Srinagar: Prime Minister Narendra Modi will address a rally in Srinagar’s Sheri-e-Kashmir Stadium on 7 November — his first after the Peoples Democratic Party and the BJP stitched an alliance in the state in March early this year. While Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir Mufti Mohammad Sayed has already described the upcoming rally as a “turning point in the history of Jammu and Kashmir”, people in general are sceptical of the claim.
The prime minister is scheduled to first inaugurate phase-II of the Baghlihar hydroelectric power project in Jammu, and then visit Srinagar to address a rally. “I see this visit as an opportunity for history to repeat itself,” Sayed said on Sunday, while recalling an earlier address by former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to the people during his visit in 2003, at the same venue.
This scepticism is drawn from the fact that the Central government, according to people, has failed to deliver when it comes to reconstruction and rehabilitation of the flood effected people. By far the most serious natural disaster in living memory of the state, the flood of September 2014 affected at least two million people. At least 2.61 lakh structures, including residential houses, were damaged — 21,485 of them completely in the flood.
Mehraj-ud-Din Bhat, a resident of Jawahar Nagar area of Srinagar, whose house was marooned in the floods, said he expected little from Modi’s visit. “The rehabilitation and reconstruction was part of the Agenda of Alliance between the PDP and the BJP, but despite that both parties have failed to deliver on ground,” Bhat told Firstpost, while emphasizing that it took him more than Rs 10 lakh just to make his house livable for his family.
“We were paid Rs 75,000 for a fully damaged house, which has a market value of Rs 1 crore. We expect little from the government now,” he added.
However, the PDP is optimistic and has mobilized its cardre and leaders to attract as many people as possible for the 7 November rally. For the party’s leadership it would be a litmus test as the Hurriyat Conference leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani has given a call for a ‘Million Man March’, on the same day Modi is scheduled to address the rally in Srinagar. This has prompted the state government to launch a crackdown on several separatist leaders who have been allegedly detained ahead of the propose march.
Finance minister in the BJP-PDP coalition government, Haseeb Drabu, said the fresh visit by the prime minister would give “fresh impetus” to implementation of the PDP-BJP Agenda of Alliance. People are expecting him to announce tangible confidence-building measures aimed at addressing the political and economic challenges confronting the state, he added.
“The priority has to be the young people of Jammu and Kashmir who feel alienated. Apart from that the Centre should ensure long-term economic prosperity of the people in all the regions of the State,” Drabu said recently while addressing a rally in south Kashmir. “The government has identified power, agriculture, tourism, horticulture and handicrafts as thrust areas which have not only the potential to boost the state’s economy but create huge employment avenues for the local youth,” he added.
People in the Valley are curiously waiting for what the prime minister will say at the rally as an announcement regarding the supposed economic package that has been delayed for the past eight months.
Newspapers in Kashmir reported on Sunday that the state government is likely to get just Rs 5,000 crore in flood assistance. Of the Rs 5,000 crore, Rs 2,500 crore to Rs 3,000 crore has been earmarked for the rehabilitation of people whose houses were either partially or fully damaged in the flood and for compensating losses suffered by traders and business community. The previous government than led by the National Conference had submitted a proposal of Rs 44,000 crore to New Delhi for the financing the reconstruction programme.
“There is a sense of loss and fatigue from this alliance in Kashmir valley, I suppose, people are waiting for some political initiative rather than an economic one. But that doesn’t mean there is no need for a massive economic package that would be a face saver for the Peoples Democratic Party in the Valley,” industrialist Shakeel Qalander, told Firstpost.
Sources said PDP leaders are aiming at getting 25,000 people for the PM’s rally. “Had Geelani not called for a counter rally, the target would have been at least 50,000 but since restrictions are likely to be imposed in the Valley we are aiming half the number,” a senior PDP leader told Firstpost.
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