New Delhi: The Jammu and Kashmir administration has claimed that 168 MoUs worth Rs 13,600 crore have been signed for investments in J&K and 6,000 acres of government land acquired for setting up industries as part of a “development strategy” for the union territory after the scrapping of Article 370 last year, but majority of the projects are “still at early stages”.
Also, with the local business still struggling to bounce back, the economy of the union territory has further dipped.
“It is true that these MoUs have been signed and private players are being encouraged to come to the Valley, but the ground situation will not improve unless the government hand-holds local businesses and revives them,” said Sheikh Ashiq Ahmed, president of Kashmir Chamber of Commerce.
In the last one year, the small and medium scale industries, the local businessmen have only been able to do business for one or two months. This is because of the curfew and the restrictions imposed after the Article 370 move, and then the Covid-19 outbreak.
“Our businessmen have just opened shops for a month or two in the last one year. Most businessmen have gone hand to mouth. Unemployment is at its peak because the employers themselves are not making any money,” Ahmed said.
Ahmed along with other traders had even met Union Home Minister Amit Shah to request a revival package for the traders and local business, but nothing was done.
“We requested the home minister for a revival package, but we are very disappointed that nothing has been done. He assured us that the government will help local craftsmen, businessmen, but no aide came,” he said.
“All these big projects are fine. They will happen eventually, but what about reviving local business?” he said.
A source in the J&K administration said a majority of the projects are still at an early stage, but a lot of projects, which started after the Article 370 move, got stalled due to the Covid outbreak.
The first-ever investors summit that was to take place in J&K in May was also cancelled due to the pandemic.
The regional parties, however, said the administration can claim that they have started several projects, but the reality on the ground is different. They also said that most projects were started by previous governments.
Many projects have kick-started
The J&K administration claimed that many of the proposed projects have kick-started in the last one year and several bottlenecks were removed to accelerate the existing projects.
For instance, projects under the Prime Minister’s Development Programme were expedited by increasing the expenditure from 27 per cent to 54 per cent, said an administration official.
The Rambagh flyover in Srinagar pending for over 5 years was completed and opened to traffic.
Work on major roads like Jammu-Akhnoor Road, Chenani-Sudhmahadev Road started and accelerated, and 30 per cent of the Jammu Ring Road was also completed.
The Covid situation, however, stalled a lot of work, which will be resumed once the situation is under control, the official claimed.
“For all these projects, a lot of people were engaged. The work, however, stalled due to the Covid-19 situation. It is leading to a delay, but we hope to pick up soon,” the official said.
The J&K Infrastructure Development Finance Corporation was also set up to complete those projects, which have been languishing for over a decade.
“Under this, 2,273 projects worth Rs 5,979 crore have been sanctioned, 506 projects have been completed, 963 projects worth Rs 2,256 crore are scheduled for completion by March, 2021,” the official said.
He added that hydro projects in the UT have also been sped up. The official further said that two mega projects — Ujh and Shahpur Kandi — which were in limbo for over five decades have been sorted and work started.
‘Most projects are old, started by previous govts’
Although the J&K administration claimed to have made immense efforts to start and sustain development projects in the Valley, Imran Dar, leader of Jammu and Kashmir National Conference, called it a “sham”.
“The promises of the government have fallen flat. They can claim that they have started 1,000 things, but the reality on the ground is different,” he said.
“Whatever projects they have begun were all in the pipeline. Those were not some projects stuck because of Article 370 in place. A lot of these projects were started by previous governments. We were doing better than Gujarat on many indexes. This government should stop fooling people by saying that development can happen only after revoking 370,” he said.
“We do not know about development, but today all small-scale industry owners have been devastated. The farmers are helpless. There are so many encounters being reported. So many youth are joining militancy. Who said things have become better?”
Reforms to encourage ease of doing business
A second senior official in the J&K administration said that they have identified 14 focus sections for investments and are encouraging the same for future projects.
“These are projects in tourism, hydro power, electricity, education, health. For all these sectors, we will come up with specific policies,” he said.
“Moreover, 137 reforms are being carried out to encourage ease of doing business, which will encourage investors.”
In the education sector, seven new medical colleges are coming up, out of which four have started functioning, two will be functional in the coming months and one will be operational in 2021.
Medical seats have also been increased from 500 to 955 in colleges, and 25,000 seats have been added in regular degree colleges.
“All this has been done in the last one year,” the official said.
In the health sector, the official claimed, the government has come up with a universal health policy under which health cover has been given to one crore local residents.
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