After the unveiling of the industrial policy, Jammu and 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.
The thrust of the government has been on development. What are the big projects that have been undertaken that have made a difference to the people of J&K?
When I took over last year, the coronavirus pandemic was raging and then there was the second wave this year. Despite Covid-19, we accelerated the development process.
We have completed about 22,000 projects in the last year. There was a legacy of languishing projects earlier. A special scheme was launched to complete these projects and we have completed 1,100 of these. Five of these projects were started 20 years back and 165 projects were started 10 years back but were incomplete. We have made attempt to convert liability into assets and disaster into dividends.
What type of projects were languishing for the last 10 to 20 years and why?
The languishing projects include school buildings, roads, government departments buildings, primary health centres, etc. In J&K, there was a tradition of no system 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. An attempt has been made to make a systematic change.
The PM had given a big package to the erstwhile J&K state. Despite Ladakh being separated from J&K, projects worth Rs 55,000-56,000 crore are still in J&K. And despite Covid, many projects have been completed. 80 per cent of projects will be completed this year and the remaining will be completed next year.
Has development work gained momentum?
Despite Covid, we have increased the momentum of developmental work. Under the PMGSY, on an average 1,600-1,700 km of roads used to be built in J&K in a year. Last year, the average rose to 3,600-3,700 km and this year we have constructed 4,000 km of roads.
As far as blacktopping of roads is concerned, an average 2,200-2,400 km used to be macadamised in J&K. Last year, 6,000 km of road were macadamised and this year we have fixed a target of macadamising 8,000 km of road.
We have brought in accountability to ensure that quality work is undertaken. Now everything is in the public domain. If one has any complaint about the quality of the work, the complaint can be lodged online and it is investigated. This mechanism was not there from 1947 till 2020.
What is being done to the 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 since 1984 and has not been completed in 46 years. Now we are hopeful that will be completed in the next five years.
Whatever power generation capacity was built in the last 70 years, we will be doubling it in five years. We will be producing electricity of 3,400 MWs capacity in 4-5 years. After that, there will be no power problem in J&K.
I think hydropower is not reliable during peak hours. So, we need alternate sources of energy. We have signed MoUs for solar power.
We buy electricity worth Rs 6,500-6,600 crore every year. And we generate revenue of only Rs 2,600 crore. We have the highest losses in the country. We are trying to reduce this. We have given a target to the power department to reduce this by 10 per cent in three months.
What measures are being undertaken to boost tourism and are there any new destinations in the pipeline?
Tourists are coming in large numbers. 10 lakh tourists came to J&K in July only. This is a message in itself. It needs to be understood. The 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. Both in Kashmir and Jammu, many places will be developed. We have identified these places and also completed 26 projects in the tourism sector.
Do you think cinema halls should be reopened? Will your government provide any incentives to them?
I have not stopped anybody from constructing cinema halls. And if anyone wants to reopen cinema halls, he is most welcome. Whosoever wants to open cinemas, there will be no problem. We will facilitate if anybody approaches us.
Unemployment shot up during Covid. Has the same happened in J&K also?
There are more than four lakh government employees and 90,000 daily wagers.
We recently advertised for 20,000 government jobs. 4,000 have joined and 12,000 results have been declared. The verification process is going on for the rest.
We will be giving special weightage to families that do not have a single family member in a government job.
Besides, 1,700 people were appointed in J&K Bank, and that was also 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 only want government jobs.
We have identified 20,000 youth in 4,295 panchayats in J&K who will be provided financial assistance of up to Rs 10 lakh for setting up their own income-generating units. Of the 20,000 youth to be provided financial assistance, 4,500 of them are women.
We have started schemes called 'Mission Youth' and 'Mumkin'. Without seeking any margin money, we will give small commercial vehicles to youth so that they can earn a decent income.
As per the CMIE data, the unemployment rate in J&K was 29.9% in 2016, 21% in 2019, and 19.5% in 2020. Due to our cohesive and targeted effort, the March 2021 figure was 9.3%. After the second wave, it increased to 10.6% in June.
