‘Elected leg­is­la­ture will hap­pen at the right time’

Hindustan Times (Gurugram) - - Htspotligh­t -

CHANDI­GARH: On the eve of the first an­niver­sary of the nul­li­fi­ca­tion of Ar­ti­cle 370, the first lieu­tenant gov­er­nor of the Union Ter­ri­tory of Jammu and Kash­mir (J&K), Girish Chan­dra Murmu, spoke to Ramesh

Vi­nayak over video con­fer­ence from the Raj Bha­van in Srinagar. Edited ex­cerpts:

What has changed in J&K since the ef­fec­tive ab­ro­ga­tion of Ar­ti­cle 370?

Af­ter this (scrap­ping of Ar­ti­cle 370), Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi said there will be ac­cel­er­a­tion in de­vel­op­ment projects and over­all growth. Our pri­or­ity was to look into the de­fi­cien­cies, par­tic­u­larly in road con­nec­tiv­ity, elec­tric­ity sup­ply, drink­ing wa­ter and job op­por­tu­ni­ties. We con­cen­trated our ef­forts on that and achieved tremen­dously. To il­lus­trate, the Prime Min­is­ter’s De­vel­op­ment Project was con­ceived in 2015 and it has big and small projects. Un­til a year-and-a-half ago, 27% of funds were spent and only seven projects were com­pleted. Now, 17 projects stand com­mis­sioned and over 50% of funds have been used. These re­late to hy­dro-elec­tric­ity, high­ways, ir­ri­ga­tion and power trans­mis­sion. Sim­i­larly, we had 2,300 lan­guish­ing projects since 2010. Of them, 606 have been com­pleted in the past year. We have had a unique ‘back-to-vil­lage’ pro­gramme which, on the ba­sis of the grass­roots-level feed­back, iden­ti­fied 20,000 small projects of which 7,000 have been ex­e­cuted. Un­der the Prad­han Mantri Gramin Sadak Yo­jana, an av­er­age of 1,600 km of road stretch is com­pleted an­nu­ally. J&K will do 5,000 km this year. All this is hap­pen­ing on the ground and is sat­is­fy­ing.

Has the gov­ern­ment been un­able to meet its ob­jec­tive on the se­cu­rity front?

I think it is the other way around. Mil­i­tancy has two as­pects. One is to pre­vent or pre-empt peo­ple sup­port­ing or join­ing mil­i­tancy. That we are ad­dress­ing by fo­cus­ing on young­sters, their em­pow­er­ment, job creation and sports to bring them into the main­stream. This has min­imised the re­cruit­ment (to mil­i­tant ranks). The sec­ond piece is anti-mili­na­tion. tancy op­er­a­tions that have be­come ef­fec­tive due to syn­ergy among se­cu­rity forces. One good thing in all these op­er­a­tions is that there is hardly any civil­ian ca­su­alty.

What is your read­ing on the mood on the street in Kash­mir?

Def­i­nitely peo­ple are en­thu­si­as­tic and op­ti­mistic. They are look­ing for­ward to see­ing de­vel­op­ment and creation of jobs in their ar­eas. They want to pros­per and have a bet­ter life.

The po­lit­i­cal space in Kash­mir re­mains in a freeze. What is the way for­ward to re­vive stalled pol­i­tics?

As there is Pres­i­dent’s Rule and the leg­isla­tive assem­bly is dis­solved, ob­vi­ously there is some pause…some dis­rup­tion. The par­ties’ ac­tiv­ity as elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives is not there. But it is not true that there is com­plete ab­sence of po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­ity. At the grass­roots level, democ­racy is thriv­ing and kick­ing. We have em­pow­ered pan­chay­ats and mu­nic­i­pal bod­ies in the real sense. Of course, an elected leg­is­la­ture has to be there. That would hap­pen at the ap­pro­pri­ate time.

Why has the gov­ern­ment not re­leased all main­stream po­lit­i­cal lead­ers, in­clud­ing Me­hbooba Mufti, who have par­tic­i­pated in elec­tions, peace­ful pol­i­tics and com­mit­ted them­selves to the In­dian Con­sti­tu­tion?

All detentions are re­viewed from time to time…now al­most on weekly ba­sis. The process looks into the cir­cum­stances un­der which peo­ple were de­tained. When the per­cep­tion and sit­u­a­tion changes, they are re­leased. There is no dis­crimi

There ap­pears to be a huge trust deficit be­tween Kash­mir’s main­stream politi­cians and the Cen­tre.

Well, I don’t sense that in my in­ter­ac­tions with MLAs and MLCs. Though there is no elected leg­is­la­ture right now, we take their sug­ges­tions.

For­mer chief min­is­ter Omar Ab­dul­lah has spo­ken of how he will not par­tic­i­pate in elec­tions till J&K re­mains a UT. Your view?

This is his per­sonal view and I won’t be able to com­ment. All I can say is that this UT has a leg­is­la­ture, un­like Ladakh, and will have an elected gov­ern­ment. The view that only this (Ar­ti­cle 370) would en­sure po­lit­i­cal par­tic­i­pa­tion is a bit far­fetched.

Both the Prime Min­is­ter and home min­is­ter have said J&K’s state­hood would be re­stored. Is the gov­ern­ment open to restor­ing state­hood as a con­fi­dence-build­ing step?

Con­fi­dence build­ing is al­ready go­ing on at lev­els of grass­roots and public par­tic­i­pa­tion. What­ever the PM and HM have said, they mean it. I don’t sub­scribe that only this (restor­ing state­hood) will bring con­fi­dence. Even a UT with a leg­is­la­ture can have con­fi­dence of peo­ple.

When will you be able to hold assem­bly elec­tions?

Right now we are ad­dress­ing de­fi­cien­cies in de­vel­op­ment works to see that peo­ple’s wor­ries and woes are min­imised and that they are em­pow­ered. On elec­tions, a de­ci­sion will come at an ap­pro­pri­ate time.

While the gov­ern­ment spoke of how Kash­miris — af­ter the con­sti­tu­tional changes — will en­joy the same rights as other In­di­ans, there is a view that peo­ple in J&K ac­tu­ally now en­joy fewer rights. How would you re­spond to this?

That is a mis­nomer and a wrong per­cep­tion. Re­gard­less of Ar­ti­cle 370, peo­ple here en­joy the same rights and lib­er­ties as cit­i­zens else­where. The special sta­tus was a tem­po­rary pro­vi­sion and in­volved cer­tain things at the lo­cal level. Any in­ter­pre­ta­tion that J&K res­i­dents have fewer rights now is wrong both con­sti­tu­tion­ally and legally. It is a bla­tant lie.


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