Only five out of 36 Union ministers will be visiting Kashmir from Tuesday as part of the Centre’s outreach programme, PTI reported. This is the first time Union ministers are visiting the region since the August 5 decision to amend Article 370 of the Constitution and split the region into two Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.
For the next four days, Communications, Electronics & Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, Human Resources Development Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Minister of State for Defence Shripad Naik and Minister of State for Home Affairs G Kishan Reddy will attend eight government and public programmes. The ministers are expected to educate locals about the development measures and schemes undertaken by the government for the region.
On Tuesday, Naqvi will visit Faqir Gujri village on the outskirts of Srinagar. He will lay the foundation stones for a high school in Dara area and for a water conservation project at Sarband in Harwan area. Reddy will be touring Ganderbal district for two days visit from Wednesday. On Friday, he will chair a function at Police Training College in Ganderbal.
Prasad will attend a function at Dak Banglow in Baramulla and inaugurate a sports complex during his two-day stay starting Thursday. Naik will attend a function at Sher-i-Kashmir International Conference Centre in Srinagar on Thursday. Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank will travel to Harwan and attend a public meeting at the city centre on Friday.
There are a total of 51 trips planned for Jammu, and only eight for Srinagar, NDTV reported, citing a list it had accessed. Srinagar, Baramulla and Ganderbal are the only three districts of the Valley that will be covered by these Union ministers between January 20 and January 24. However, none of these ministers will be visiting seven districts of the Valley — Kupwara, Bandipore, Budgam, Pulwama, Anantnag, Shopian and Kulgam, reported Asian Age. They would also not visit two districts in the Jammu region — Doda and Kishtwar. The Jammu region has 10 districts.
The government had last week invited envoys of 16 countries to visit Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir, to understand the situation there. In October, around two dozen members of parliament from the European Union were taken to Kashmir on a tour. Before that the MPs met National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Leaders of different political parties termed these visits “an optics to hide the failure of the Centre”.
Jammu and Kashmir Congress President Ghulam Ahmad Mir said the ministers will not be inaugurating any developmental projects, reported Hindustan Times. “... Instead they are inaugurating old projects on which erstwhile state funds were utilised.” Peoples Democratic Party spokesperson Tahir Sayeed also agreed with Mir. “Our state was better developed than states which are being ruled by BJP for more than a decade now,” he added.
National Conference leader and Anantnag MP Hasnain Masoodi called the visit “a photo op” to give an “impression that developmental projects have started” in Kashmir. “J&K was way ahead in many segments before removal of Article 370,” he said. “They [the BJP] created an euphoria that removal of Article 370 will bring lot of development to J&K. Slowly it’s vanishing . By these visits, BJP leadership wanted to create an impression that they are bringing lot of projects to J&K, which is untrue.”