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Cong says, J&K economy collapsed due to restrictions; BJP describes post Aug 05 period ‘most peaceful’

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Parliament debates J&K UT Budget

New Delhi:  Targeting the government over restrictions imposed in Jammu and Kashmir since August last year, the Congress on Wednesday said the economy of the region has collapsed due to the measures and demanded immediate release of former chief ministers Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah.

Initiating a discussion on the budgetary proposals and demand for grants for the union territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh, Congress member Manish Tewari urged the government to “open ears” and “listen” to the voices of people as he claimed a “dangerous situation” is developing there.

He said that social peace is important for economic development of a place.

Tewari alleged that the decisions of August 05, 2019 to abrogate provisions of Article 370 of the Constitution, which gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir, and divide the state into Union territories, have demolished the economy.

He said that growth of key sectors, including agriculture and tourism, are declining.  “It will be better if the budget for Jammu and Kashmir could have been discussed in the Assembly,” he said, adding the August decisions are a “tragedy” for these union territories.

Citing data of Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry, he said there was a loss of Rs 18,000 crore. “…USD 2.4 billion worth of economy was lost after the decision of August 5-6, 2019,” he said, adding agriculture sector has lost Rs 10,000 crore in last seven months.

Similarly, he said, apple farmers earned Rs 6,500 crore in 2016-17 and after the imposition of restrictions only 50 percent of harvesting could be done.

He said that the tourism industry, which is the biggest after agriculture, has “totally collapsed”.

Tewari said that tourist flow too has impacted as it was estimated that about 21 lakh tourists will come to Jammu and Kashmir but till July 2019, the figure was 5.21 lakh.

Over 5.6 lakh jobs are also impacted in the sector and about 50,000 jobs are hit in the carpet sector due to closure of restrictions on Internet services.

Noting that maximum budget has been allotted to the Home Affairs department, he said, “…this is an unsustainable model, it will not work.”

These decisions have not been taken keeping in view “diplomatic” strategies but due to “narrow thought processes”, he said.

On the abrogation of Article 370, he said the matter is sub-judice in the Supreme Court and “I expect a positive result from that”.

Tewari said that “one thing is clear” from these decisions that “the government want the territory of Jammu and Kashmir and not the people”.

He said that this decision was implemented by deploying additional 40,000 paramilitary force personnel, detention of 5,161 people and imposition of the stringent Public Safety Act (PSA) on 609 people.

“We do not know how many people are in jail in different parts of the country…I demand from the government to put a list informing about the number of people from Jammu and Kashmir who are in different jails,” he added.

He also said that although Lok Sabha member Farooq Abdullah has been released, two former chief ministers — Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah — are still under detention.

“I demand immediate release of two former chief ministers…PSA is completely unconstitutional and I condemn this action of the government,” he said.

He said Internet closure of over five months in the union territories were relaxed only after the order of the Supreme Court on January 10.

However, he said the Internet services have not yet resumed completely and only 2G services have been started. “We seek detail answer from the government on this,” he added.

Intervening, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that terrorists’ use Internet to spread fear and threaten people.

Tewari said that terrorism is not a new phenomena and previous governments had dealt with the menace and “this cannot be an excuse to close internet services”.

He added that closure of the services has impacted children a lot and as many as 11,308 schools were closed in seven months.

“This is a big damage from the government’s decision,” he said, adding judiciary too has collapsed in the union territory and “this is the biggest tragedy”.

He added that since August 5-6, 2019, as many as 459 habeas corpus petitions are pending. “So what kind of country we want to make?” he said, alleging courts are not listing these petitions.

Further Tewari said that now the government seems to realise that the August decision was a “mistake”.

Participating on the discussion, Jagdambika Pal of the BJP said the decision has led to development of the union territories. He said that now no one can dare to hoist flag of Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir.

He alleged that Pakistan approached against this decision to UN and the US taking “views of Rahul Gandhi (Congress)”, but they stated that it was India’s internal matter.

“Pakistan is now keeping quiet but Congress is still raising the issue,” he said, adding several projects worth crores of rupees are now under different stages of development in Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.

He said bids are being sought for 13 airports and it will give a boost to the tourism sector.

He claimed that Delhi riots of last month were pre-planned and Pakistan’s ISI hand was also there and “you should be ashamed of this”.

A Raja of the DMK criticised the government’s decision on Jammu and Kashmir. Concerns raised by Opposition parties on Jammu and Kashmir have not yet been resolved, he said.

“This budget discussion is just ceremonial and not in true spirit because we are not Kashmiris,” Raja said.

