JAMMU: Union Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) Dr Jitendra Singh Tuesday dared the Congress to announce in Lok Sabha that it would restore Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir if it comes to power.
Intervening in the debate on budget for Jammu and Kashmir in the Lower House, he said that the Modi Government was allocating 63 per cent of the budget to the Union Territory to deal with the legacy of the Congress regime.
“Does the Congress party have the courage to say that it will restore Article 370 after coming to power…You don’t say that. You want to beat about the bush and want to have it both ways,” he said.
Dr Jitendra Singh said that Article 370, which was abrogated by the Modi Government, had prevented the implementation of welfare measures like the prohibition of child marriages, prevention of corruption, anti-dowry legislation, right to information and SC/ST reservation.
He wanted to know if the Congress had left ‘Ram Raj” in Kashmir that the opposition party was accusing the Modi Government of “attempting to destroy”.
Dr Singh asserted that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has created a new political culture by honouring Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Patel, Subhas Chandra Bose and B R Ambedkar and “Congress is now searching for icons”.
The fact that Congress leaders are joining the BJP indicates that the ruling party was on the right path, he said, adding “we are doing what the Congress promised to do but did not do because of political reasons.”
No political party can oppose the implementation of the welfare measures after the abrogation of Article 370, he said.
Referring to industrialisation in Jammu and Kashmir, Dr Jitendra Singh said that more than Rs 50,000 crore have been invested by large industrial houses in the Union Territory.
Admitting that unemployment continues to be a problem, he said that the Government was focusing on providing livelihood to the people as it was impossible for any dispensation to provide government employment to everyone.
On the law and order situation, Dr Singh said there was a drastic fall in the number of infiltrations attempts by terrorists in the last couple of years.
Only four such attempts were reported in the current financial year as compared to 489 before the Modi government came into power in 2014.
He said that the Modi Government has initiated the project of building a dam in the State to prevent the flow of river water that belongs to India under the Indus water treaty to Pakistan
Initiating the debate, Congress leader Manish Tewari asserted that the law and order situation in Jammu and Kashmir was concerning and said the Government has not been able to achieve the objectives it set out while abrogating Article 370 there, and asked when its full Statehood will be restored.
Tewari said Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman stated “extremely noble sentiments” in her budget speech for Jammu and Kashmir but “ground realities are different”.
He said that when the Government abrogated Article 370 and divided Jammu and Kashmir into Union Territories Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh, it put forward two arguments that with this, the Kashmir’s merging with India will be strengthened as the state will be emotionally integrated, and the development there would be expedited.
“Today 33 months have passed. Has the Government been successful in achieving those objectives? I would like to State that the answer is no,” he said, arguing that the situation is more sensitive than it was in 2019.
Tewari cited figures of ceasefire violations to buttress his point, saying that in 2018, there were 2,936 ceasefire violations, in 2019 there were 3,279, in 2020 they increased to 5,100 and in 2021, despite a ceasefire agreement with Pakistan, the ceasefire violations were 664.
He compared that to the UPA Government era, citing that in 2013, the ceasefire violations remained less than 100.
“These figures are also important because since April 2020, the situation in Eastern Ladakh is extremely sensitive. Chinese army is occupying those lands which India considers its own. The situation has become more complex now since 2020 because of factors such as the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Imran Khan’s visit to Moscow, the agreement between Russia and China on February 4. All this impacts the border areas of India,” he said.
The Congress leader urged the Government to seriously consider the question that whether the steps taken in 2019 have strengthened India’s position in the border areas or its concerns have increased.
Citing data that 70 per cent of those who joined militancy have been neutralised, Tewari said what is concerning is over the involvement of locals in militancy going up.
He said that while Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah have stated in the House that a decision on Jammu and Kashmir’s statehood will be taken soon, it has not been done.
“Now we are in March 2022, but I want to ask that when the Government will act on the statements of the Prime Minister and Home Minister and when will Jammu and Kashmir’s statehood be restored,” he asked.
Tewari also flagged concerns of political parties over the delimitation in Jammu and Kashmir.
Underlining that the interest of Sikh minorities should be safeguarded, Tewari said they should be given representation in Legislature.
He also questioned the Government over investments coming to Jammu and Kashmir, asserting that there is negligible interest from investors outside the Union Territory.
He expressed concern over the law and order situation in Jammu and Kashmir.
Participating in the debate, BJP’s Jammu MP Jugal Kishore Sharma said power was misused under Article 370.
He alleged that there was “bribery” and people were in a disarray before the abrogation of Article 370.
Earlier, money was not used for development but for the benefit of certain families only, he said.
Under Prime Minister Modi’s leadership, employment is being generated and funds are made available for development projects, Sharma said.
He alleged that Jammu used to be discriminated against earlier but that had changed now
National Conference MP Hasnain Masoodi said the abrogation of Article 370 was “unconstitutional”, and the narrative of normalcy is being manufactured by the Union Government.
Masoodi questioned why the Government insisted on debating the budget on the same day as it was presented. He said the MPs did not get time to read the budget papers, a complaint made by several Opposition leaders.
“Abrogation of Article 370 was unconstitutional, how can Parliament act as the Assembly of a State… Can the Centre take Statehood away from a State? If so you can snatch away statehood from all States,” Masoodi said.
He also said that a petition challenging the abrogation remains pending with the Supreme Court.
