Congress lawmaker Ghulam Nabi Azad
Congress lawmaker Ghulam Nabi Azad

SRINAGAR — Former chief minister of erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir State and leader of the opposition in Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad on Wednesday asked the government to bring in the Parliament proposing the restoration of Statehood for J&K.

The senior Congress leader also demanded immediate conduct of Assembly polls in the Union Territory of J&K.

Addressing the house, Azad said, “I have heard the address of Atal Bihari Vajpayee thousands of times in both the houses as MP, Minister, and Prime Minister but never heard him or any other BJP leader mentioning in their manifesto about splitting a big State into two Union Territories till August 5, 2019.”

He said that only Leh district in the Ladakh region demanded UT status. “It’s understandable that specifically, Leh could have been upgraded as UT but this is out of mind to understand that one of the biggest States in India since Akbar’s rule has been bifurcated.”

He said that apart from Delhi, if the world knows any State of India it is Kashmir only for the historical background and beauty it has. “Any foreign minister or the head of the country visiting India knows Kashmir,” he said.

“I still fail to understand why the erstwhile J&K State was bifurcated into two Union Territories. Even now, there is no improvement in law and order as it used to be during the elected government. The militancy was lowest during elected governments but now it is at peak,” Azad said in his address.

“Developmental works were best during the elected local government while there is no developmental work at all and the parameters of health, education, and others are worse,” he said.

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“Post August 05, 2019, the educational institutions were shut and then came the pandemic but when the government started online classes, there was no high-speed mobile Internet available,” Azad said.

“How is it possible for a State to develop when the educational institutions remain shut for two years,” he questioned, adding that 30 to 40 parameters were better than the national average.

“What else was required since there was no rift or communal fight between Kashmir and Jammu divisions,” he asked.

The senior Congress leader said that the tourism sector has come to an end in Kashmir. “Some of the tourists who visited Gulmarg drive directly from the Airport to a five-star hotel there but that doesn’t benefit the local business of the Valley including the taxi driver, horse-cart runners, shopkeepers and handicrafts. Thousands of employees of hotels and people are sitting idle at home as there is no work since the tourist haven’t visited them for past two years now,” he said.

He added the condition of roads is worse and a stretch on the national highway from Batote to Banihal is waiting for completion for the last six years now that has led to huge losses. “Fruit business suffered a huge loss last year after the fruit-laden trucks remained stranded for almost a month due to the closure of national highway,” he said.

Praising Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led Central government for conducting successful maiden District Development Council (DDC) elections in J&K, Azad said, “I congratulate them for conducting the polls as it was an old demand to empower the Panchayat Raj System. Initially, the process was started by the Congress itself,” he added.

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“DDC is a good step. We praise Central government for conducting maiden elections,” he said.

Azad said that Northeast and Jammu & Kashmir including Ladakh and Punjab being Border States are important for India and there must be no step that evokes public resentment.

“The people of Ladakh are not happy with the UT status. With the abrogation of Article 370 and 35A, anyone can buy their land. Job opportunities were earlier exclusively available for J&K residents. Jammu people aren’t even happy as the maximum land will be borrowed from there,” he said.

“Earlier some advertised posts were repealed immediately after resentment in Jammu as it invited applications pan-India. Some national-level interviewers published were also withdrawn,” he said.

“Transporters, shopkeepers, and unemployed youth in Jammu are disappointed. No one in Ladakh, Kashmir, and Jammu are happy with the abrogation of Article 370 and 35A,” he added.

“Jammu and Kashmir was not the only place across India enjoying special provisions,” he said, adding that no one can buy land in Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Northeast, and the land of SC and ST was protected and it wasn’t in J&K only rather across India.

“If Jammu and Kashmir has to progress and if the borders have to be protected, the government needs to win the confidence of people and treat them with love and care,” he said.

“I end my speech by asking the Prime Minister to restore the Statehood of Jammu and Kashmir and conduct the elections in the UT at earliest,” he added.

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