He added that a state cannot become prosperous if social harmony will not be there.

He said that Home Minister Amit Shah has assured and promised good administration and corruption-free society, but it has not yet been fulfilled completely.

The Centre on Tuesday presented a Rs 1-lakh crore Budget for Jammu and Kashmir for 2020-21, and said the “highest ever” allocations reflect its commitment to make the Union Territory “a model of development”.

Meanwhile, union minister Jitendra Singh said in Lok Sabha on Wednesday that there has not been a more peaceful eight-month period in the militancy-hit region than the one since August last when Article 370 was nullified.

Intervening during a discussion on the budget for Jammu and Kashmir, he cited development figures to assert that new dreams and aspirations have emerged in the region after it was brought under the Centre’s direct rule.

Amid opposition members’ attack on the Modi government over the detention of former chief ministers Farooq Abdullah, now released, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, Singh hit out at them, saying they are not worried about over 40,000 people who have lost their lives in the last 30 years of militancy there but only bothered about two-three families.

The number of detainees in the union territory is the least right now in the last 30 years, the Udhampur MP said.

Some people say, Singh claimed, that things remained under control in the erstwhile state after Article 370, which gave it special status, was rolled back and it was brought under the Centre’s direct rule by being turned into a union territory because they were detained, in a reference to the former CMs.

As the opposition objected, he said he was only airing the view of a section of people who considered these leaders as “potential troublemakers”.

“Prophets of doom have been proved wrong. That is their agony. It was said earthquake will follow and volcano will erupt,” he said.

The GST collection from Jammu and Kashmir has since then gone up by 13 percent and excise duty by 7.5 percent while 60,000 new pensioners have been enrolled into various schemes, he said.

While only 1,008 new houses were built under the PM Awas Yojna in 2008, 18,534 were built in 2019, he said, adding that fund utilisation there has gone up by 48 percent.

If this according to the opposition is “bad condition” as far as Jammu and Kashmir is concerned, then let such a condition remain there, Singh said in a jibe at the opposition, claiming that over 50,000 new jobs have been created.

“The unemployment of youths will go away soon but I cannot make this guarantee about a few families,” he said.

Some UTs do not have single AIIMS but Jammu and Kashmir has two AIIMS and eight to nine medical colleges, he said.

“New dreams, new hopes and new aspirations have taken birth there under the leadership of Modi,” he claimed, noting that the prime minister spent his Diwali after coming to power in 2014 in Kashmir with flood victims and is going to be in Ladakh, which was part of the erstwhile state and is now a UT, on International Yoga Day in June.

He said disinformation about security clampdown was spread but even in the worst of times broadband, landline and wifi connections were on in the region, and only mobile Internet was blocked to “target terrorists”.

Not curfew but Section 144, which restricts assembly of more than four people, was imposed there after Article 370 was revoked, he said, asserting that when Section 144 can be imposed to tackle coronvarus than why not for dealing with militants.

Local recruitment of militants and infiltration have gone down, he said, and claimed that a record 90 lakh metric tonne of apples was sold this season following the “personal intervention” of Home Minister Amit Shah.

Over 520 central laws have been applied there now and, for the first time, block development council polls were held.

The Jammu and Kashmir budget is more than what it was for the erstwhile state, which had included Ladakh, and 38 percent of it is capital fund, Singh said.

Corruption has been curbed there, he added.

Attacking Singh’s speech, TMC’s Saugata Roy said he had never heard a lame reason for turning a state into UT, something which had never happened, demanded that it be granted statehood and elections be held there.

He demanded the release of former chief ministers.

Taking a dig at Modi, he said Jawaharlal Nehru, Vallabhbhai Patel, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and Atal Bihari Vajpayee knew nothing and the prime minister thinks only he knows.

Ground reality of J&K different than its picture being presented: NC

New Delhi: National Conference MP Hasnain Masoodi on Wednesday said the picture that was being presented of Jammu and Kashmir was quite different from the ground reality and made a plea to the government that the situation in the union territory should be examined afresh.

“The picture that is being presented of this place (Jammu and Kashmir) is different from ground reality…I request that that situation there should be examined afresh,” he said during a discussion on the budget for Jammu and Kashmir in Lok Sabha.

Stating that tourism sector in Jammu and Kashmir was suffering the most due to the Internet blockade, he said that there was no arrangement for rehabilitation.

“They (BJP) say that the employment of around 70 percent of the people in Jammu and Kashmir was dependent on agriculture. What is the kind of treatment which is being given to agriculture?” the MP questioned.

