Past three years have changed the very idea of governance in Jammu and Kashmir as the common man has become a priority. He has been connected with the system and everyone irrespective of caste, colour, creed and sex is being provided with equal opportunities.
The 70-year long era of favouritism and nepotism has ended. A common man no more has to run after anyone to get his work done. If he fulfills the criteria and is eligible he gets what he deserves.
Abrogation of Article 370, which provided so-called special status to the natives of J&K, has changed the destinies of the people in the Himalayan region. After August 5, 2019 — when the Centre announced its decision to merge J&K completely with the Union of India — one thing has been proven beyond doubt that the so-called special status didn’t allow a common man in J&K to grow and become a part of the country’s development process. It deprived him of getting equal opportunity in any field.
The set of politicians, who ruled J&K, accommodated only their party workers and the ones who were associated with them. Benefits of the government schemes used to reach the people who carried the recommendation letters. The government jobs were given to only such candidates, who were influential and enjoyed some sort of backing. In a nutshell J&K was all about recommendations. Merit had no value and opportunities were provided to only the ones who enjoyed some kind of patronage.
In ‘Naya J&K’ things have changed. A huge chunk of the population, which was deprived of progress and prosperity for decades, is now getting equal opportunities and equal rights. In the past three years the government has framed a viable strategy to ensure that every citizen lives a decent life. Many hurdles have been overcome to connect a common citizen to the system.
All the resources have been mobilized to improve the standard of living of the people in J&K which was turned into a Union Territory after the Centre’s August 5, 2019 decision. Every possible attempt is being made to connect every citizen with the mainstream of development. A system has been created to serve everyone with equal opportunities.
Recruitment system becomes transparent
Recently the Minister of State for Home informed the Parliament that more than 29,000 youth have been provided with government jobs, while job avenues for more than five lakh youth have been created through self employment schemes after August 5, 2019, in Jammu and Kashmir.
Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti, termed the government’s claim of providing jobs to over 29,000 youth during the past three years in J&K as “false”. It seems she has forgotten that when she was heading the erstwhile state the candidates, who were selected on the basis of merit in J&K Bank were dropped and the entire list was changed to accommodate the candidates who were recommended by her party leaders.
The Khadi Village Industries Board (KVIB) recruitment scam during Mehbooba’s tenure had left her embarrassed as her cousin Aroot Madni was appointed as Executive Officer in KVIB allegedly through a backdoor. Aroot is the son of Sartaj Madni, who happens to be Mehbooba’s maternal uncle. The KVIB selection list was cancelled by the then J&K Governor, Satya Pal Malik, in 2019.
In “Naya J&K” recruitment processes have been carried out in a very professional manner. Recently, J&K Lieutenant Governor, Manoj Sinha, cancelled the recruitment of Sub-Inspectors in J&K Police after some aspirants alleged that the process was not carried out in a fair manner. The complaint of the candidates was acted upon promptly and an enquiry committee was set up which pointed out that there was something fishy. Without wasting any time, LG Sinha, cancelled the list. His action vindicated the government’s stand that everyone has to be given an equal opportunity and no one can be selected through a backdoor.
The government is following the principle of “Yogyata Se Rozgaar” in letter and spirit. The concept epitomizes accountability in appointment to public posts in line with the constitutional dictum of equality in matters of public employment.
During the past three years the government has established an accountable and transparent system for the recruitment of various posts in different departments. Record number of vacancies’ were advertised by Jammu and Kashmir Service Selection Board, Jammu and Kashmir Public Service Commission and other recruiting agencies . The written tests and interviews were conducted and the ones who figured in the merit list are serving in various government departments. The selected candidates were from every section of the society and didn’t carry any tags.
Focus on agriculture, allied sectors
In the three years the government has been working relentlessly to ensure higher incomes to farmers. To sustain the growth rate of agriculture and allied sectors bottlenecks are being cleared. The administration is working for the welfare of the farmers, especially extending handholding to small and marginal farmers as they have remained deprived of progress and prosperity for decades. They are now getting equal opportunities and equal rights. Efforts are being put in to fill in the critical gaps.
J&K’s agriculture & allied sector were performing much below their potential in the recent years. Several steps were taken to reverse the declining trend by filling credit gaps, diversification, high-density plantation, building storage capacity, market linkages and extension services.
