Today, on the joyous occasion of the 61st Republic Day of our great nation, I extend my greetings and good wishes to the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
Last year, on this auspicious day, I had thanked the people of Jammu and Kashmir for turning out in large numbers for electing their representatives to the State Legislature. Today, I compliment them for their robust participation in the Parliamentary elections, which were held last year soon after the State Assembly polls. The large scale participation of the people of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh in both these elections signifies their abiding faith and commitment to democracy and their yearning for the State being restored to lasting peace and normalcy.
Agitations leading to violent confrontations and repeated calls for observing bandhs and hartals have resulted in severe economic losses, varied adversities for the common man and daily wage earners. The functioning of public institutions has been most adversely affected and the repeated disruptions of the academic schedules have done irreparable damage to the future of the younger generation.
The elements in our society who have not so far been inclined to pursue the democratic path for the resolution of their demands need to seriously reflect on the untold losses suffered by the people in the past years and recognize the futility of continuing on the path of confrontation.
We must bring to an early end this most unfortunate phase of agitations and confrontations. It would be necessary for all those who hold contrary beliefs to come forward to participate in a meaningful dialogue. Our liberal democratic framework provides ample space for divergent thought and opinion. Conciliation and dialogue are the best means of resolving all issues involving contrary positions.
The people of J&K are rightly proud of their centuries old pluralistic ethos and invaluable traditions of communal harmony and brotherhood. There is, today, an urgent need for re-invigorating and strengthening these bonds to foil the divisive designs of elements inimical to the unity and integrity of the State.
In the past two decades the growth of extremist ideologies and terrorist activities, sponsored and supported from across our frontiers, have resulted in enormous human and economic losses. While the outgoing year witnessed a significant decline in terrorism related incidents there has been a sustained increase in infiltrations in the past weeks. This leaves no scope for lowering of the guard by the Security Forces who will need to maintain constant vigil on all fronts while ensuring that the rights of the people are respected and protected and no law abiding person suffers any harassment.
In their continuing battle against terrorism many brave officers and men of the State Police, Central Police Organizations and the Army have laid down their lives to preserve the unity and integrity of our country. I salute our gallant soldiers who made the supreme sacrifice.
After assuming charge, the present State Government has been faced with continuously rising public expectations. These would need to be met with a people-centric decentralized development process which involves people’s participation at all levels. The poor and marginalized segments of society must have a voice in deciding what needs to be done to ameliorate their lot and how it should be done.
The State Government, has been receiving continuing generous support from the Centre. The outlay under the 11th Five Year Plan, at Rs. 25,833 crore, is 78% higher than the 10th Plan allocation. And for the current financial year, J&K has the highest ever annual outlay of Rs. 5500 crore, another Rs. 1200 crore under the Prime Minister’s Reconstruction Plan and Rs. 220 crore as “counter-part share” to enable the State to raise a matching loan from the Asian Development Bank. The State Government, which also has access to over Rs. 1800 crore of funding under various Centrally Sponsored Schemes, enjoys the challenging opportunity of delivering a capital expenditure of Rs. 8000 to Rs. 10,000 crore during the current year. The Central Government has also sanctioned over Rs. 1000 crore for the construction of the Mughal Road and conservation of Dal-Nageen Lake and Rs. 125 crore for the infrastructural up-gradation of 5 towns in the Valley.
While devoting high priority to enhancing economic growth, the Government would need to ensure equitable distribution, particularly addressing inter-regional and intra-regional concerns to secure balanced development of all parts of the State. Special attention must also be given to meet the pressing needs of the people residing in the remote, far flung and backward areas and speeding up the pace of identified projects which are aimed to serve the interests of Gujjars, Bakarwals, Pahari speaking people, members of Scheduled Castes and Tribes and other minority groups. A suitable environment would need to be created to enable the return and resettlement of the Kashmiri Pandit migrants.
Planned attention is needed to attract private investments in the State by evolving a viable framework of Public-Private Partnerships, particularly to speed up growth in the health, education, power and road sectors. To be successful, such partnerships would need to subsume locally available talent and resources. It is encouraging to note that certain steps have already been initiated to turn around Power generation and various measures to improve transmission, distribution and conservation are also being considered.
To tackle unemployment the Government has recently launched several initiatives. The new Employment Policy aims to create employment and, alongside, enhance employability through skill-transfer, skill-upgradation, and multi-skilling of our young men and women. Side by side, the Central Government shall be providing upto 8000 seats in various ITIs every year for our youth to undergo modular skill development training in potentially fast developing sectors. I am confident that the various programmes underway would yield very encouraging outcomes if these are executed honestly, efficiently and timely.
It is essential that every wing and agency of the State Government works overtime to deliver efficient services, particular attention being paid to alleviate the difficulties faced by the disadvantaged segments of society and those living in the remote and unconnected areas. We must not forget that for the common man governance relates to the honesty, efficiency, promptitude and sensitivity with which the governmental agencies deliver essential services. I am confident that, with the various steps underway, the governmental machinery will continue to progressively improve its functioning, on all fronts.
For good governance it is necessary to have a well informed citizenry. Mobilizing people’s involvement in securing efficiency and accountability in the functioning of public institutions is both necessary and fruitful. The State Government has already taken a step in this direction by enacting a law on the Right to Information. The State Information Commission is also expected to become functional in the near future. If the people make use of this law in a mature and responsible manner, we can look forward to the emergence of transparency and enhanced accountability in all areas of functioning.
The empowerment of people shall receive a further boost when the projected elections to Panchayats and Urban Local Bodies are held in the coming months. The functioning of democratically elected self governing bodies at the grass root level, in the urban and rural areas, will make a vital contribution to enable the people to take their own decisions and become responsible for the execution of various programmes for promoting their welfare. Such empowerment of people will also give a powerful impetus to the overall developmental process.
The Kashmir Valley Railway now provides convenient, speedy and cheap transport from Baramulla to Qazigund. When the Udhampur─Qazigund sector gets completed, Kashmir will enjoy rail connectivity with the entire country and enable the people to profitably market their products throughout India and beyond. Large investments are also being made to connect various parts of the State with a network of roads. Work on the four-laning of the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway project, which has commenced, will significantly reduce the distance and time for those travelling to the Valley.
The three regions of the State comprise one organic whole and the surest path for the State to grow and prosper would be for each of the three regions to develop and prosper in complete harmony with each other. Towards this objective the State Government would need to ensure that the present and future developmental strategies harmonize with the urges and aspirations of the people and meet their larger welfare goals.
In conclusion, I would stress that for achieving peace, progress and prosperity in J&K, the Government and the Opposition as well as all other social, cultural and religious organizations in the State, shall need to work together closely and collectively. I appeal to the leaders of all sections of society, in each of the three regions of the State, to close their ranks and work determinedly together to build a strong and prosperous Jammu and Kashmir.
A new year has just begun. I wish the people of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh good health, happiness and prosperity in 2010. The Government completed the first year of its tenure earlier this month. I wish the Chief Minister, Sh. Omar Abdullah, and all his Cabinet colleagues, a very successful year ahead.