New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a massive outreach to youth, women, government employees and other people in the new Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, seeking to drive home the message that the abrogation of Article 370 will bring them great opportunities in terms of employment, investment and infrastructure development.
This would go a long way in the making of a “new J&K” alongside “new India”, Modi said.
In his 38-minute televised address to the nation, the PM made it amply clear that there was no room for any rethink on his government’s decision, and that naysayers would not be indulged.
“Freedom from Article 370 is the truth… Those who believe in the Indian Constitution will have the right to a good life,” Modi said.
He said Article 370 was a hurdle for the development of Kashmir. “It gave only separatism, terrorism, nepotism and corruption to the people of Jammu & Kashmir. Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh could not develop like the rest of the country. But now, the future of the citizens here will improve,” he said, adding that Kashmir, which was known as paradise on earth, would again “attract the world”.
The PM also talked about timely elections in Jammu and Kashmir, while clarifying that Union Territory status for Jammu and Kashmir was “temporary”. However, Ladakh will continue to be a UT.
Outreach to the youth
Modi focussed on addressing the youth of J&K, in a clear effort to prevent a repeat of past instances of violence and stone-pelting. He said the youth of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh will now get employment opportunities as more state-owned and private companies will be encouraged to set up shop, and vacant posts will be filled up.
“We will start the process to fill all vacant government posts, which will benefit the youth of Jammu and Kashmir,” Modi said.
“The Centre’s priority will be to ensure that government employees and the J&K Police get equal facilities as enjoyed by government employees and police of other states.”
The PM said this will mean that J&K government employees will get to enjoy facilities such as LTC, house rent allowance, education allowance and health schemes.
The Prime Minister’s Special Scholarship Scheme will be extended so that more youth can take advantage of it.
“Local youth will receive employment. Public sector units and big private sector companies will be encouraged to create jobs for the local youth in the state,” he said.
Besides this, Modi said the Army and paramilitary forces will also hold job rallies to recruit local youth.
“Sport training and scientific education will help the youth of J&K to showcase their talent across the world,” he said.
He also urged the Hindi, Telugu and Tamil film industries to shoot in J&K, and emphasised that his government would undertake reforms to make both J&K and Ladakh the biggest tourist destinations in the world.
Addressing the political aspects of the move, Modi said it will result in the replacement of existing “dynasties”, and give opportunities to the youth to participate in the electoral process.
“During elections, SCs, STs and individuals from other backward communities in other regions would enjoy special benefits, but it didn’t happen in Jammu and Kashmir,” he said.
“Democracy in our nation is really strong. But you would be surprised to know that in J&K, there are thousands of people who could not vote in elections or contest them.”
He reassured the people that “your representatives will come from amongst you”, and expressed confidence that the panchayats will do splendid work after the scrapping of Article 370.
“Panchayats are doing a good job in J&K. Thanks to them, development projects have been implemented speedily,” he said.
Pakistan used Article 370 as a weapon
Modi alleged that Pakistan had used Article 370 as a weapon.
“In the last three decades, almost 42,000 innocent people lost their lives. This figure would bring tears to anyone’s eyes. While they lost their lives, J&K and Ladakh didn’t see the development they should have,” he said.
The PM’s statement comes a day after Pakistan downgraded diplomatic ties with India, asked high commissioner Ajay Bisaria to return to New Delhi, and suspend bilateral trade with India. India had withdrawn the Most Favoured Nation trade status from Pakistan in the aftermath of the Pulwama terror attack on 14 February.
The PM also wished the people on the upcoming occasion of Eid-ul-Adha.
“I assure the people of J&K that slowly and surely, the situation will return to normal. Eid is close by and I congratulate the people on the occasion of Eid. The government is trying to ensure that the people of J&K face no difficulties in celebrating Eid,” he said.
“There are a few people who are trying to disrupt the situation, but our own brothers and sisters are giving them a befitting reply. Things will improve slowly and their problems will also be reduced.”