BY JYOTHSNA HEDGE
Atlanta, GA, October 21, 2019: The office of Consul General of India, Atlanta hosted a media briefing on October 17, 2019 at the India House to provide updated information about the state of affairs in Kashmir post the abrogation of article 370 and 35A of the Indian Constitution, and the bifurcation of J&K into two union territories, Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.
The briefing stressed upon various issues in the area including separatism/terrorism, and the region having remained away from development processes with only limited improvement despite having received 10% of Central grants amounting to USD 40 billion for 1% of population of India, in the past 15 years.
Underlining the fact that a reorganization of this kind was one among 12states of India, the briefing focused on the fact that a single constitution for the country benefits everyone. The reorg is aimed to improve governance and benefit to the disadvantaged sections in J &K, who could not previously avail of these benefits.
Accentuating that not a single bullet had been fired so far, the briefing lauded people of J&K for helping in maintaining peace and public order. Addressing the current status, the briefing said public transport and inter-district transport had started functioning, government offices have been made fully functional since 16th August, all schools and colleges are operational and functioning smoothly, banking and ATM facilities are operating normally, all post-paid mobile phones have been restored since October 14, mainstream newspapers, satellite channels and cable TV networks are operational, travel advisory to tourist has been lifted, pilgrims going on and returning from Haj are specifically facilitated, cultural and sporting activities such as Naropa Festival, cricket tournament continue to thrive without any threat, and, elections to 310 of the 316 Block Development councils are to be held on October 24.
The briefing included various government plans to boost economy. Developmental initiatives, among others include filling up 50,000 job vacancies, and the National Agriculture Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Ltd (NAFED) being set to procure 60% of apples grown in Kashmir directly from farmers by December 15. The state of Maharashtra is the first buy land since the abrogation. PM Modi has addressed that the people would have the opportunity to elect their representatives as soon as normalcy is restored.
Article 370 of the Indian constitution gave special status to J&K in October 1947, when the then J&K Maharaja Hari Singh had acceded to India on matters of defense, foreign affairs and communications, just as the other princely states. While rest of the princely states merged with mainstream India, J&K did not, due to its temporary special status. The government of India revoked this special status in August 2019 through a Presidential Order and the passage of a resolution in Parliament.
The revocation enables application of various laws and amendments including 106 people friendly laws and 9 constitutional amendments of the Indian Constitution, the 73rd & 74th amendments regarding establishment of local self-governing institutions, and the anti-corruption laws including Whistle Blower Act.It also ensures equal opportunity for all, with no gender discrimination and benefits for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and OBCs.
The Supreme Court of India has observed that the Government needs to be given more time in its sincere efforts to bring normalcy in the area, stated the briefing.