Express News Service
After the unveiling of the industrial policy, Jammu & Kashmir had expected about Rs 25,000 crore investment, but the response has so far been overwhelming, J&K Lt-Governor Manoj Sinha tells H Khogen Singh and Fayaz Wani in an interview
What are the big projects are undertaken which have made a difference to the people of J&K?
We have completed about 22,000 projects in the last year. There was a legacy here of languishing projects. A special scheme was launched to complete these projects and we have completed 1,100 of these. Five projects were started 20 years back and 165 about 10 years back. But they were all incomplete. We have converted liability into assets and disaster into dividends.
What type of projects were languishing for the last 10 to 20 years and why?
They include school buildings, roads, government departments, primary health centres etc. In J&K, there was a tradition of the system not working. Now there is total transparency. Without administrative approval, no work can be undertaken. If there is no e-tendering, the treasury will not accept bills.
Has developmental work gained momentum?
Under the PMGSY, on an average 1,600-1,700 kms of roads used to be built in J&K in a year. Last year, the average rose to 3,600-3,700 kms and this year it is 4,000 kms. As far as blacktopping of roads is concerned, an average of 2,200-2,400 kms used to be macadamized. Last year, 6,000 kms of road were macadamized and this year we have fixed a target of 8,000 kms.
What is being done to augment power position?
In the last 70 years, only 3,500 MWs capacity of electricity was installed. It is a power deficit region. We have signed an MoU with the NHPC on the Sawalakote power project. It is being constructed from 1984 and has not been completed yet. Now we are hopeful that it will be completed in five years. I think hydropower is not reliable during peak hours so we need alternate sources of energy. We have signed MoUs for solar power.
What measures are being undertaken to boost tourism and are there any new destinations in the pipeline?
Tourists are coming in large numbers. About 10 lakh tourists came to J&K in July. This is a message in itself and it needs to be understood. People feel it is safe to go to J&K. It is true that there are some tourist destinations that are not known to people. We are trying to tap this potential.
Did unemployment go up during Covid-19 in J&K?
There are more than four lakh government employees and 90,000 daily wagers. We recently advertised for 20,000 government jobs, of whom 4,000 have joined and 12,000 results have been declared. Verification of the rest is going on. We will be giving special weightage to families which do not have a single member in government service. Besides, 1,700 people were appointed in J&K Bank in the most transparent manner. We have abolished interviews for Class III and IV positions.
Self-employment can be a big source of employment and we are trying to break the mindset of the youth who want government jobs only. As per the CMIE data, unemployment rate in J&K was 29.9% in 2016, 21% in 2019 and 19.5% in 2020. Due to our cohesive and targeted efforts, the March 2021 figure was 9.3%. After the second wave, it increased to 10.6% in June.
What has been the response to the industrial policy?
The new industrial policy focuses on ease of doing business. We have got tremendous response from the industry. We were expecting Rs 25,000-30,000 crore of investment and the creation of five lakh jobs. But the response has been such that we are expecting double the investment and the creation of 10 lakh jobs. Many of the investors have even submitted the fees and have been given land also.
Were investors more interested in putting their money in Jammu or the Valley?
We have so far received investment proposals for Rs 25,000 crore. Of this, Rs 12,200 crore is for Kashmir and Rs 12,800 crore for Jammu.
Big industrial houses are showing interest in investing in J&K. JSW is one such.
Will the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan have security implications here?
I don’t see any threat. It will take the Taliban at least 3-4 months to settle down. Our forces are not only ready but they also have clarity of purpose. As per the constitution, the president and the head of a state has a right to dismiss any government employee who is a threat to the state. Even the J&K constitution had the same provision and action was taken. We have sacked 21 government employees for being involved in anti-national activities.
How do you assess J&K’s security situation?
August 15 was celebrated in every school and panchayat. This was for the first time in J&K’s history. Some people met me who wanted to hold such functions. The overall situation has improved and stone pelting incidents are a thing of the past.
When will Assembly elections be held?
The J&K Reorganisation Act says after completing the delimitation, elections will be held. Some people say when elections in Assam can be held without delimitation, why not in J&K. It is a simple thing: seven seats have increased in the J&K Assembly. Who will define boundaries of those seven seats? The PM has said after the delimitation exercise is completed elections will be held. The Delimitation Commission visited J&K for four days. After the delimitation process is completed, elections will be held.
Many political parties have demanded that statehood be restored before holding elections…
The home minister has stated in Parliament that statehood will be restored at an appropriate time. I think people should believe his words. The PM and the home minister have given assurances in this regard.