Modi’s 77 Ministers working for J&K’s future just as for all of New India
I visited J&K for the first time ever recently in the last week of September. It is telling in many ways that for all these years – as I travelled across the country and world, I couldn’t/didn’t visit J&K. Sad but true.
I have to be honest–there was some trepidation about what I as a Technology and Skill Development Minister would say or do in the backdrop of this embedded narrative of unrest perpetuated by a few.
My visit took me to Srinagar, Budgam, Baramulla districts of J&K. As expected by our PM, my programs were about meeting and interacting with people and of course also launching some development projects that had been completed during this challenging Covid period.
One of the first things I heard- that stayed with me through the trip - was a statement by the J&K police officer who accompanied me throughout my trip. Early into my trip as I was chatting with him, he said “The children of our State know that the last 30 years have kept us back because of this cross border terror and militancy and want a better life like the rest of India and world”.
I visited a new sub-division hospital, the Charar-E-Sharief shrine and important meetings with young Kashmiris, Entrepreneurs, Farmers, Sarpanches and members of Tribal communities, and officers of the administration of these districts. In every one of these meetings, the conversations and demands and requests were about the present and the future. No one was looking back at those lost years, except perhaps in regret at the lost opportunities. The young students that engaged me in Budgam or Baramulla or Srinagar engaged me in specific discussions about how to improve their skilling opportunities or improve their job opportunities. The SDH at Charar-E-Shareif was a high quality center– with all modern facilities and staffed by a really positive and competent team of personnel and that prevented the long arduous journey from far flung villagers to the distant district hospital.
At a meeting at the Budgam Degree College, a group of young women from Polytechnic College–poised and confident–at an interaction with me said this “We want new courses in our Polytechnics–we want Electronics and computer courses instead of only Mechanical and civil diplomas”. At ITI Budgam which can rank as one of top ITIs I have visited – which had an excellent automotive maintenance training facility–I handed over certificates to students, many of them young girls. Again in our interactions the requests were about opportunity asking about possibly locating automobile ancillary industries in the district so that there could be employment after training. There was eagerness to know more about the Home Minister Amit Shah’s announcement of Rs 50,000 crore investment as they realized that this would be different from previous Governments because of Narendra Modi Government’s record of ensuring that through the 3 tier system, this money would expand economic activity and/or reach people directly. When I shared PM Narendra Modi’s vision of skilling being a gateway to employment and his direction to create stronger employment linkages to skilling, there was real excitement with the students. Just like every State I visit, the youth here to want to join the IT Industry growth as they read and hear about the progress around the rest of India.
I also visited two traditional skill clusters that had entrepreneurs who used local artisans for Carpet, Paper Mache and Garments for export, at Budgam and Baramulla. Over the last several years, these skills and number of artisans have declined. Current exports from J&K of these beautiful products are at 600+ crores and the demand in the world exists for 10-15x that value and employment of artisans of nearly 25-30 lacs. In keeping with PM’s Vision for traditional skills linked industry, I committed that we will support the growth of these clusters, their businesses and the skilling of the artisans required to grow these businesses.
In no meeting that I held did ever the issue of security or terror get raised to me even once as an issue. That was remarkable for me to experience first hand. The dreaded Lal Chowk in Srinagar was bustling and bathed in the tricolour every evening.
I believe that one of the best measures of a political leader is how much aspiration and ambition he builds in the hearts and minds of his people. On that count, our PM Narendra Modi has moved the needle in J&K very far from the last 75 years. Irreversibly and unequivocally this of course with much effort, service and sacrifice on the part of J&K administration, police and security forces that work 24x7 to keep our people safe. At a time when in many parts of our neighbourhood and world, women and youth are struggling under oppressive regimes that are destroying their hopes and aspirations, PM Modi’s Government is determinedly enabling our youth to dream and aspire more and more–with Government’s role to be a beacon of hope and aspiration to our youth all over the country as India strides to its 100th year of Independence.
As I enjoyed saying during my visit, it used to be that J&K’s fate was controlled by 3 feudal families and perhaps one Union Minister. Now it is full force of Narendra Modi’s governance and his team of 77 Ministers working for a better future for ALL the people of J&K, just as for all the people of India - with the irresistible and unstoppable idea of Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas, Sabka Prayas that’s propelling New India.
(Writer is MoS MeiTY/MSDE)