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Amethi ‘model’ for Kashmir

Lucknow, Dec. 18: Rahul Gandhi took Omar Abdullah on a tour of Amethi today, two months after he visited Srinagar and vowed to work with the chief minister for Kashmir just like their grandfathers had.

An impressed Omar said his state would adopt the “Amethi model”, the declaration coming after he was shown how self-help groups (SHGs) and a scheme named after Rajiv Gandhi had improved the lives of women in Rahul’s Lok Sabha constituency.

If Omar touted Amethi as a “model” for Kashmir, Rahul too had highlighted his family’s roots in the Valley during his October visit. The Congress leader had declared that he was “also a Kashmiri” and recalled how his granddad and Omar’s grandfather Sheikh Abdullah and had worked together. “I am here to join hands with Omar Abdullah and the people of Kashmir,” Rahul had told a gathering.

Today, most of the hamlets Rahul took Omar to were examples of how self-help groups had implemented micro-finance schemes — in which credit is provided at low interest rates to help women start their own ventures or trade — and speeded up the area’s economic development.

Local Congress leaders said the initiatives were being supported by the Rajiv Gandhi Mahila Vikash Pariyojna for the past five years. “The women are trained in sewing, pisiculture, animal husbandry, running thrift (credit) co-operatives and other livelihood-oriented activities. They have brought about remarkable changes in their own lives and in that of other women”, said Jagdish Piyus, a senior Congress leader in Amethi.

Rahul and Omar attended a meeting of some self-help groups, consisting mostly of Muslim women. Omar spoke to some of the women, trying to find out how they balanced household chores and their work at the SHGs. He said he would soon invite them to his state to train women there.

“Both Omar Abdullah sab and Rahulji were happy with our work. The chief minister promised to send us an invitation to visit rural Kashmir to train women,” said Bethi Devi, an SHG leader in Amethi’s Bahadurpur village, one of the scheme’s focus areas.

Amethi is no stranger to guests on a learning mission, though. Former UK foreign minister David Miliband came with Rahul in January 2009 to see the “other India”.