By Farooq Wani,
In the run-up to the second anniversary of the abrogation of Article 370, and against the backdrop of recent outreach efforts by the Union government in Jammu and Kashmir, things have started looking up. This year, tourism in Kashmir has found an unusual brand Ambassador in the person of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has tweeted- “Whenever you get the opportunity, do visit Jammu and Kashmir and witness the scenic Tulip Festival. In addition to the tulips, you will experience the warm hospitality of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.” His tweet was well timed as it coincided with this year’s opening of the famous Tulip Garden, Siraj Bagh, located on the foothills of the Zabarwan Mountains in Srinagar.
After revocation of Article 370, the army launched a special initiative called “Mission Reach Out” to provide assistance to the people and ensure that vested interests do not disturb peace in the newly created Union Territory. This mission, thus, became an addition to the multifarious activities already being carried out by the Army in Jammu and Kashmir over the past three decades to win over the hearts and minds of the residents and wean away the youth from violence.
Apart from other activities like sports, education, cultural programmes and various public related initiatives, the Indian Army has a long and proud tradition of extending assistance to the people and Government of Jammu and Kashmir to overcome natural disasters and other calamities. If we go deep into history, there are innumerable instances of the army coming out to help their brethren devastated by natural or man-made tragedies.
During the 2014 floods, the army did a commendable job by rescuing and providing relief to the victims under the leadership of then GoC 15 Corps Lt Gen Retd Subrata Saha . The army has also stepped-in to assist the government and the people in response to the COVID crisis. In view of the increasing cases in Kashmir requiring hospitalization, the Srinagar based Chinar Corps has created a 250 bedded Dedicated COVID Care Center at Rangreth and established two 20 bedded facilities with High Dependency Units in Baramulla and Uri. More of such facilities are in advanced stages of planning and will be established at different places across the Union Territory. A system of pooling in of resources has been set up where oxygen cylinders and other medical requirements are being made available to the civil administration as and when required.
On July 31, Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry Regimental Centre commemorating ‘Swarnim Vijay Varsh’ organised a cultural event “Junoon – e – Hunar” to promote the talent of school children and local youth of the Kashmir region. Around 100 students from various schools of Baramulla, Kupwara, Anantnag and Sharifabad districts participated in the event. The participants enthralled the audience with their cultural dance, folk music and solo performances. Such events help students and the youth to develop self-confidence as well as generate interest in pursuing healthy hobbies.
The Bollywood and Kashmir connections are very old and many movies in the past were shot at mesmerizing locations in Gulmarg, Pahalgam, Sonamarg and elsewhere. However, due to the eruption of militancy in the 90s, Bollywood became wary of Kashmir. The negative perception created by the media and groups having vested interests further deterred film makers and as a result those associated in this trade faces huge economic losses. Luckily, the government has now taken determined steps to revive Kashmir Valley as the favourite destination of Bollywood for shooting movies.
Several Bollywood celebrities have started making a beeline to Kashmir. Popular Bollywood singer Richa Sharma, super star Amir Khan, Simran Sachdeva, Sonia Arora, Chitrangada Singh, Jaan Nissar Lone, Rani Hazarika and Tanya Sachdeva have shot videos or movies in Kashmir. Richa Sharma has been so impressed with Kashmir Valley that she is planning to celebrate her birthday bash here on 29 August. With regards to exploring local talent for Bollywood, the J & K government is working on a comprehensive film policy for the UT, the draft of which is ready.
A new industrial scheme has also been launched in which the Government is extending an incentive of Rs 28,400 crore. Arguably no other state in the country can boast of such an industrial policy under which the government is giving a 300% incentive in GST. This means you can avail this incentive, provided you begin manufacturing. Investments of around Rs 25,000 crore were expected to come to the state and between 4 lakh and 5 lakh people were expected to gain employment.
A government official said that “Looking at the enthusiastic response, it wouldn’t be surprising at all if the investment soars to Rs 40,000, or even Rs 50,000 crore. Similarly, there is a distinct possibility that between 8 lakh and 9 lakh jobs will be created”. He went on to add that “Hosting of the J&K Investor Summit will provide the UT with an opportunity to showcase its strengths, strategies and potential”.
The educational standard, skill, efficiency and merit of the youth will always remain decisive factors in maintaining the pace of development and economic advancement. Youth is the biggest resource in the UT with 54% of the total population below 25 years of age and an encouraging literacy rate upwards of 70 percent. If properly harnessed this resource will be able to contribute extensively to the growth of the region and the nation.
So, when the Government is doing what it can, civil society members, elders and role models also need to fulfil their moral obligation by motivating youth to become more outgoing and take initiative so that they can fully exploit the facilities being provided to enhance their careers and employability. Earlier we used to complain about lack of facilities but no more!
This is the time for all genuine stakeholders who have the good of Kashmir in mind to join hands in its development. This is the time to act with maturity and work towards consolidating the gains accrued as a result of diligent hard work and great sacrifice. J&K is in dire need of constructive contribution and not opportunism. Nothing can be gained by reliving a traumatised past in a manner that overshadows a bright future. It is time to look ahead and to work for a better tomorrow.
(The author is Editor Brighter Kashmir, TV Commentator, Political Analyst and Columnist. He can be reached at Email: farooqwani61@yahoo(dot)co(dot)in. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of Financial Express Online.)