4 Union Ministers in J&K Every Week, Focus on Far-Flung Areas as Govt Mulls Mission Outreach 2.0

SRINAGAR: In its latest outreach effort in Jammu and Kashmir, the Union government will send four Union ministers to visit the state every week as well as focus on the far-flung areas to interact with people on the ground and address their grievances.

The plan, to be put into action post-Independence Day on August 15, will be the second edition of the Centre’s Mission J&K outreach.

In the first edition in January 2020, 36 Union Ministers visited around five dozen places across the state, more than five months after the Narendra Modi government scrapped its special status and bifurcated the state into two union territories of J&K and Ladakh.

The ministers were then tasked with making people aware of the “positive impact” of abrogation of Article 370, which granted the state its special status, and share “development initiatives taken by the government” with them.

The fresh initiative comes amid sources telling CNN-News18 that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is keen to grant statehood to J&K soon, as promised in the past by him and home minister Amit Shah, but there will be no talks on restoring the region’s special status.

The restoration of statehood will be counted as the culmination of a monumental achievement by the National Democratic Alliance government, which has nullified all doomsday prognoses about the ramifications of its move to fully integrate J&K in the union of India.

In the months since it decided to carve out Ladakh from and administer J&K as a union territory, the government appears on track to securing all of its strategic objectives. The security situation in the Kashmir valley is under control; elections to the district development councils went off peacefully last year; political leaders from Kashmir, who were detained, are back to politicking; and a ceasefire with Pakistan (announced in February) is holding well.

In a meeting with political leaders of Jammu and Kashmir, including Mehbooba Mufti, Farooq Abdullah among others, PM Modi discussed a blueprint to begin the political process in the Valley. According to the sources CNN-News18 spoke to, the government is considering announcing statehood for J&K, but the move might have to wait till a delimitation commission set up early last year submits its report. They said there will be no change in Ladakh’s status for now.

The developments come after months of strategising by NSA Ajit Doval, who spearheaded the process and even talked to separatists in the Valley in order to bring everyone on board. Though there have been local polls in J&K after the Article 370 move, a forward step in restoring its statehood — as demanded by the Valley’s leadership — will be watershed.

The government sources said the PM will also assure the parties that elections in the region — pending since 2018 — will be conducted soon. All regional parties will participate in the election process, which is expected after an ongoing delimitation exercise, they added.—(News18)

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