Srinagar: The people of Jammu and Kashmir were denied development for over 70 years, but after the abrogation of Article 370, the government aims to reach out to every citizen of the union territory and give them their due, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said here on Monday.
The minister inaugurated ‘The Chinars’, Aayakar Bhawan-cum-residential complex, the first permanent establishment of the department of income tax in the UT, at the Rajbagh area here in the presence of J-K Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha.
Sitharaman said around 40,000 people were killed due to violence over the years in Jammu and Kashmir, and a land which is otherwise very peaceful and beautiful has spent so many years in a very “heart-crushing and tragic phase”.
“Now, post the abrogation of (Article) 370, the delimitation commission has also been constituted. DDC polls have shown that people are looking forward to aspirational meeting of their dreams.
“Therefore, I would want to tell you in the context of dedicating this building that it is only a guise that I am doing this, but the larger issue is reaching out to every person in JK, giving them their due which has been denied to them for the last 70 years,” the minister said.
Sitharaman said development for Jammu and Kashmir is something that has been in the wings for a long time but “which has never happened”.
“You see some development here and there, but the consistent pace at which the infrastructure was required, basic materials important for living and also for building the economy such as electricity (were not happening),” she said.
The finance minister said Jammu and Kashmir has a potential capacity of about 20,000 MW electricity generation, and if it realises its full potential, it can do wonders for its economy and development.
The capacity has never been fully exploited, she added.
“Without basic supplies of electricity, for a beautiful state like this, for a potential-ridden state like this, development has always been at its bare minimum,” the minister said.
Referring to the revocation of the erstwhile state’s special status, she said it is important now for Jammu and Kashmir to get that which has been denied to it in terms of facilities and development.
“There is no point if it is kept like a small oligarchy of people holding every resource and denying ordinary citizens,” Sitharaman said.
Common people have aspirations, and every citizen should be given space and that is what is being given post the abrogation of (Article) 370 , she said.
The minister said with the inauguration of the office, there are now 251 principal commissioners of income tax all over the country and 21 in the north-west region.
She also inaugurated works pertaining to Health, Education, Urban infrastructure and disaster management (amounting to Rs 130.49 crore) and also laid the foundation stone for Union Territory (UT) Level Emergency Operation Centre and SCADA control building at Budgam, Kashmir (amounting to Rs 34.88 crore) under the Jhelum and Tawi Flood Recovery Project (JTFRP) during her visit to Jammu and Kashmir.
The sub-projects are part of the Jhelum and Tawi Flood Recovery Project (JTFRP) which is assisted by a credit of $250 million from the World Bank. The project was started in Jammu and Kashmir in the aftermath of the devastating floods of September 2014 which severely affected low lying areas of Anantnag, Srinagar and adjoining districts causing immense damage to housing, livelihoods and roads and bridges. It has been under implementation by Government of J&K as part of Prime Minister’s Development Package (PMDP) for J&K since its effective date of 19.04.2016. The project aims at both restoring essential services disrupted by the floods and improving the design standard and practices to increase resilience.
The high social impact of JTFRP was felt in the COVID-19 pandemic response by the Government of Jammu and Kashmir, wherein an amount of $50 million was allocated and utilized for the COVID-19 response, by activating the Contingency Emergency Response Component (CERC) under the project. Medical equipment worth Rs. 290 crore and 30 oxygen generating plants at a total cost of Rs. 75 crore were procured thereby giving a boost to the health infrastructure to cope with the challenges posed by the pandemic.
In a significant step towards the self –reliance of the artisans of Jammu and Kashmir, many artisan clusters were developed under this project with an objective of reviving the traditional crafts and providing gainful employment opportunities to youth.
One major recent achievement of the project has been the enlistment of Srinagar city in the UNESCO world creative cities network. Srinagar became one of the 49 cities worldwide to join the UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN) under the Craft and Folk Arts category which is a moment of pride for all Indians.