JAMMU: Describing Jammu and Kashmir as a "jewel" of the country, Union minister Piyush Goyal on Sunday said the Centre would come out with an industrial package for the Union Territory soon and expressed hope that it would attract large amounts of investment to the valley.
The Minister for Railways and Commerce also announced that Kashmir would be linked with the rest of the country by train by December next year.
He asserted that development work has gathered pace in Jammu and Kashmir, especially after June 18, 2018 when the erstwhile state came under Governor's rule.
"I am very happy at the progress (of development) that I have seen on the ground and I am sure that in the days and months to come this process will continue relentlessly.
We will soon come out with an industrial package and we hope to see large amounts of investment coming to Kashmir," he told reporters at the Jammu airport before returning to Delhi.
Goyal was in Jammu as part a week-long public outreach programme initiated by the Centre to apprise people of the potential benefits of the revocation of Jammu and Kashmir's special status after nullification of Article 370 of the Constitution.
He was part of the second batch of seven Union ministers who reached Jammu and addressed a series of public meetings and inaugurated various projects in different districts.
Besides Goyal, other Union ministers who visited different parts of Jammu as part of the week-long outreach programme included Smriti Irani, Mahendra Nath Pandey, Arjun Ram Meghwal, V Muraleedharan, Anurag Thakur, Jitendra Singh, R K Singh and Ashwini Kumar Choubey.
"What we have heard since our childhood that it is paradise on earth. It was paradise on earth and it will remain so as well. It is a jewel of the country and truly a paradise on earth and I am proud of Jammu and Kashmir," Goyal said.
Article 370 was nullified in August 5, 2019 and the state was bifurcated into Union Territories -- Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh -- that came into effect on October 31.
Goyal inaugurated a flood protection project, an indoor stadium and various roads completed under Prime Minister's Grameen Sadak Yojna, besides addressing a public gathering in Akhnoor on the outskirts of Jammu.
"Jammu and Kashmir people have become the monitors of development and with their participation, it is reaching to the grass-roots level. The work on railway bridge over Chenab river, which was facing slow progress over the years, has gathered speed and for the first time the allocation of funds was utilised fully," he said.
The minister said the prime minister gave his nod when more funds were demanded to speed up the work of the railway bridge which will link Katra and Banihal towns in Jammu and complete the railway track from Baramulla in north Kashmir to Kanyakumari.
"After the completion of the railway line, the whole country will get connected. Anyone travelling from Kanyakumari to Kashmir can feel proud. The bridge is an engineering marvel and our engineers and workers are doing a great job by building the world largest bridge," he said, adding "we will continue the pace of work next year and are hopeful of connecting this vital 111-km railway track by December 2021".
He said the union ministers get encouraged when they visit this "sacred land".
Expressing his desire to visit Kashmir to enjoy the beauty of the winter, Goyal said, "I request (Farooq) Khan sahib (advisor to Lt Governor G C Murmu who was sitting near him) to invite me to Kashmir. I am going to visit Kashmir."
After Jammu and Kashmir came under Governor's rule in June 2018, the development work gained speed and with the bifurcation of the erstwhile state into UTs, many central laws which were not applicable and depriving the people of their rights came into force.
Referring to various development projects that were completed after the fall of the erstwhile PDP-BJP government, he said many development projects which were left incomplete over the past many decades witnessed fast-paced work under the administration of Lt Governor.
"I understand that people want improved services, impartiality in development works and high speed development, accountable government and information about the work being done," he said.
He said the situation in the valley is normal and said "as many as 99 per cent students took part in their exams without any problem, while tourism, shops and business is functioning normally. (Prepaid) Mobile phones also started functioning yesterday."
Asked about the opposition charge that the public outreach programme of the Centre is a "propaganda tour" and a move to divert attention of the people of the country from real issues, he said, "If there is any shortcoming in my statement, then it is a propaganda but if we are putting forward the reality before the nation, where the question of propaganda arises."
Expressing displeasure over the accusation by opposition leaders, he said does the opposition mean to suggest that Kashmir did not deserve the attention that it is getting.
"Is the opposition unhappy that we have taken the development to every remote corner of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh? This is exactly the point that we were always harping that some sections of the political establishment did not want development to reach the remotest corners of Jammu and Kashmir, just like it did not want to reach in the Northeast.
"In the last five years, we had the ability, each one of us would go to the northeast and the very presence of all of us helped generate so much enthusiasm that the entire landscape in the Northeast is now transformed and we would wish to see the same transformation journey and progress and development in Kashmir," he said.