5 August 2020 marks one year of India’s decision to re-organise its erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir into the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir, as well as Ladakh. The primary purpose was to improve good governance and deliver socio-economic justice to the people of Jammu and Kashmir
Over the past year, this vision of promoting development, ensuring better governance, and delivering socio-economic justice to the disadvantaged sections in the region has been put into effect.
All central laws applicable to rest of India have now been extended to the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, which includes laws meant for protecting and promoting social, economic, as well as political rights of women, children, underprivileged sections, and for ensuring transparent and accountable governance. Over 100 acts of Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir have been amended/adapted to contemporary and modern times.
Elections to Block Development Councils, which is Tier-II of the Panchayati Raj (local governance institutions in India), were held for the first time on 24 October 2019, which witnessed a voter turnout of over 98%. For the first time, women benefited from reservation (In India, one-third of seats in local governance institutions are reserved for women), integrating them further into mainstream politics.
50 new educational institutions with 25 000 seats have been established in Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, which is the largest addition in 70 years.
Residents of Jammu and Kashmir are now benefiting from reservation (India’s affirmative action programme for the disadvantaged) in all government jobs. Over 10 000 vacant posts are being filled with 25 000 more jobs in the pipeline.
The second phase of a unique participatory programme, called ‘back to village’, was held in November 2019 in which local officers reached out to every Panchayat (village level local governance unit) and spent two days and a night to discuss various development programs as also to understand the issues faced by the people at the grassroots. During this programme, over 20 000 developmental works were identified by the people, of which 7 000 have already been executed. Panchayats are being strengthened with funds and devolution of responsibilities to them. Over INR 15 billion (N$3 billion) were transferred to Panchayats in the last year alone.
Investment roadshows were organized across Indian metropolitan cities in the lead up to global investors summit seeking investments in 14 focus sectors. These have yielded 168 agreements worth INR 136 billion (N$27 billion).
A unique market intervention scheme was introduced for procurement of the famous Kashmiri apple. Over 15 000 tonnes of apples valued at over INR 700 million (N$140 million) was directly procured from growers in Kashmir valley up until end January 2020. Money was paid to the apple growers through Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT). Kashmiri Saffron, which is the only Saffron grown at an altitude of 1600-1800 meters in the world now enjoys a Geographical Indication (GI) tag.
The first-ever ‘Khelo India winter games’ were held in the winter ski resort town of Gulmarg in March 2020, in which over 900 participants from across India took part in sporting events such as skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing and snow baseball.
Jammu and Kashmir has also taken lead in Covid-19 management. It is among the best performing States/Union Territories in India with a testing rate of 44 744 per million, which is almost 4 times that of the average testing rate per million in India. It was also among the first States/UT to setup Covid-19 dedicated hospitals. There are 17 dedicated hospitals with 60 000 new beds including 20 000 ICU beds and 2 500 isolation beds with oxygen facilities. Jammu and Kashmir will confidently tackle not just the pandemic but also other challenges in its march ahead.
*Prashant Agrawal is the High Commissioner of India to Namibia