Business News/ News / India/  Spice park in Pulwama, sports centre in Anantnag signal a new J&K

The Jammu and Kashmir administration, backed by the central government, is working on a multipronged strategy to win the hearts and minds of the people of the Union territory. The move comes a year after Article 370 of the Constitution, which had given special powers to the erstwhile state, was revoked.

These include a new sports complex in Anantnag to keep the youth from being drawn towards terrorism, a new high tech Spice Park in Pulwama to ensure the region’s saffron growers get good prices for their crop, and a programme that ensures local officials regularly visit villages and work with heads of locally elected village councils or panchayats to deliver governance.

Pulwama and Anantnag, as well as Shopian and Kulgam in south Kashmir, have been the hotbeds of terrorism. Pulwama made headlines last year for a suicide car bomb attack on a paramilitary convoy that killed 40 security personnel and heightened tensions between India and Pakistan. This is what the officials are working to change.

“Pulwama produces 310,000 tonnes of milk on an average," said Raghav Langer, the district’s deputy commissioner. The district has the potential to be known as “the Anand" of Kashmir, he said. The reference was to Anand in Gujarat, which is known for its milk marketing cooperatives.

Officials are aiming to put Anantnag on the map for trout farming, besides lavender and rice cultivation. “Mushkbudji is a fragrant rice variety endemic to this region. We are pushing for a geographical indication tag for this variety as a means of increasing farm incomes," said district collector Kuldip Krishan Sidha.

Local officials in Jammu and Kashmir admitted to a certain anxiety and uncertainty among the local populace in the aftermath of New Delhi reading down Article 370 on 5-6 August last year. The aim of the move, New Delhi said, was to ensure a new beginning for the region by delivering governance directly to the people.

“There was corruption in the system and politicians with links to separatists," said former foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal. “These are the things that have changed now after the revocation of Article 370," he said. Speeding up development and governance delivery also helps puncture Pakistan’s narrative of oppression and human rights violations by security forces in the region, Sibal said.

Ajai Sahni of the New Delhi-based think tank Institute of Conflict Management said the region has seen many attempts to integrate it with the national mainstream. “There is a new narrative no doubt. I hope it will reach all the people and not just a section," he said.

Officials say programmes such as “Back to the village", which involves approximately 5,000 gazetted officers of the Union territory spending two days and a night in all of the more than 4,400 panchayats of the region, is for all the people. They seemed convinced that sentiment among the populace is changing.

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Updated: 02 Sep 2020, 08:26 AM IST
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