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J&K Union Territory (UT) completes four years of new life after the reading down of Articles 370 and 35A enacted on August 5, 2019 — IANS

Srinagar, Aug 3 (IANS) Pinnacled in the Himalayas, the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) lived in the shadows of perpetual chaos. The Indian jurisdiction could only watch helplessly how local politicians and religious clerics from across the border pushed the crown of India into ruination.

Fast forward, as the J&K Union Territory (UT) completes four years of new life, it stands as a testament to how empowered people, encouraged in the direction of growth and development, can convert generations of crisis into a legendary transformation. After the reading down of Articles 370 and 35A enacted on August 5, 2019, J&K has appeared as a winner in all important economic and social progress markers. Summed up, since 2019, J&K emerged from the chrysalis of a dependent to a depend-able territory. The abrogation of these Articles of the Indian Constitution cemented its foundation for shared prosperity and unity with the rest of the country.

The first ambition of the Indian government aimed at building the backbone of the economy — the roads and the railroads — to complete the missing link that kept Kashmir at an arm’s distance away from mainstream India. Through a network of highways, tunnels, railways, and subsidiary roads, even the nameless villages are connected. The overarching objective was to stimulate economic growth, alleviate poverty, and strengthen regional connectivity. Today Kashmir is counted among the major trading hubs in India.

In four years, J&K has witnessed the achievement of several milestones. Last year alone the Union Territory entertained 16.2 million tourists following a wave of developmental projects and strengthened security against rogue elements across the border. Since India’s Independence, it is for the first time that the UT has witnessed such a spike in tourism.

Today, J&K is contesting as the top adventure sports destination in India as well! Villages in far-flung regions that had not seen the light of day are included in tourists’ itineraries. Such is its charm that Srinagar airport has kept so busy that it stands as the third highest profit-making airport in the county! Naturally, the success of the tourism business has been crucial in significantly boosting the confidence of people.

Consequently, handicrafts and related sectors have also experienced a significant transformation under the new statute. The launching of the Geographical Indication (GI) tag to redeem the reputation of several products unique to J&K has helped rebuild the global market for these items. GI labels have also proved useful as a marketing tool to preserve the value of goods owing to their place of origin. This initiative along with the promotion of traditional arts through subsidies has motivated J&K’s youth to return to their homeland from metropolitan cities as this business far surpasses the monetary benefits of their employment. Once again, J&K is the world’s trusted source of authentic artistry such as carpet work, pashmina shawls, and woodwork, among others.

Great strides have been made in pursuit of gainful employment in these years. The combination of Entrepreneurship and Agri-preneurship through government schemes that provide interest-free loans, free skill training, free facilities such as public-use common machinery, grants and cash awards to cover establishment costs, etc. have played a vital role in boosting industrialization and economic diversification in J&K. These schemes have capacitated farmers with the technical know-how, funds, and a gentle push in the direction of self-subsistence.

Several prestigious agriculture institutes run years-long research programs involving farmers in all their processes to achieve the highest yield variety and commercial success. Conservatories are set up across the length and breadth of J&K to reassure bountiful plantations through predictive models.  Agri-preneurship has attracted both domestic and foreign investments, indicating the scope for greater employment opportunities. This steep rise in business activity has been instrumental in creating self-sufficiency, enhancing J&K’s industrial productivity and competitiveness.

The impact of this decree has extended beyond J&K borders, enamoring the Middle East and the West. Realizing J&K’s value given the paradigm shift due to the political, social, and economic reconstruction of the region, foreign investors have been knocking on doors to partake in the foreseeable economic boom. As a linchpin of the Union Territory, the change in the ruling of J&K has opened gates to global horizons. The Gulf has solidified its relationship with the Union Territory (UT) by investing $2.5 billion in J&K and signing six agreements with global investors at Dubai Expo 2020. Through these agreements, J&K is securing upgrades in its infrastructure, tourism, healthcare, and manpower sector, among others. This spirit of camaraderie is expected to boost commerce between India and UAE from $60 billion to $100 billion in the coming 5 to 8 years. The mutual benefits derived from this arrangement will enhance people-to-people exchanges, cultural understanding, and many such strategic collaborations in the future.

The approved “growth-oriented” budget for J&K for the year 2022-23 was set at a whopping Rs 1.42 lakh crore ($22 billion), in view of the infrastructure plans and centrally sponsored schemes meant to elevate the economic and social standard of the region. The injection of funds has realized all the goals — “good governance, agriculture and horticulture boost, power sector expansion, rural development, democratic foundation, facilitating investment and industrial growth, major infrastructure upgrade, improved connectivity, social inclusion of all classes of people, safe and accessible drinking water, improved education institutions, youth services, tourism, and upgraded health infrastructure.”

It is beyond inspirational to learn that more than 50,700 projects have been completed within these four years. Based on mutual trust, shared vision, and long-term commitment between the people and the government, J&K’s journey since 2019 has propelled a brighter future for her, marked by steady progress and prosperity.

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