A DAY before the first batch of Union ministers arrived in J&K as part of an outreach initiative, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told the Council of Ministers Friday that those visiting the UT should refrain from overt political messaging and focus on connecting with the people to “make up for lost time”, sources told The Indian Express.
According to the sources, the Prime Minister also asked the Ministers to stay in the villages they visit at night rather than return to Jammu or Srinagar.
Friday’s meeting was the latest in a series that Modi has held with Ministers and top bureaucrats to chalk out a five-year vision for the government. Ten groups of secretaries have made presentations on the way forward.
Addressing the bureaucrats Friday, sources quoted the Prime Minister as saying that if all files in the government moved at the same pace as those pertaining to foreign visits, the government “would be in a good place”.
He also suggested inclusion of the Statue of Unity among iconic tourism sites in the country and asked for focus on security as one of the parameters of ease of doing business, sources said.
“The PM specifically told the Ministers who will be visiting J&K that there should not be any political colour to the visit. The idea should not be to do politics but to connect with the people — youth, teachers, government officers — and try to win them over. He emphasised on winning hearts and minds so that the government can work with them to make up for lost time,” said sources who were present in the meeting.
“He also said that Ministers should spend the nights in some of the villages they visit rather than come back to Jammu or Srinagar every night,” they said.
The first group of Ministers, comprising Jitendra Singh, Ashwani Choubey and Arjun Meghwal, arrived in J&K Saturday. As part of the outreach following the abrogation of Article 370, 36 Union Ministers are scheduled to visit the UT in batches over the next few weeks.
Meanwhile, referring to ease of doing business, the Prime Minister reminded bureaucrats of the importance of fast clearances. “He told bureaucrats that if all files are cleared at the pace at which foreign tour files are cleared, the government would be in a good place. Normally, foreign tour files see five of six signatures completed in one day,” sources said.
The Prime Minister also underlined the importance of security in ease of doing business and tourism. The meeting discussed the fact that despite having, along with China, the highest number of UNESCO heritage sites, the tourist influx has not been as per expectations.
“The PM wanted the Statue of Unity to be included among the 17 iconic sites. Several Ministers suggested that they should schedule meetings with international dignitaries near the site in Kewadiya Colony (near Vadodara) to make the statue an international destination,” said sources.
The meetings of the Council of Ministers to discuss the roadmap started from January 3, with the Prime Minister initially expressing “displeasure” at the lack of big ticket ideas and the tendency to look at the government functioning in silos.
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