The handicraft industry, he said, was also affected. There should be dialogue with the stakeholders, he said.

Masoodi was of the view that the discussion of the budget for Jammu and Kashmir “should have been discussed in the state assembly”.

CPI(M) terms J&K budget ‘jugglery of figures’

Srinagar, Mar 18: A day after the Centre presented a Rs 1 lakh crore budget for Jammu and Kashmir for 2020-21, senior CPI (M) leader Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami on Wednesday said “it is nothing new but jugglery of figures”.

Reacting to the Centre’s proposal to fill up 50,000 vacancies in government jobs in the Union territory, Tarigami, also a former legislator from Kulgam constituency, asked what happened to a similar promise made last year in August.

“The J&K Budget presented by the Union Finance Minister (Nirmala Sitharaman) in the parliament is nothing new but a jugglery of figures. On ground, even those projects are pending which had started before the BJP government came to power in the Centre in 2014. Those projects which were started during the UPA-II regime are still incomplete,” Tarigami said in a statement today.

He said the business activities and developmental projects, including the repair of roads and livelihood issues of people have come to a halt in Kashmir.

“The government has failed to release not only the pending payments of contractors, but the frequent closure of the national highway has given a blow to the already fragile economy of Kashmir.

“How many decades will it take further to connect Kashmir with the rest of the country by a dependable road or rail link? The highway and railway line projects should have been given a priority since the BJP-led government came to power in 2014. But the reality is that the condition of the national highway has gone from bad to worse in the last few years,” he said.

He said the non-payment of wages to daily-wagers, casual, MGNREGA, contractual and Anganwari workers and helpers, ASHAs, CPWs, mid-day meal workers and others is another concern which the government must attend to on priority.

“The livelihood issues of people have been totally ignored. We are concerned over the plight of the working class who is adversely hit by the Modi government’s economic policies which are drastically affecting the workforce in J&K and the rest of the country,” he said.

On the proposed jobs for youths in Jammu and Kashmir, the CPI(M) leader said the then Governor Satya Pal Malik on August 28 last, when Kashmir was going through the worst lockdown imposed by the Centre after the abrogation of Article 370, had announced that 50,000 jobs would be made available to the youths in the next three months.

“The latest announcement by Union Finance Minister in the parliament seems to be a similar promise. It is nothing new but repetition of what has been said in the past,” he said.

In January this year, Tarigami said some posts were advertised in the J&K High Court.

“People of J&K genuinely expressed concern that jobs should be provided to locals only. Afterwards the government withdrew the notification and since then no decision has been taken. On the ground, the reality is different from what is being said by the government.”

He said the economy of Kashmir was already in doldrums since the devastating flood hit the Valley in 2014 and due to the unrest of 2016.

“But after the August 2019 clampdown, it has virtually collapsed as tourism, trade and other vital sectors were badly hit. All businesses have been shattered in Kashmir in the last more than seven months.”

He said those who were already earning their livelihood were deprived of the same.

“Thousands of casual labourers, need-based daily-wagers, scheme workers and others are without wages for the last more than eight months,” he said.

J&K budget hollow, falls short of people’s expectations: J&K Congress

Jammu, Mar 18: Describing the budget for Jammu and Kashmir as “hollow”, the Congress on Wednesday said it falls short of people’s expectations in view of the  “unprecedented situation” and changes in the aftermath of revocation of special status and bifurcation of the erstwhile state into two Union Territories.

The Centre on Tuesday presented a Rs 1 lakh crore budget for Jammu and Kashmir for 2020-21, and said the “highest ever” allocations reflect its commitment to make the Union Territory “a model of development”.

Reacting to the budget proposals, Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee (JKPCC) chief spokesperson Ravinder Sharma termed it as a “routine statement of receipts and expenditure which is less than Planning Commission norms of at least 20 percent increase over last year.”

“The budget is short of the people’s needs and expectations in various sectors in view of the promised massive development and infrastructure creation after coming directly under the central government,” he said in a statement here.

Sharma said there was a lot of shortfall of funds in various sectors due to the alleged mess created by the previous PDP-BJP coalition government due to large-scale neglect and pendency of development works and liabilities besides the increased unemployment and unprecedented price escalation.

“The budget is hollow…no adequate allocation and allotment of funds earmarked to fulfill the promises,” he said.

The Congress leader said there was no allocation for over 1 lakh youth seeking regularisation from daily-wage categories and over 50,000 others working on temporary and contractual basis.

“There is a hollow slogan for the rehabilitation of refugees but no provision of funds while only a meager amount was earmarked for Kashmiri migrants,” he said.

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