Dawn of a new era
Post abrogation of Article 370, J&K and Ladakh have been the subject of numerous development programmes that seek to bring prosperity and security to the region
Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee, the founder of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh (predecessor of the present-day Bharatiya Janata Party), sacrificed his life spearheading a nationwide 'Satyagrah' (non-violent agitation) demanding complete integration of the state of Jammu & Kashmir into the Indian Union.
Dr Mookerjee had defied the entry-permit order of the Government on the J&K border on May 10, 1953, and courted arrest chanting "Ek desh mein do Vidhan, do Pradhan, aur do Nishan nahi chalenge" (there can't be two constitutions, two PMs and two flags in one nation).
Little would have Dr Mookerjee then realised that his mission would be accomplished when a second-generation party leader from Gujarat will lead the party to power at the centre with an absolute majority of its own.
The NDA government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on August 5, 2019, revoked the special status granted to the state of Jammu & Kashmir under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution enabling people of the state to access all Central Government programmes and laws.
The historic Presidential Order nullifying all the provisions of autonomy granted to the state was followed by another landmark and strategically significant State Reorganisation Act, 2019, dividing the state into two Union Territories – Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh.
Since then the NDA government, over the last one year, has been grappling with a series of challenges on various fronts, including border security, constructive engagement with the international community on the J&K issue and domestic political resistance to converting the State into two Union territories.
And then there was the stupendous challenge of fast-tracking all-round development ensuring peace, prosperity and welfare of the people and providing corruption-free governance in all the three regions.
PM's personal appeal to the youth in the region, particularly the misguided elements in the Kashmir valley, "to be a part of this historic journey and walk together for a greater cause" has shown tangible results on the ground.
With both J&K and Ladakh as Union Territories (Jammu & Kashmir not permanently) directly under the Centre, the Modi government unfolded an ambitious roadmap of peace and progress ushering in a new era of inclusive development and transparent governance in the entire region.
Team-Modi adopted an integrated approach to building state-of-the-art infrastructure and unleashed a slew of fast-track social welfare and employment generation schemes and programmes, especially among the small, medium and micro enterprises (MSME).
Good quality all-weather roads and national highways enhancing the hitherto lacking inter-region and intra-region connectivity has gone a long way in promoting and creating fresh employment opportunities in the post-bifurcation period.
A region-wise performance audit of the promises made, over the last one year, gives a fairly good account although a complete transformation in the landscape of this beautiful region will be on canvas once all the ongoing projects, especially several strategically important national highways, including tunnels in the tough terrains, become operationally capable of coping with extreme weather conditions.
According to Christopher Snedden, a famous Australian researcher and author of several books on Kashmir, the name could have been a shortened form of Kashyap Mir. Tourism has always been the lifeline of the Kashmir economy and the enhanced infrastructure is proving to be a key to its success promoting exports from the valley as well.
The Road Transport & Highways Ministry, with its arms like the NHAI and NHIDCL in concert with the BRO and the State PWD are currently engaged in completing a series of projects which will give impetus to growth and help the startups in establishing producer companies with a focus on the further development of sericulture, cold water fisheries, woodwork, cricket bats, saffron, handicrafts, and horticulture produce. The ongoing projects include Srinagar-Jammu-Lakhanpur Highway; the Qazigund-Banihal Tunnel and Srinagar Ring Road.
The beautiful city of temples, earlier known as Jambupura, was the capital of Raja Jambu Lochan, the brother of Bahu Lochan, who built Bahu Fort on the bank of River Tawi. Jammu with rapidly growing rail and road connectivity, including the Jammu ring road, is getting a huge boost to its economy with flourishing religious tourism and startups in businesses like wood grain work, mills, basmati rice trade, rice mills, carpets, electronic items and electric goods.
Also known as Ladvags, 'The land of High Passes' and, Maryul of Ngari (lowland of Ngari), has its strategic sensitivity. The region has been a victim of step-motherly treatment from the ruling elite in the Kashmir valley.
The Modi government decision to make Ladakh a separate union territory has heralded the dawn of peace, progress & prosperity for the peace-loving people of the region and correction in a regional imbalance in matters of development and economic growth.
Ladakh is witnessing an unprecedented boost to infrastructure development with all-weather roads and highway networks coming up in a big way in difficult terrains and strategic locations. Domestic and international tourism promotion has been given a big push in Ladakh. The sky seems to be the limit with the Central financial packages to Ladakh resulting in phenomenal growth in its farm-based economy through enhanced agriculture and livestock activities. An augmented irrigation facility for horticulture and cash crops has improved productivity putting additional money in farmers' pockets.
Last but not the least, the abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcation of the State into two Union Territories has given the local communities in all three regions greater sense of participation in public discourse. It is discernible with the youth in the valley joining security forces and civil services and excelling in the field of education and sports.
People are coming forward to join hands with local administration in isolating anti-social elements and exposing Pakistan-sponsored attempts at the radicalisation of youth.
The writer is a senior journalist and a member of the Prasar Bharati Board. Views expressed are personal