In last 4 years, picture of growth pockmarked by targeted terror, discontent

In last 4 years, picture of growth pockmarked by targeted terror, discontent

IANS Photo

Srinagar, August 13 (IANS) After the abrogation of Article 370, the thrust of the Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha-led administration has chiefly been on development and equitable opportunities to the lesser privileged members of the society.

After the reorganisation of J&K following abrogation of its special status and bifurcation into two UTs of Ladakh and J&K, reservations were announced for Gujjars/Bakarwals under the ST quota and also for the Scheduled Castes under the SC quota.

In the 90-member J&K Assembly which was reframed after the delimitation commission made its recommendations, nine seats have been reserved for the STs and seven for the SCs.

Recently, the Central government announced more reservations to include Paharis, migrant Kashmiri Pandits, refugees from Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) and the least privileged Valmiki community.

Another significant development has been the inclusion of socially and educationally backward members of the society under the overall OBC category.

These reservations are expected to go a long way in ensuring that the lesser-privileged members of the local society get a fair deal in employment and decision making.

Development has been the other major thrust area of the Lt Governor-led administration. Allocations for roads, bridges, smart city projects for Jammu and Srinagar cities, preservation of ecology by protecting forests, water bodies and sanctuaries of wild animals and birds have received a boost in terms of funds earmarked for these sectors.

Tourism has been the biggest success for the local administration and till July 2023, over 1.22 crore visitors had visited J&K this year and this does not include the pilgrims of Mata Vaishno Devi shrine and the Amarnath cave shrine.

Hoteliers, taxi drivers, tour and travel operators, Shikarawallahs and houseboat owners on the Dal and Nigeen lakes have made respectable earnings during the last two years.

Other beneficiaries of tourist influx are shawl weavers, handicraft and paper machie artists in addition to those engaged in the carpet industry to some extent.

The Tourism Working Group meeting of G20 member countries was successfully held in Srinagar this year.

The G20 delegates, who came to Kashmir for the 3rd G20 Tourism Working Group Meeting, called it a unique experience and appealed to tourists around the world to visit Kashmir.

Some G20 delegates were seen roaming across the markets, entering different shops and talking to the local residents. This happened despite threats from militants that the meeting will not be allowed.

These are all feathers in the cap for the L-G-led administration, but all has not been so rosy in J&K after the abrogation of Article 370.

Stone pelting and public protests have disappeared, but militancy continues in both the Valley and the Jammu region.

Terrorists ambushed and attacked an Army vehicle in Poonch in March and managed to kill six soldiers before decamping with their weapons.

Three Army soldiers were killed in the Valley early this month during a cordon and search operation in Kulgam district of the Valley.

Non-local labourers were killed at different places by the terrorists this year despite the claims of normalcy in the Valley.

Militancy has emerged as a major problem for the security forces in Rajouri and Poonch districts of Jammu division. The fact that both these districts are border districts only makes things more serious.

Dilbag Singh, J&K DGP, agreed that militancy is not completely rooted out although it has been brought under control to a large extent.

Public discontent over officers turning a blind eye to their day-to-day problems is noticed in both Jammu division and the Valley.

Bureaucrats are accused of behaving as if they are answerable to none. This inspite of the fact that the anti-corruption bureau (ACB) headed by IGP-rank officer Anand Jain has been regularly raiding and arresting government employees wherever they ask for gratification to address public grievances.

In the absence of an elected government, the public outcry against alleged bureaucratic high handedness does not always get redressal.
Without public representatives, people’s woes often go unheard and unaddressed.

Members of the urban local bodies (ULB) at the level of cities and those of the panchayats at the level of villages are not proving to be as effective as a minister or an elected legislator would in getting redressal of public grievances.

A major problem with the elected members of the ULBs and the panchayats is that they are not politicians in the strict sense of the word.

The knack of a politician as a people’s representative and a non-politician seems to be the possible reason for ULB and Panchayat members not succeeding in replacing the MLAs.

The abrogation of Article 370 has legally made it possible for any citizen of the country to buy land in J&K, settle here and cast his/her vote to elect public representatives. Jobs can also not be legally denied to those living outside J&K.

The fear of the locals of losing their identity through some sort of a demographic change has prompted the governments in J&K and Ladakh to announce protections for owning land and the right to employment for the locals only.

Such a protection cannot be expected to continue forever in light of the fact that if a resident of J&K and Ladakh can own land and get a government job outside, how long can the same be denied to outsiders?

While trying to underplay all the achievements of the administration, political parties like the regional National Conference (NC), the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), J&K Apni Party, Congress, Peoples Conference (PC) and others have been playing up the failures of the L-G-led administration in order to keep their political constituencies intact.

The fear of losing land and jobs to outsiders is not something that concerns the Kashmiris alone, the Buddhists and Muslims of Ladakh, and the Dogras of the Jammu division are equally concerned about retaining their identities -- religious, ethnic and regional.

In fact, the slogans for a separate Dogra state carved out of Jammu mainland and parts of Himachal Pradesh have gained more currency after the abrogation of Article 370.

While the common citizen is worried about losing his land and the claim on government jobs, the business community and those belonging to the upper classes of the society are haunted by the fear of losing out to big business houses those could set their eyes on J&K as a virgin destination for large investments.