Governor addresses meeting of the NITI Aayog

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New Delhi: Governor, Satya Pal Malik while addressing the 5th meeting of the Governing Council of NITI Aayog sought personal intervention of the Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, for accelerating the development in the State which is imperative for putting the State on the path of peace, progress and prosperity.

Addressing the 5th meeting of the Governing Council of NITI Aayog, Governor highlighted the key initiatives undertaken during the last one year. He said there was a need for giving further impetus to the development process in the State for which the Government of India was requested to provide liberal financial support.

Highlighting some of the key initiatives undertaken, since the State was brought under Governor’s rule on June, 20 2018, followed by President’s rule on December, 20, 2018, the Governor said among the major achievements has been the empowerment of people through peaceful Panchayat and ULB elections held in November- December after a gap of over 7 years. Despite boycott calls and threats, people came out in large numbers to vote and overall turnover was 74% without any loss of life.

The Governor said that the State Government has introduced necessary amendments in the Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Act to strengthen the institution of Panchayats and given them more powers. In order to further this effort, he said that the State Government is organising a week long “Back to the Village” programme from 20th to 27th June 2019. All gazetted officers will stay in a Panchayat for two days and will connect with Panchayat representatives, see how government services are being delivered and understand local needs. “This is a first in J&K we are new to this. “The enthusiasm all around gives us hope that the future is bright for grassroots democracy in the state”, Governor observed.

Governor said that equitable development of all regions is a priority for the Government. While Elevated High Speed Rail Corridors and two satellite townships will be developed in Jammu and Srinagar, the aspirations of Ladakh have been fulfilled through creation of a separate division, a University and empowerment of the Hill Councils. Kargil will soon have a full fledged commercial airport like Leh, he said.

Governor said that the State too has been taking its own initiatives. The number of Colleges in the state has been increased from 98 to 200, while the number of MBBS seats has been doubled in one year from 500 to over 1000, probably a first for any state. Many new facilities are coming up and the State is expected to be a hub for medical tourism in future.

On infrastructure, Governor said that J&K has had over Rs 6000 crore of languishing projects, some pending for over 20 years. The State Government has set up a Jammu & Kashmir Infrastructure Development Finance Corporation (JKIDFC) and raised Rs. 8000 crore of loans to fund these languishing projects in 18 months. The initiative has been noted as a best practice by the NITI Aayog, he said.

Governor said that J&K has risen remarkably in the Aspirational district rankings. A year ago, Kupwara was at the bottom. This has been done mainly by gearing up the administrative system to deliver results. The worst performing state in Swachh Bharat in February 2018 i.e. J&K, was declared ODF in September 2018 along with others. The J&K won a national award of Rs 100 crore for implementing Saubhagya scheme ahead of time. In Ayushman Bharat, J&K has the largest percentage of Gold Cards issued. J&K has among the best healthcare systems in the country. NITI Aayog has ranked J&K as the second best state in the overall improvement among aspirational districts over the last year and Baramulla is ranked as the second best district overall. All this is being done in the most difficult circumstances, he said.

Governor said that the State Government is taking all necessary steps to ensure that September-2014 like flood situation is not repeated in the State. He said a project has been initiated for dredging of Wular Lake and Jhelum for which he requested the Central Government to fund its share for the Wular, Dal and Jhelum Phase 2 projects which will save Srinagar and other parts of the Valley from future floods.

Governor said that State has also undertaken a programme for 100% piped drinking water supply to the entire state by 2021 for which he requested liberal financial support from Government of India. This will make J&K the first State in the country to have 100% piped water supply.

Governor said that State has witnessed good snowfall this year followed by frequent rains. He said that flexibility in SDRF norms is needed to permit more than 10% of funds to be used for equipment as J&K requires more number of snow clearance and flood relief equipment. There is a huge backlog of MGNREGA receipts from GoI which is causing stress in the system. Further, J&K had a special dispensation by which Land Acquisition cost was included in PMGSY projects. “J&K would like that continue”, he said.

On agriculture and horticulture sector, the Governor said that doubling the farmer’s income in the State can be achieved through focus on horticulture and animal husbandry. He said J&K is a top producer of quality apple, saffron and walnuts and many other fruits. However, J&K is badly placed in the supply chain with extremely limited cold storages, logistics facilities, grading and packing plants, export infrastructure and even good mandis for which Governor sought greater central assistance in supporting Horticulture, logistics, and other areas.

Governor said that the National Highway from Jammu to Srinagar has been a source of great inconvenience. Positioning of Officers from NHAI on the site-fulltime is essential to avoid disruptions and ensure all time connectivity to valley and Ladakh. Further, he said that the international airport at Srinagar should be brought on the international route map.

Governor said that J&K is organising first ever investment summit later this year and preparations are in full swing for this including setting up of two world class IT Parks.

Governor said that J&K depends a lot on the Centre for its development needs. “The massive Rs 80,000 crore PMDP for J&K has been a boon for the state. In the last one year, the implementation of PMDP projects has speeded up phenomenally. Roads, bridges, flyovers, hospitals, educational institutions, and skill and livelihood programmes are moving ahead rapidly. There is an air of expectation among the people” he added.

Governor said that J&K is a front line State in the fight against militancy and sought all support in this regard. He said that a scheme such as Special Central Assistance (SCA) given to Left Wing Extremism (LWE) districts will be of great help to J&K in its fight against militancy and to fill critical gaps.

Governor said that last year there was incident free Shri Amarnathji Yatra. With the help of Central Government, we are hopeful to have a peaceful Yatra this year as well.

In his concluding remarks, Governor observed that last one year has demonstrated that good governance and development are possible and can go hand in hand in J&K. The rule of law has been established. Guilty and the corrupt are being held accountable and brought to book. The time has now come to reach out to our youth with the active support of the Government of India. The State Government will work with the Central Go vernment to ensure that people of J&K reap the benefits of great economic future, which the country is poised for in the next 5 years.

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