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NEW DELHI : Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Monday said that Jammu & Kashmir has tremendous potential for development that can fulfil the aspirations of its people --a priority for the Narendra Modi administration.  

Speaking at the inauguration of the rebuilt income tax official and residential complex called ‘The Chinars’ in Srinagar, Sitharaman said that the state has immense potential for hydroelectric power generation, which if utilised fully, could help meet the region’s developmental goals.  

Sitharaman’s address at the inauguration of the income tax department’s complex—the previous building could not survive a terror attack in 2005—also sought to explain to the people how the government spends direct and indirect tax collected from people on development of the state and the nation. The minister explained that income disparity can only be addressed through development. In the case of Jammu & Kashmir, development has been bare minimum in the past despite the region’s potential, the minister said. 

In 2019, the central government revoked the special status of Jammu & Kashmir, reorganised it into two territories under central control—J&K and Ladakh. The new income tax office of the Principal Commissioner in Srinagar, elevated from a previous range office, has jurisdiction over the two union territories. 

The minister said that more than tax collection per se, what was important for both the direct and indirect tax administrations was the engagement with the people and to let them know that every penny contributed to the exchequer goes to the development of the state and the country. That is especially so in the case of indirect taxation which covers ordinary persons’ purchase of essential items.  

“That shall continue to be the accent of both the Boards (Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) and the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) under PM Modi’s leadership," Sitharaman said. She added that earlier as a chief minister and now as the Prime Minister, Modi places great emphasis that income disparity can be bridged only through development. 

“For a state like J&K, development has been something in the wings for some time. It has never happened," Sitharaman said, adding that some pockets of development are there but not overall development at a consistent pace.  

The potential of hydroelectric power generation in J&K is 20,000 MWs, she said. “Imagine what a state that can produce that kind of power, do for itself. If you can produce that much, you can sell it to the rest of the country and with that money do a lot more for our own people.  However, that capacity has never been fully exploited. As a result, the potential exists but power generation not coming up over the years has denied J&K its own developmental goals, the minister said.  Without basic electricity supply, development in J&K has always been at its bare minimum, despite its potential, the minister said.  

“It is important now for J&K post the abrogation of article 370 to give that which has been denied to the common Kashmiri citizen, the facilities, the development and make all his aspiration come true. There is no point if it is kept like a small oligarchy of people," the minister said. 

The new Income Tax building is one of the largest civilian offices of the government in the Himalayan region.


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