Rajat Sharma


AKB It was heartening to see the 25,000-capacity Bakshi Stadium in Srinagar, fully packed, on Thursday to watch Prime Minister Narendra Modi speak on Kashmir’s developmental issues. This was Modi’s first visit to the Kashmir Valley since Article 370 granting special status to J&K, was abrogated five years ago. It was a surprise to watch the feeling of enthusiasm among Kashmiris who had come to watch Modi speak. This was the same Valley where people used to fear before moving out of their homes. The pervading sense of fear has ended. Earlier, public meetings in the Valley used to be held under the shadow of fear, but on Thursday, thousands stood in queues to enter the stadium. It was just like any political rally in Kolkata, Mumbai or Delhi. Kashmir has changed for the better. Kashmiris came from Anantnag, Baramulla, Budgam, Bandipore, Ganderbal, Kupwara, Kulgam, Pulwama and Shopian to watch the Prime Minister speak. There was a festive atmosphere with several of them beating drums outside the stadium. People said on camera that Kashmir has now changed for the better and the fruits of development were reaching different corners of the Valley. The occasion was the launch and foundation laying of 53 projects worth Rs 6,400 crore in Kashmir. Modi met local artisans, watched their products at an exhibition, handed over appointment letters to 1,000 youths, and spoke to youths and women engaged in startups in the Valley. Modi posed for a selfie with a Pulwama resident Nazim Nazeer. In his speech, Modi said, “I have come here to win the hearts of people (Main Yahaan Dil Jeetne Aaya Hoon)” . Modi described how the nation was being misled by some “political families of the Valley” in the name of Article 370. “That phase is now over and a clear change has taken place in Jammu and Kashmir”, he said. After watching the crowds at Modi’s public meeting, and hearing commoners speak about development, one can easily gauge the sentiments of the people. Creating such a sentiment in the hearts of the people was not easy. Development work began at full pace soon after Article 370 was abrogated. The results are there for all to see. There was a time when Kashmir’s beautiful vales were famous for film shooting. Crews from Mumbai film industry used to visit the Valley with actors and directors. Gradually, it dried up after the onset of terrorism. In the last few years, permission was given for shooting of more than 400 films in the Valley. Cinema halls have reopened in the Valley and local residents are going to the theatres without any fear. Everybody will surely this change. Tourism has been the mainstay of Kashmir’s economy. Last year, more than 1.84 crore tourists visited the Valley. It is a record. Hotels are full, and people have to book flights in advance. Shikaras have started operating at Srinagar’s Dal Lake again. 75 new trekking routes have been opened. This is evidence of the Valley regaining normalcy. In Kashmir, education was always a big problem. Kashmiri students had to go out of the state for studies. Now, 50 new colleges have been opened, while 25,000 more seats have been added in the existing colleges. IIT, IIM, IIMC have started working. Kashmiris were suffering from lack of better hospital care. Two new AIIMS, seven new medical colleges and five new nursing colleges have opened. Kashmiris used to complain about lack of better roads. In the last three years, 16,807 kilometre new roads were built and travel time between Jammu and Kishtwar, between Jammu and Srinagar, between Srinagar and Gulmarg, has reduced. People from Delhi can reach Katra in five hours. Roads are being built to link all villages. 244 new bridges were built. More than 3.5 lakh homes have got electricity and LED lights under Ujala scheme. There is a long list of developmental work which has enhanced the day-to-day life of Kashmiris. Earlier, Kashmiris used to shiver in cold due to lack of electricity. While Kashmir generated only 3,500 megawatt electricity in the last 70 years, there is now plan to double the power generation in three years. Such activities are directly related to the lives of common Kashmiris. That is why a positive outlook towards Modi government has developed in the hearts of Kashmiris. Of course, much needs to be done to achieve progress and prosperity in Kashmir, but I can say, this is a good beginning. There is now a sense of trust in the hearts of Kashmiris.

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