Press Trust of india

Article 370 acted as protective shield for terrorists, helped dynastic politics in J&K: Naqvi

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New Delhi: “Article 370 of the Constitution was the root cause of all the problems in Jammu and Kashmir and the region is witnessing progress after its abrogation,” Union minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday.

“Article 370 was the reason for the problems of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. It was a protective shield for terrorists and helped dynastic and dishonest politics. Hence, it was required to be removed,” Naqvi said while taking part in a discussion on the budget for the Union Territory.

Taking a dig at the Opposition members, he said, “People spoke more on the reviews of ‘The Kashmir Files’, the film, rather than on the budget of Jammu and Kashmir.”

“The film has opened files that were buried and that contained the sins of some political families and parties,” the Minority Affairs minister said.

Now, the ground realities are changing after the abrogation of the provisions of Article 370 and a 30-member delegation from Gulf countries is touring the Union Territory to look for opportunities to invest in real estate, telecommunications, agriculture etc., he added.

“This is a major change after the BJP removed Article 370,” Naqvi said, adding, “Kashmir is now on the path of progress and prosperity.”

He said the Kashmiri people were never against India’s Constitution, but a handful of families indulging in dynastic politics were protecting Article 370.

“This dynastic politics and the legacy of dishonesty have been finished and as a result, Kashmir has a very positive and constructive environment today. Representatives from the Gulf are visiting the region now,” Naqvi said.

Seven new medical colleges, five nursing colleges and an AIIMS are being set up in the Union Territory, he said, adding that people are getting electricity and tap water at their doorstep under schemes such as ‘Har Ghar Nal Yojana’.

Praising Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, he said through the budget, the Centre is trying to extend benefits to Kashmiris.

On the remarks of some Opposition members that Parliament is discussing the budget of the Union Territory instead of the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly, Naqvi said, “Earlier also, the budget was for Jammu and Kashmir but the money used to go from the Centre. This is not a new thing, whether it was your government or ours.”

Moreover, earlier, the money sent by the Centre could never be audited because of Article 370, he pointed out.

“That robbery was 100 percent exempted,” he said.

Naqvi said improving the situation of the people of Jammu and Kashmir is a collective responsibility.

Fauzia Khan of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) hoped for the rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits.

“Some concrete action should take place on this front,” she said.

Khan also raised the issue of unemployment and said at the time of the District Development Council (DDC) polls, 70,000 jobs were promised.

“However, as on February 02, the rate of unemployment in Jammu and Kashmir was 15 percent, which is much higher than the average of 6.5 to 7 percent in the rest of the country,” she said.

In the budget, there is a provision of Rs 23,060 crore for the social sector, of which 0.47 percent is earmarked for labour and employment.

“What is the status of the promised jobs and what are the special interventions?” Khan asked.

Rajni Ashokrao Patil of the Congress said Article 370 was abrogated on August 05, 2019 and the statehood of Jammu and Kashmir taken away, but even after three years and seven months, the situation there is not normal.

Citing a report on the economy of Jammu and Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370, she said after some months, the Union Territory had lost Rs 178.78 billion and 90,000 jobs in the handicrafts and tourism sectors. The horticulture sector is in distress and tourism is in shambles. Moreover, the rural economy of Jammu and Kashmir is witnessing a decline for the first time in 70 years, she pointed out.

Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai said in Jammu and Kashmir, no rewards are given on the basis of sects and no discrimination is done in this regard.

There was a brief uproar in the House and several members, including Leader of Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge, objected to Rai’s remarks, questioning under what rules he spoke.

Meanwhile, Union Minister G Kishan Reddy said in the Rajya Sabha that Article 370’s revocation has opened the roads for development in Jammu and Kashmir which for years witnessed zero activity in the sector due to insurgency and lack of efforts of the previous governments to improve the situation.

Participating in debate on the budget of Jammu and Kashmir in the House, Reddy claimed that for many years the region did not see any tourism-related activity as tourists and even the government officials wanted to keep a safer distance from the region.

He said “the situation has improved drastically after the repeal of Article 370 as the central government has taken various initiatives to encourage the overall development in the region, including developing tourism opportunities and road-related infrastructure.”

Reddy said the number of tourists in March this year stood at around 1.13 lakh, which was three times the total number of tourists who arrived in UT in 2019.

“In the next three months, there is no availability of rooms…everything is sold out…did you ever thought this would happen…. Due to the abolition of Article 370 and improvement in situation, people are now wanting to visit the place,” he said.

He said the Modi government has taken many steps to improve the situation in the UT.

Reddy said the number of flights has been increased to both Jammu and Srinagar and also the road condition between Jammu and Srinagar has been improved leading to less travel time for delivery trucks and the general public.

“There was a demand pending for a tunnel under the Zojila pass for 50 years but previous governments did not take action…today we are investing Rs 5,000 crore on it…. Earlier the completion data was 2026 but after Modi-ji took stock of the situation, we expect it to be complete in 2024 itself,” the minister noted.

Reddy also stated that the construction of rural roads was in full swing in the region.

He said the UT administration has “pulled out all stops to generate employment for the youth”.

Reddy said every month, union ministers have to report to the PMO for the steps taken for the development of the UT.

“Jammu and Kashmir has begun a new journey…it is transitioning from terrorism to tourism…during previous governments it used to be terrorism and now it is tourism…earlier there use to be stone pelters now there are students on computers…earlier there was corruption now there is accountability….” he said.

The minister said “earlier people used to burn the tricolour but now they are hoisting it atop their houses”.

“So it’s a march from separatism to nationalism…we are working for the development of the region…,” Reddy said.

He said things were changing in the region and some of the “reports by international publications, which painted a different picture, were incorrect”.

D P Vats (BJP), Abdul Wahab (IUML), K R N Rajesh Kumar (DMK), Ramnath Thakur (JDU), and Jugalsinh Mathurji Lokhandwala (BJP) also participated in the discussion.

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