Reaching out to the people of Jammu and Kashmir after his government revoked the state’s special status and bifurcated it into two Union Territories, Prime Minister Narendra Modi Thursday asked the youth of J&K to step forward and take up its political leadership. He said elections will soon be held in the new Union Territory and people will have the opportunity to elect their MLAs and Chief Minister in the manner they did earlier.
In an address to the nation, the Prime Minister said J&K government employees will be offered the benefits available to government employees in Union Territories across the country. He showered special praise on the J&K Police which, he said, had been at the forefront of the fight against terror.
Underlining that Article 370 had brought no benefit to the state but had only fomented separatism, terrorism, dynasty and corruption, Modi said it is now “part of history” and an era of development will start in J&K. He urged the industry, including the film industry, to invest in the region and provide job opportunities to the youth.
He said once normalcy is restored in Kashmir and the Union Territory is on the path of development, it could be granted full statehood again. He said Ladakh will, however, remain a Union Territory.
Acknowledging the hardship being faced by the people of J&K in view of steps taken to maintain order, Modi said it is the people there who are fighting elements trying to create trouble in the Valley.
“I want to make it clear to my brothers and sisters in Jammu and Kashmir, your representative will be elected by and from among you. The way you had MLAs, the same way you will have MLAs. The way you had Council of Ministers, the same way you will have Council of Ministers. The same way you will have your CM. I have full faith that together under this new order, we will free Jammu and Kashmir from separatism and terrorism,” he said.
Confident that people will “create magic” in a new environment free from Article 370, he said: “I believe that people of Jammu and Kashmir will defeat separatism and move ahead. With good governance and transparency, they will achieve their goals. Decades of dynasty has deprived leadership opportunities to the youth of J&K. I urge you to come forward and take leadership roles.”
“Under the new order, it will be our priority that government employees, including J&K Police, get the same benefits as employees in other Union Territories. There are several financial facilities available in Union Territories such as LTC, house rent allowance, education allowance, health scheme. Most of these are not available to J&K government employees. We will review these benefits and make them available to government employees in J&K.”
Praising J&K Police, Modi said, “Several jawans and officers of Jammu and Kashmir have sacrificed their lives fighting terrorists… It is their dream to make a peaceful, secure and prosperous Kashmir.”
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He said the government will soon fill vacant posts in J&K and Ladakh and this will provide jobs to local residents. The government, he said, will encourage PSUs to create jobs and the Army and paramilitary forces will hold recruitment rallies.
Reiterating Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s promise that J&K may get full statehood again, Modi said, “When the paradise on earth, our Jammu and Kashmir, reaches the peak of development and begins to attract the world, when ease of living improves the life of citizens, when they get their rights and when government systems begin moving towards their welfare, I do believe that the administrative system of a Union Territory will not be needed then in the state. Ladakh though will continue to remain one.”
He said J&K and Ladakh have great potential to become the greatest tourist destination and the government was working on it. “But I need everyone’s contribution for this. Bollywood films used to be shot there once. When normalcy is restored, the world will come to shoot in Kashmir. This will create opportunities for locals. I will urge the Hindi film industry, Telugu film industry and other industries to think about investing in Kashmir. I urge the private sector to keep Jammu and Kashmir as part of their policy for technology expansion. Youth there are proficient in English. BPO services can be started there.”
He said other parts of the country have right to education, laws dealing with women, Safai Karamchari Act, SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act, Minorities Act, Minimum Wages Act, but none of these were applicable to J&K because of Article 370. “Now Articles 370 and 35A are part of history. J&K will come out of the negative impact of these two statutes.”
He said the dream that Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, B R Ambedkar, Syama Prasad Mookerjee and Atal Bihari Vajpayee saw for the country, along with crores of countrymen, has been realised. “A new era has begun in J&K and Ladakh. Now all citizens have the same rights and duties.”
Modi also spoke on the opposition the government move faced in Parliament. “In a democracy, some will have a different opinion. I respect their opinion. We are also replying to their concerns. But I urge them to respect national interest. They should respect national sentiment. We have to work together,” he said.