On his first visit to Jammu and Kashmir after taking charge, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said his government’s intention was not to play politics but to win the hearts of the people of the state, and pushed for a common development model for all Himalayan states.
“Our motive is never the politics of gain or loss, but winning the hearts of the people of Jammu and Kashmir,” he said after inaugurating the 25-km Udhampur-Katra section in Jammu. “It is my priority to win the hearts of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and this has to be achieved through development and their welfare,” he said, adding that the legacy of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee will be carried forward.
However, unlike Vajpayee, who had addressed a public rally in Srinagar, Modi resisted from making any political speech in the Valley and kept himself confined to official functions in Srinagar and Uri.
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In Katra, Modi said Jammu and Kashmir needed both speed and energy in development and that every citizen of the country wanted it to prosper. While it has to be seen how the state is taken on the path of development, he said, “We all have a responsibility to see that the people of the state are happy and prosperous.”
Proposing a common development model for all Himalayan states, he said these states have many common problems — and common opportunities as well. “A common model for development will benefit all the Himalayan states from Jammu and Kashmir to the Northeast. It will provide a clear vision to the Centre not only in matter of their development but also in understanding the expectations of those states,” he said.
Accompanied by Railway Minister D V Sadananda Gowda, Governor N N Vohra, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and Union Minister of State in the PMO Jitendra Singh, the prime minister avoided any political talk on the occasion. Rather he tried to strike an emotional chord with youth of the state, saying they needed new job opportunities.
He also referred to his conversations with schoolchildren on board the passenger train flagged off by him at the Katra railway station, regretting that 80 per cent of them had not seen trains earlier. “While it was a matter of joy for those children boarding the train for the first time, for us it was a matter to think about as to which way the development process has been taken so far,” he said.
Modi said his government intends to take benefits of development to the remote areas of the country, and added that by inaugurating the Katra-Udhampur rail service he was giving speed to the state’s development process at the same place where he had begun his campaign for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections after seeking the blessings of Mata Vaishnodevi.
Talking about plans to embark on environment friendly infrastructure while promoting development in the state, he said both the Centre and the state have for the first time started a “hybrid facility” to enable a person to travel by rail and bus to the Valley from any part of the country on one ticket issued by the Railways. He suggested the railway authorities to use solar energy at the Katra railway station and name the train to Katra as Maa Shakti Express.
The train connectivity to Katra is part of the ambitious Kashmir rail link project, marking the region’s rail connectivity with the rest of the country. It has been executed at an estimated cost of nearly Rs 1,150 crore. The new link is expected to ease the pilgrim rush in Jammu city and help devotees to directly go to Katra.
From Katra, Modi flew to Srinagar — where separatists had called a day-long strike — and spent time at the Army’s 15 Corps headquarters. He later inaugurated a 240 megawatt electricity of the National Hydro Power Corporation on the Line of Control in Uri.
At the 15 Corps headquarters, he laid floral tributes at the martyrs memorial. He later interacted with the soldiers and officers who were drawn from various battalions of different formations. Praising the courage of the soldiers, Modi asserted that self-reliance in defence offset manufacturing was essential for the security — “aatma-raksha” — of the nation. He said that strong armed forces were necessary for an atmosphere of peace and harmony in the country, and this was the foundation on which India would achieve new heights of development. Modi said he accorded highest priority to modernization of the defence forces. He said today the world was looking at India with hope, and we could interact on equal terms with all developed countries.
Modi said the spirit of sacrifice and selflessness of the defence forces was an inspiration for all Indians — and this spirit would ensure them victory at all times.
Modi reiterated his government’s commitment to building a National War Memorial and said the welfare of the armymen and their families was the concern and collective responsibility of all Indians.
This being his first visit, many in the Valley were disappointed that Modi did not make announcements on addressing their grievances. Abid Ahmad, a government employee, said, “People were expecting that PM Modi will make some political announcements as Kashmiri people have many grievances. Unfortunately, he preferred to remain silent during his visit once he arrived in Kashmir.” Mohammad Moin, a post graduate student at Kashmir University, said, “For us peace is more important than development and the PM spoke on neither of them in Kashmir.”
The separatists also criticised the silence of Modi in Kashmir. “He (Modi) is not Vajpayee and we have no expectations that under his leadership they will resolve the Kashmir issue,” said Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front chairman Yasin Malik.
J&K Pradesh Congress president Saifudin Soz said that this being his first visit to Kashmir, Modi should have made some announcements like the previous prime ministers. “He chose to not speak to the people or press because he has a hidden agenda and it will get unveiled very soon. The projects Modi inaugurated today are actually projects conceived by the UPA government and BJP had no role in these projects,” he said.
Later in the afternoon, Modi flew to North Kashmir’s Uri where he inaugurated the hydel power project, located at village Kalgai close to LoC. Addressing a small gathering there, Modi said the government has laid stress on environment-friendly energy of which hydro power is an important constituent. In the evening, he flew back to New Delhi.