Only five of the 36 central ministers deputed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the biggest outreach programme in Jammu and Kashmir are visiting the Valley.
The Valley outreach took off on Tuesday from an impoverished Gujjar locality in the Srinagar suburbs where a public meeting addressed by central minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi attracted a crowd of less than 500 people. The Jammu leg of the outreach began on Sunday.
The ministers are separately visiting different parts of the Union Territory. The objective is to turn the development promise for the Union Territory into reality.
Officials said five out of the 36 minister are visiting the Valley where they are participating in only eight out of 56 programmes scheduled for the whole of the Union Territory. No minister will visit seven out of 10 districts in the Valley, including four south Kashmir districts of Anantnag, Pulwama, Shopian and Kulgam.
In Srinagar, with nearly 1.3 million population, central minister Naqvi chose Dara, a Gujjar-dominated locality, for the outreach and all he had to offer was Rs 97 lakh for a high school building.
The minister e-inaugurated a Rs 16-crore bridge at Malroo on the river Jehlum and a Rs 6.6-crore building for the forest department. They are old projects, the work on which has been going on for years.
The officials identified the four other ministers visiting the Valley over next few days as telecommunications minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, HRD minister Ramesh Pokhriyal, minister of state for defence Shripad Naik and minister of state for home affairs G. Kishan Reddy.
Naqvi thanked the crowd for turning up “in big numbers” at the event, telling them how the changed political status for Kashmir will bring prosperity and happiness to the Union Territory.
“It is time for people to take the benefit of development schemes. J&K should be part of the development story of India. Our government wants the people of J&K to be the first beneficiaries of any developmental programme,” he told the gathering.
With not much to offer, the minister said a lot of funds were released for Kashmir in the past but they had landed in wrong pockets because there was “no accountability”.
The Union minister for minority affairs promised the people to accommodate as many aspirants for the Haj pilgrimage as possible.
The crowd appeared more interested in safeguards to protect the domicile rights and exclusive rights in government jobs for the permanent residents of the state.
Choudhary Altaf, a leader of the Gujjar and Bakerwal Youth Delegation, said he had come from Tral area, about 60km from the venue, to tell the minister that there should be no threat to their land and jobs.
“There will be protests if outsiders take our jobs and land,” Altaf said.
Faqir Gujri village head Raja Mohammad said he presented a memorandum to Naqvi seeking domicile certificates for the Valley residents so that outsiders cannot purchase land or apply for jobs here.
Gujjars and Bakerwals, who are Muslims in Jammu and Kashmir, account for nearly eight per cent of its population, the majority of them living in Jammu. Srinagar has a very small Gujjar population.
The minister chose the locality for its meeting as part of a reported programme of the BJP to make inroads among the non-Kashmiri Muslim population of the Union Territory.