Union Minister of Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi on Tuesday said the purpose of Union ministers’ visit to Jammu and Kashmir was to get a firsthand account of the problems faced by people there and address their concerns, PTI reported. Naqvi is the first Union minister to visit Kashmir as part of the Centre’s outreach programme since its special constitutional status was scrapped in August.

While five of the ministers will visit parts of Kashmir, the rest will visit Jammu. Asked why that was so, Naqvi claimed the current outreach programme was just the beginning of the Centre’s efforts to engage with people in the Union Territory. “This is not the last programme,” he added. . “This initiative will continue.”

The minister said the objective of the dialogue was to listen to people’s problems and needs, and find solutions. “The aspirations and expectations of the people were not upheld and corruption had eaten into Jammu and Kashmir,” he told reporters in Srinagar. “Some people had benefited themselves but we want prosperity for all people here.”

The minister said Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants everyone in the Union Territory to benefit from the changes enacted by the Centre. At an event in the outskirts of Srinagar, where he laud the foundation stone of a development project, Naqvi said the Centre wants “a new dawn” of development and accountability in Jammu and Kashmir. He claimed that the size of the gathering reflected people’s interest in the region’s development.

“It is time for people to take benefit of development schemes,” the minister said. “J&K should be part of the developmental story of India. Our government wants people of J&K as first beneficiaries of any developmental programme.”

Naqvi said that while central governments in the past kept funding Jammu and Kashmir, there was no accountability. The money was pocketed by a few people, he alleged. The Narendra Modi-led government, in contrast, was monitoring if funds meant for developmental schemes reach the grassroots, he added.

The minister also visited the Dal Lake and interacted with boatmen. He assured them that the Centre was working to promote tourism in the Valley.

The Centre had imposed a curfew in Jammu and Kashmir after abrogating its special status. Several politicians, including three former chief ministers, were put under house arrest. The curbs are being gradually lifted, and several detainees have been released. Communication services are also being restored.

To address international concerns about the security clampdown, the government has tried to bring foreign envoys to the region. In October, around two dozen members of parliament from the European Union were brough to Kashmir on a guided tour. Before that, the MPs met National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Leaders of various political parties had termed these visits “an optics to hide the failure of the Centre”. Last week, the government invited envoys of 16 countries to visit Srinagar, including the ambassador of the United States.