According to the officials, agriculture growth in J&K last year was recorded at 3.9 per cent and food processing at 11.18 per cent. Attempts are being made to reach out to a huge number of small and marginal farmers who need financial support and benefits of the centrally sponsored schemes so that they too get an equal opportunity to raise their living standards.
The allied activities in the agriculture sector contribute more than 15 per cent in total farm income. New schemes have been introduced to turn dairy, livestock, poultry and fisheries to become engines of high growth. The government employees are reaching out to farmers in far-flung areas to create awareness about the new schemes that have a tremendous potential to benefit them. A road map is being prepared for rapid growth in agriculture and allied sectors.
The steps have been taken to exploit untapped opportunities offered by horticulture and ensure an end-to-end approach from plantation to post-harvest management and processing to marketing in order to increase the quality production and exports.
The agriculture and allied sectors are being transformed to ensure food security and to empower the farmers. The government seems determined to translate the benefits of growth into financial security for farmers.
Many benefits like, easy access to credit, infrastructure, pre and post harvest facilities, covering risks and uncertainties and various interventions and schemes are being provided to farmers. The J&K Government has set a target of covering 55000 hectares of land under high density plantations.
Farmers in J&K who till 2019 were non-entities have been brought on forefront and are set to lead the Union Territory. They no longer have to run from pillar to post for their needs and requirements. They are treated at par with other businessmen and traders. Banks don’t shy away from providing advances and loans to them. They are being treated as equals in the new setup.
Tribal community given rights
Another important community in Jammu and Kashmir comprises tribal people. For the 70-years, they were used a s vote banks and treated as second grade citizens. However, in ‘Naya J&K’ the government has been working continuously to protect their interests, including their land and education.
In 2021 Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha handed over individual and community rights certificates to the beneficiaries of Gujjar, Bakarwal and Gaddi Sippicommunities under the Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006. The initiative was aimed at transforming the lives of members of tribal communities across the Himalayan region. The tribal communities were not only provided rights on forest land, but they also got rights over minor forest produce. The government, in coordination with the Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India Limited, went on to establish infrastructure for collection, value addition, packaging, and distribution of this forest produce.
In areas where community rights were granted, Rs 10 crore was provided for infrastructure development including works on roads, power supply, Anganwadicentres, etc. The community had struggled for many years to get their rights. These rights were granted to ensure that the basic spirit of social equality and harmony is maintained and the members of this community get equal opportunities.
For providing education on modern lines to Tribal children, the J&K government has embarked on an ambitious project of transforming 200 schools into smart schools in Tribal areas at a cost of Rs 40 crore. The government is collectively spending around Rs 104 crore to strengthen school infrastructure in tribal areas and establish a strong educational ecosystem for the community. Besides smart schools, Rs 8.50 crore were spent on the modernization of hostels of the Tribal Department and new hostels are being built at a cost of Rs 4 crore.
To make Tribal youth excel in professional fields, 500 youth were selected for different professional courses with the government’s aid. An annual outlay of Rs 30 crore has been earmarked for scholarships of tribal students.
For the welfare of the tribal population the government has devised various programmes and schemes to fill critical gaps taking into account the situation of STs through financial assistance and initiatives. These include economic, educational and social development through institution building in critical sectors through specially tailored schemes.
For economic empowerment of the Tribal population, Tribal Affairs Department has rolled out a plan for the establishment of Milk Villages, Milk Chilling plants (MCP), Milk Product Processing and other facilities in tribal villages aimed to support milk production and supply chain in these areas. The project provided employment to more than 1500 tribal youth in the phase-1.
Everyone is equal in ‘Naya J&K’
Government implementing the concept of equal opportunities for all has brought a sea change in the Himalayan region. The common man has realized that the government cares for him and is ready to help him in every possible way. In ‘Naya J&K’ all the fake narratives stand punctured. No one is even talking about autonomy, self-rule and so-called Azadi. The only things which people are discussing are peace, prosperity and development. They have understood that a plethora of opportunities are knocking at their doors and they just have to grab these. From job seekers to farmers everyone is being looked after. Concerns of a common man are being addressed. Every effort is being put to ensure that a common man lives his life in a dignified manner. The era of “equal opportunities” has ended the “era of discrimination and recommendations” in the Union Territory.