, the UT attracted investments amounting to USD 2.5 billion, a testament to its vast potential and business opportunities. Prime Minister Narendra Modi also met with delegates from the United Arab Emirates to explore further investment possibilities, with private investment bids topping Rs 38,000 crore.

The Jammu and Kashmir government established a committee to communicate with the Minister of External Affairs, reflecting its commitment towards establishing a framework for increasing manufacturing viability and economic growth. Furthermore, a new industrial development scheme with an outlay of Rs 28,400 crore was introduced which aimed at promoting fresh investment and industrial development at the block level.

One significant step towards self-reliance is the ‘roadmap for poultry development in J&K’, approved by the Agriculture Production Department. This mission aims to put the poultry sector on the path of sustainability, reducing capital flight due to imports. The roadmap is set to create 420 enterprises and generate 4,250 direct jobs in the next five years, fostering growth and self-sufficiency.

The commitment towards empowering women entrepreneurs is commendable, as demonstrated by the registration of 38,000 women-run MSMEs in J&K. Last year, women-owned enterprises received substantial financial assistance under the credit guarantee scheme.

The focus on industrial development has yielded promising results, with an impressive 5,372 investment proposals worth Rs 70,000 crore received over the last two years. Out of these, 1,800 companies’ proposals worth Rs 24,000 crore have been approved, showcasing growing investor confidence in the region.

The establishment of 42 industrial estates, with a special emphasis on MSMEs, further enhances the region’s economic landscape. The administration’s initiative to foster a business-friendly climate has been lauded, as evident from the surge in investment proposals and industrial establishments.

  • An eye on the infrastructure

The abrogation of Article 370 has also given a significant push to infrastructural development in the Union Territory. New roads, tunnels, and other basic infrastructure are being executed at twice the speed as before, resulting in improved connectivity and overall development. Under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, 2,402 km of roads were constructed in the Jammu division, and since August 2019, 3,885 km of roads have been built under the same scheme.

The foundation of the Rs 11,721 crore National Highways project, along with seven new projects, is further enhancing the strategic grid, ensuring all-weather connectivity, and opening new livelihood avenues for the local population. Such infrastructure advancements are expected to boost tourism and business activities, contributing to sustainable development of the region.

  • Up and up goes tourism

The region’s improved law and order situation since 2019 has led to a surge in tourism. The Srinagar International Airport recorded its highest-ever daily flights and passenger footfall, prompting plans to build another terminal to accommodate future growth. Popular destinations like Kashmir’s iconic Tulip Garden and the world-famous Dal Lake are witnessing a high number of visitors, attracting both locals and domestic tourists.

With tourists flocking to the Valley, adventure activities like jet ski-rides have gained popularity, creating more job opportunities for the locals. Jahangir, a jet rider says: “This ride is adventurous and tourists enjoy it. We started it three years ago and since then, the number of tourists has increased. This year, the tourist inflow has been tremendous”.

A tourist shares, “Kashmir is really a paradise and we are very lucky to be visiting and enjoying its mesmerising beauty besides making the most of the thrilling jet ski-riding, gondola in Gulmarg, rafting in Pahalgam and the glaciers in Sonmarg and many other Nature preserves.

The Valley offers everything that can make the day for any tourist and with more development, the experience will only get richer. People don’t need to go to Switzerland or any place in Europe for adventure and relaxation. Kashmir is more than fulfilling”.

Adnan, a hotelier, says: “Every hotel in Kashmir, I think, has been doing great business in the recent times. Hotel bookings are full in the main season and partially in the winters. The paradigm shift in the Valley promises a safer journey to tourists along with better security and obvious advancement. Tourism, particularly in Kashmir, has the capacity to provide better livelihood, if cultivated well, and it could be a strong force against unemployment”.

The Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Department has been promoting rural tourism actively, showcasing the region’s village life, heritage, and culture, enriching the experience for visitors.

Tariq Rasool, an employee with the Tourism Department and posted at Pari Mahal, Srinagar, says: “Everyday, tourists from different regions come here to experience the Valley’s serenity and its heritage architecture. They love it. Our department has recently fixed damaged buildings and areas and is very serious about preserving and showcasing the Valley’s legacy and heritage”.

Well, Jammu and Kashmir’s journey since the abrogation of Article 370 has been one of growth, development, and transformation. With significant foreign investments, enhanced infrastructure, and a booming tourism sector happening, the UT is eager to unlock its vast potential and usher in a new era of economic prosperity and opportunities for all. As the region continues to progress under a framework of stability and strong laws, the economic future looks to get better for Jammu and Kashmir.

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