We are working on two fronts: filling government jobs and providing self-employment opportunities to youth.
What has been the response to the industrial policy?
The new industrial policy focuses on 'Ease of Doing Business'. We have got a 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.
We have already got proposals of over Rs 25,000 crore and they have even submitted the fees. This process has been started and some people have been given land. This will increase in the coming days.
There is a conducive industrial climate for the investors: the lowest crime rate, cheap power, and availability of raw material.
We have got enough land. Initially, we will be giving land on 40 years lease and this will be extended to 99 years.
Were investors more interested in investing in Jammu as compared to 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 their interest in investing in J&K. JSW is one of the big industrial houses.
The investors want to invest in cold storage, food processing, manufacturing, IT and IT-based services, hospitals, handicrafts, pharmaceuticals, optical fibre, telecom equipment, cement, beverages, steel, etc.
Do you think there will be any impact of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan on J&K and how prepared is the government?
I don’t see any such threat. It will take the Taliban at least 3-4 months to settle in Afghanistan. Our forces are ready to combat any situation. There is no threat.
We have sealed the border. It is very difficult to come over here. 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 earlier also.
We have sacked 21 government employees so far for being involved in anti-national activities.
Whosoever is involved in such activities, we will take action against them. We will not tolerate anti-national activities by government employees.
How do you assess J&K’s security situation?
August 15 was celebrated in every school and panchayat of J&K. It was for the first time in J&K's history. Some people met me who wanted to hold such functions so that they can participate in I-Day functions.
To improve the security environment, officials are working to get more technological help. There is good coordination between the army, J&K Police, and the CRPF.
The overall situation has improved and stone-pelting incidents are a thing of the past.
What steps are being taken to prevent the youth from turning to militancy?
Whenever an encounter takes place, the militants are given an opportunity to surrender. Their families are brought to the encounter site to persuade their wards to surrender. Many such youths have come back. We are making attempts at different levels to wean away the youth from militancy and bring them to the mainstream.
Have health facilities been upgraded in J&K after the second Covid wave?
Our oxygen capacity was 14,000 LPM and now it is 60,000 LPM and it will be over 90,000 LPM by September end.
We did not face any shortage of medicines or vaccines. Vaccination in Kashmir was a challenge. We have vaccinated half the population and now we are targeting vaccinating all teachers and students so that colleges and universities can be reopened. We are targeting September end for completing the vaccination of teachers and students.
The PM talked of dil ki doori at the all-party meeting. Do you think that only development, jobs, and peace are enough to bridge this doori?
I think the PM made a good effort by convening the meeting and it was welcomed by the country and here also. Many former CMs and top politicians were invited and the meeting took place in a cordial atmosphere. I was present in the meeting and everybody in the meeting left the meeting satisfied. After coming out, if somebody resorts to doublespeak, I cannot say anything. A good discussion took place.
I think through dialogue dil ki doori can be bridged.
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 been increased in the J&K assembly. Who will define the boundaries of those seven assembly seats?
The PM has said after the delimitation exercise is completed elections will be held. The delimitation commission visited J&K for 4 days. They sought data and other details from officials and we gave them.
After the delimitation process is completed, elections will be held. The delimitation commission wants to complete the exercise as early as possible.
Many political parties have demanded that statehood be restored before holding elections.
The home minister has stated on the floor of parliament that statehood will be restored at an appropriate time. I think people should believe his words. The PM and the home minister have made assurances in parliament in this regard.
If any assurance is given in parliament, you know how important it is. I have been in parliament and I know that any assurance given to parliament has to be fulfilled. The government is duty-bound.
Some political workers have been killed. What is the government doing to prevent such attacks?
The security system is being revamped. We have made attempts to give security to those facing threats. But there have been occasions when the protectees have committed mistakes by not taking their security guards along. It is a concern for us and we are taking it very seriously.
How fruitful has the India-Pakistan ceasefire been for border residents?
No violation of the border ceasefire has taken place since February 25. If there was an attempt, our forces have retaliated effectively. About 80 per cent of the bunkers for border residents along the line of control and the international border have been completed and the rest will be completed on time.