Masoodi also said that the exercise of delimitation was being used as a tool to further disempower the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
“The narrative of normalcy is wrong. You are deceiving the country,” he said. Masoodi also said 73 percent budget approved for J&K is for the Home department and maintaining law and order
Jamyang Tsering Namgyal, BJP MP from Ladakh said that a new era has begun in Jammu and Kashmir after abrogation of Article 370.
Participating in the debate Jamyang said that earlier it used to be said that if Article 370 is abrogated it will lead to “rivers of blood” in the erstwhile State.
Welcoming the budget, he said: “Under PM Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, after removing 370 a new era has begun in J&K.”
He said with the removal of Article 370 on August 5, 2019, the entire country is now one entity, bound by a single constitution, which has been welcomed by the whole country.
He said more than 300 MPs have visited J&K and Ladakh since then and claimed that the security situation has improved to such an extent that people can visit Lal Chowk without any fear even at 9 pm.
“Now people say that after removing 370 PM Modi has worked to bring Jamhooriyat, Kashmiriyat and Insaniyat to the people,” he said, adding that for the first time, the people of the hills and the disabled are able to get the benefit of reservation in jobs.
Jamyang said that under the previous Congress party Governments, Block Development Council elections and even Panchayati elections were not allowed.
“The two families wanted to run everything in the State, ” he said, referring to the Abdullah family and the Mufti family, who have been ruling the erstwhile State earlier.
“Now under PM Modi, true grassroots democracy is being brought about, ” he added. He recounted benefits of Government welfare schemes reaching every person in J&K, and how the Modi Government has started 50 new colleges and other educational institutions.
On “The Kashmir Files”, he said the film, based on the 1990 exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley brings out the “bitter truth” to the people, and the film should be made tax free.
Saugata Roy of the TMC, opposing the budget, said that over Rs 9,000 crores of the J&K budget is being spent on maintaining law and order, which he said is reflective of the situation in the UT.
“I was opposed to abrogation of 370 and still am opposed to it. It is a wrong step for which the country will have to pay. Besides fulfilling the BJP’s ideals, it has no other meaning, ” Roy said.
He objected to J&K’s budget being read in the Parliament.
“What is the meaning of this budget being read in Parliament. What is there in this budget that the representatives of J&K could not speak on. This is deprivation of their rights to have their own Government. I oppose this undemocratic step,” he said.
Roy asked what attempts have been done to improve agriculture, floriculture and other industries in the State. He said that though Home Minister Amit Shah said the removal of 370 will control militancy and make Kashmir a part of the nation, there has “been an uptick in militancy”.
The uptick in militant recruitment is worrisome, more people are joining militants every day, because there is no functioning democracy in J&K, he said and added that everyday Sarpanches are killed by terrorists.
“The claim by Amit Shah has not been redeemed, ” he remarked. He said J&K must have Assembly elections at the earliest.
The TMC MP termed the delimitation process going on as “bogus”, and said there must be “a proper representative Government” in J&K.
“The way to wean away people from militancy is to give them jobs and participation in governance. This Government has significantly failed in providing employment and in ensuring development,” he added.
He also asked what steps have been taken for the rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandit community.
Supriya Sule (NCP) alleged that the Government has not done anything for the displaced Kashmiris in the Budget.
“The Government talks a lot about Kashmiri Pandits, but in its Budget document, there is no mention about them,” she said adding “if you feel for them, please include them…Let’s not live only in a bubble, please deliver”.
She said that the contention of the Government that nothing had happened in the last 60 years has become “boring” and now they should come up with some “new dialogue”.
The Government had promised thousands of jobs, but nothing has happened at that front also, Sule alleged.
“That dialogue of what happened in the last 60 years has become boring now. You have had seven years now. If a child is malnourished, a mother will feed a child for seven years and make him/her healthy!” she said.
Sule said that the Modi Government should not become a “prisoner of the past”, but should live in the present and move ahead.
The Government should tell what they are going to do for Kashmiri Pandits and discuss their future, she said adding the BJP members should visit the Union Territory and find out the ground realities.
Raising questions about the Budget, she said the most worrisome number is GDP and debt ratio.
“Why there are so many minuses…Smart city is a failed project,” Sule said.
M S Reddy (YSRCP) said the Modi Government has undertaken a lot of development works in J&K.
Observing that tourism was thriving in Kashmir, he urged the people to visit the Union Territory.
Reddy also said that it was time for J&K to develop its own sources of revenue as the Centre cannot indefinitely fund development activities in the Union Territory.
JD (U) member Sunil Kumar Pintu said that the Budget will help in promoting the development of the union territory.
“Special package is required to promote tourism in J&K ,” he said, adding now both domestic and foreign investors are showing keenness to invest.
He also demanded that in the next year’s Budget, provisions should be there for the development of Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) also.
Danish Ali (BSP) also demanded the restoration of statehood to J&K.
“I would urge the Government to conduct elections….It should not be blocked by giving the excuse of delimitation,” he said, asking how many Kashmiri Pandits have been rehabilitated by the Government after the abrogation of article 370.
Bhartruhari Mahtab (BJD) suggested an adequate Budget be allocated for dealing with floods in J&K and the development of rural areas to promote tourism.
The problems in Jammu and Kashmir have got aggravated after the abrogation of Article 370, AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi said, insisting the measure failed to treat the disease (marz).
Participating in the debate, Owaisi wanted to know if the Modi government’s economic policy has resulted in any gains for the people of the region after the abrogation of Article 370.
He said the measure has not treated the disease (marz), but aggravated the malaise.
“How Parliament of India can pass the budget of Jammu and Kashmir?” Owaisi asked.