The change of guard

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Manoj Sinha was sworn in on Friday as the second Lt. Governor of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. Sinha’s appointment has been hailed by many for the reason that he is a senior politician and may be playing a crucial role in putting the political process in J&K back on tracks. Post August 05, 2019, the political activities in J&K have come to a naught because top leadership of mainstream political parties was put under detention. Now that most of them have been released, it is time that an even field is provided to these political parties so that the leaders reach out to the people and try to fill the political vacuum created following abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcation of erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir. Now that a politician of substance is at the helm of affairs, one would expect him to prioritize the politics and open communication channels with all political parties.

Secondly, the new Lt. Governor needs to make the administration pull its socks and concentrate on developmental issues. Though there is too much talk about development but the execution is the main concern. The new Lt. Governor will have to take the developmental issues on priority. The beginning could be made by attending to the projects that wait completion be it Srinagar Ring Road or Smart City project, nothing is visible on the ground. Take the establishment of AIIMS, Srinagar. At a time when the modest health-care infrastructure of Kashmir is crumbling under a heavy coronavirus load, an AIIMS like hospital would have provided the much-needed quality and affordable facility to its populace. But the proposed super specialty health facility is yet to reach the foundation laying threshold despite being announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi almost five years ago.

It is pertinent to mention here that the AIIMS Project was part of the Prime Minister’s Development Package (PMDP) announced on November 07, 2015 for the former state of Jammu and Kashmir. As part of the social infrastructure development under PMDP, two AIIMS like institutions were to be developed in the capital cities of Jammu and Srinagar with a central assistance of Rs 4000 crore — @ Rs 2000 crore per Institute. But it took the union cabinet almost four years to approve the proposal in January 2019 after its announcement four years ago. The expenditure on the project has now been reduced from the proposed Rs 4000 crores to Rs 3489 crores. Though the construction of AIIMS at Vijaynagar Jammu has been awarded to a national level construction company, the process of bidding for AIIMS Awantipura Pulwama is yet to be started.

The Lt. Governor will have to pull his administration and make it accountable. Making announcement of projects is one thing and transforming these announcements into reality is something that is the need of the time. The Lt. Governor will have to make efforts to win peoples’ trust and development is key to that. He will have to open communication channels with all sections of the society and be easily accessible to the people so that he understands their issues and grievances and thus redresses the same. Need is to change the Ivory Tower image of Raj Bhawan and open its gates to general public.

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