For the last three decades, the people of J&K has been the unfortunate victim of proxy war and this has caused them immense.
By Farooq Wani,
For the last three decades, the people of J&K has been the unfortunate victim of proxy war and this has caused them immense. However, the Indian Army, which is already performing the onerous task of guarding the borders as well as combating militancy is also doing a lot to mitigate the sufferings of the people as well as improve their quality of life, both in urban and rural areas as well as in extremely remote and inaccessible locations.
Since the Indian army has always served as an example of national integration, secularism and sacrifice, its people-centric initiatives in J&K have been a resounding success. Moreover, since its rank and file come from all over the country and belongs to every caste, community and walk of life, it’s a truly ‘peoples’ army’ and its well-known humane approach has created an exceptionally strong bond between people of Kashmir and the army.
In order to help their Kashmiri brothers and sisters, the Army had conceived the idea of undertaking a comprehensive programme to address the basic needs of the community and empower the locals. It was formalised by the government in the 90s as ‘Operation Sadbhavna’ and since then, this project has benefitted lakhs of Kashmiris belonging to the weaker and less privileged sections of society. From humble beginnings, this project run under the aegis of Udhampur based Northern Command of Indian Army, has today grown into a multifaceted initiative that aims to truly empower Kashmiris and not merely pamper them.
In early 2020, there was a near simultaneous change of command of the Indian Army as well as Northern Command. The new Army Chief Gen Naravane and Northern Army Commander Lt Gen YK Joshi undertook a de-novo drive towards Sadbhavana by making education, skilling and employment generation as the focus areas of people and other youth-centric initiatives. Some of its programmes include:
· Undertaking over 30 to 40 engagements co-opting over 15000 youth daily.
· Running 27 Army Goodwill Schools in Kashmir that provide quality education at affordable cost to children in remote areas where schooling facilities are either non-existent or primitive.
· Operating over 80 centres for community development, skilling, women empowerment and youth guidance.
· Conducting over 100 tours outside Kashmir to enhance awareness amongst locals.
· Regular conduct of medical and veterinary camps in remote areas.
· Launching employment-generating initiatives.
· Inculcating interest in extra-curricular activities and pursuing talent and hobbies by organising events where the youth can demonstrate their talent and proficiency in music, art and sports.
· Furthering proficiency of local youth keen in adventure activity and mountaineering by facilitating their admission for attending adventure and mountaineering courses.
· Conduct of coaching for all-India competitive exams and establishment of Youth Employment Guidance Nodes.
With these new initiatives now forming part of Sadbhavana, the Army says “the tide is turning in favour of progress and achievement by youth.” Today, students from financially weak backgrounds studying Army Goodwill Schools are giving a tough competition to those from affluent families studying in elite schools. This is because besides a very proficient teaching staff, these Goodwill schools are equipped with modern teaching aids, such as digital classrooms, modern labs, well-stocked libraries and excellent sports infrastructure.
In an endeavour to empower Kashmiri youth, the Indian Army has established Skill Training Centres at several places where specialised training in various fields based on the educational qualification and interests of individuals. For example, while training in food processing appeals to the less educated, courses on Information Technology caters for the better educated. In addition, the Army has also signed MoU with reputed firms like Tata Motors to train Kashmiri youth.
In what it could be called a ‘game changer,’ the Army has taken up an exclusive programme for preparing meritorious students for IIT and other Engineering college entrance exams under a ‘Super 30’ programme in collaboration with the Center for Social Responsibility and leadership, while Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd has signed an MoU with Indian Army for the “Kashmir Super 30 (Medical)”. Programme. The results achieved are indeed very encouraging.
Drug abuse amongst the youth has been a matter of great concern in the Kashmir Valley and in order to counter this menace, the Army has set up de-addiction counselling centres and in concert with the civil administration is conducting awareness programmes focusing on the harmful effects of substance abuse.
Women empowerment through education, awareness and skill development is one of the top focus objectives of Sadbhavana. The Army has assisted in the creation of self-help groups that help women by providing them skill training, procuring and operating sewing and knitting machines as well as raw material, so that they can earn money by selling their finished products.
In the sphere of sports, many big names who are making J&K proud have been provided assistance by the Army to achieve not only national but also international fame like Ms Tajamul Islam, the Kashmiri girl who created history by winning a gold medal in the Under-8 category in the World Kickboxing Championship (2016) in Andria, Italy.
Now the time has come for resurrecting the concept of Kashmiriyat and for this Indian Army is the role model as the concept is so intrinsic to its own philosophy. Kashmiri leaders and intelligentsia should thus put parochial considerations aside and work on reviving the traditional pluralistic and truly secular credentials of Kashmiri society.
(The author is an Editor Brighter Kashmir, Columnist, Political Analyst and TV Commentator. He can be reached at Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Views expressed are personal.)