28 July 2020
Amidst the ongoing global pandemic, harsh winters early this year and desperate efforts by Pakistan to hinder the peace and development initiatives undertaken by the administration, there is a gradual but steady pace at which the projects have started fructifying in North Kashmir. This much awaited change has not only been welcomed but also has been whole heartedly supported by the Awam. Many infrastructure development projects have manifested in the valley after abrogation of Article 370 and 35A which needs to be highlighted.
Under PM’s Development Package (PMDP), there has been a much needed fillip in the execution of projects pertaining to power, road infrastructure and tourism sectors. Consequently, to ameliorate the miseries of locals, many internal roads in Bandipora and Baramulla districts have been black topped prior to monsoons. Funds worth Rupees 2,000 crores have been released by the Central Government to empower Panchayats and Sarpanches in Jammu and Kashmir (out of which Rupees 1,200 crores has been released after the abrogation of the Article 370), which in turn has led to faster execution of panchayat level development projects like construction of pathways, culverts, improvement of drainage system, guardrails over bridges and other such projects. Further, what is most encouraging in these panchayat level development activities is that specific requirements of the villagers have been given due cognisance while curbing corrupt practices have been checked, funds as high as Rupees One Crore have been directly credited to the accounts of the sarpanches with freedom to plan its expenditure.
To generate employment for the youth and provide basic amenities to the students, a 24,000 square feet incubation centre of Software Technology Parks of India (STPI) has been inaugurated and the foundation of Girls’ and Boys’ hostel in the campus of National Institute for Electronics and IT (NIELIT) has been laid in Srinagar.
Further, implementation of certain new laws will now give impetus to the existing employment opportunities both in government and private sectors like education, health and tourism and thus help to reduce disparity in development vis-à-vis other parts of our country. Apparently, the youth now may not be required to go outside the UT in search of a job, for pursuing higher studies or even for medical purposes.
Knowing very well that Kashmiris & Sports are inseparable, in January this year an indoor sports stadium has been inaugurated in Baramulla.
This has sky – rocketed the enthusiasm of young boys and girls who would now avail this state-of-the-art facility and would not have to travel all the way to Srinagar for practice sessions especially in the snowy winter months and monsoons.
As a consequence of these development projects, the milieu has become aspirational. Now there are growing demands of youths from Sopore and Bandipora for a similar indoor stadium as Baramulla and an IT park akin to the one which is likely to come up in Srinagar.
The dealers in Sopore Fruit Market which transports over 500 apple-laden trucks to different parts of India and Bangladesh every day during the harvest season are now looking forward to the concept of e-marketing. It needs to be noted that there are nearly 300 varieties of apples which are being cultivated in Baramulla and Sopore alone.
By now, majority of the population of the region, especially the youth are convinced that development is the key to a future of their choice, with abundant job opportunities, peace and prosperity. The new narrative inspired by development as the cornerstone, undermines those driven by petty politics, cross border terrorism and violence. A participatory local governance model with active involvement of the youth who account for almost 70% of the population of Kashmir, will be instrumental in this “New Model of Development and Progress”.
Looking at the recent changes, one can only say that it is high time that the marginal section of the Kashmiri diaspora, revisit their centrifugal tendencies like separatism and militancy and adopt a more integrational approach. Kashmiris, spearheaded by the vibrant youth ought to use the turn of events to their advantage by strategically changing the narrative to suit their interests, and not of those conniving across the border. To sum it up the youth in Kashmir today is wanting peace and development and is raring to be part of this progressive march.