Rajat Sharma

How Centre is bringing about positive changes in Kashmir

akb0810India TV in its show ‘Aaj Ki Baat’ on Tuesday night telecast two news stories from Jammu & Kashmir which will surely bring optimism in the minds of every Indian in sharp contrast with the gloomy outlook that is sought to be portrayed about Kashmir in the international media.

Twenty-five hi-tech smart government schools have started functioning in Srinagar. For the first time in their lives, poor children studying in government schools attended demo classes in these hi-tech schools. Regular academic session will begin from April. Every classroom had new desks and chairs for students, with brightly coloured walls and smart boards replacing the outdated black boards.

When the Centre revoked Article 370 in J&K on August 5 last year, students’ education was the first to be hit due to indefinite lock down in the Valley. Later, schools reopened, but parents were afraid of sending their wards to schools fearing reprisals from separatists. Examinations were conducted on time with nearly 100 per cent attendance, but kids studying in primary and middle classes were badly hit.

The structural transformation in government schools has brought smiles to the faces of students and their parents. Before Article 370 was revoked, annual fee charged from every student in a government school was Rs 250, inclusive of books and uniform. Now that J&K is a union territory, the students will not have to pay a single paisa.

The deputy CEO of Srinagar smart city project told India TV that the transformation was brought about with a budget of Rs 5 crore only. The Development Commissioner of Srinagar described these new look schools as a New Year gift for poor students.

Apart from modernizing school education, the new UT administration has started putting in place mass recruitment drive in different categories. to start with, the Central Reserve Police Force has started a recruitment drive for inducting 1,300 women constables and officers, for which nearly 21,000 women applied.

In severe cold, hundreds of women aspirants flocked to recruitment camps in Rajouri, Doda, Kishtwar and other places. The recruitment drive is going on at full pace in Ramban, Kishtwar, Udhampur, Reasi, Jammu and Kathua, where tests for physical endurance and fitness are being carried out. J&K police officials told India TV that recruitment drive for young men will begin soon on a massive scale.

To sum up: the average Kashmiri wants peace to prevail in the Valley after three decades of insurgency. Every Kashmiri wants his or her children to get the best education and job opportunities. These aspirations also reveal one important fact: that in the last 70 years, not much was done in the fields of education and jobs.

Now that the work has begun, the Centre is sending 36 ministers to meet cross sections of society in a massive reachout programme. Union Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi was in Srinagar, where common people told him that almost no development has been made in the last several years and most of the promises made by the government have not been fulfilled.

The outspokenness of common Kashmiris airing their grievances may be embarrassing for officials, but I prefer to look at this from a different angle.

Common Kashmiris airing their grievances before a Union Minister is a sure signal of change. At last, the common man is speaking out without any semblance of fear. People in Kashmir have high aspirations from the Centre, and there is nothing wrong if the common man reminds a minister about past promises. Now is the time for the Centre to fulfill these promises in areas where much remains to be done.

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