Unfolding her party's development agenda for the Chinab Valley region, People's Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti on Monday said in spite of being a store house of natural resources the area is steeped in poverty, backwardness and deprivation.
Addressing a large public meeting at Banihal, she said the people of Jammu and Kashmir need to rise above sectarian division and communal polarization to give a decisive and inclusive mandate to the PDP for equitable development of all regions and sub-regions.
According to a party statement, Mehbooba said the state is facing an entirely new political scenario with BJP emerging in some areas as a major force and aiming at increasing its presence in the assembly through a divisive agenda that is based on communal polarisation and sectarian differences.
The PDP president said the BJP won the three seats in parliamentary elections last time by promoting communal polarisation and now it is planning to create sectarian division even within the Muslim community as has been given out by its 'poll strategist' through media reports.
Mehbooba said the PDP remains unflinchingly firm on resisting this divisive agenda of the BJP as it defeated the NC and the Congress in their designs to disempower the people of the state.
She said while the PDP will seriously work on dignified return and rehabilitation of the migrant Pandit community back in their homes, the BJP is now converting them into a political commodity by banking on their votes in a few Kashmir constituencies which they have targeted for victory and hopes that the poll boycott would help them in their designs.
"Such a negative strategy is harmful for any society but for a sensitive state like Jammu and Kashmir this could be out-rightly disastrous," cautioned Mehbooba.
Mehbooba said the National Conference-Congress government has earned the anger and disapproval of the people all across the state because of its misdeeds, corruption, scandals, and inefficiency. She said the previous six years have witnessed the worst ever government in the state and it was not a surprise that the coalition partners were dumped by the people.
Mehbooba said the people of Jammu and Kashmir are politically conscious to understand the changed political equations of the state. She said whereas the NC-Congress parties have collapsed as political organisations the contest now is directly between the PDP and the BJP.
She said the formation of next government by the PDP was a foregone conclusion but it is in the hands of the people how strong a mandate they would give to Mufti Mohammad Sayeed to address the heavy challenges the state is faced with.
She said during the Lok Sabha elections the voters of the Chinab Valley had almost rallied behind the Congress in a bid to stop the BJP. But, their effort didn't prove enough and it is now time that they wholeheartedly vote for the PDP along with people from other regions.
Mehbooba said even though the water resources of the Chinab Valley area benefits large population outside the state also the people residing here lack amenities of fundamental nature and it looks that it is not part of the 21st century world. "The PDP will work on a development agenda that would focus on employment generation and infrastructure development in the districts of the region so that its large potential is harnessed for the betterment of its people," she added.
Mehbooba said the scarcity of agricultural lands in the mountainous districts has always forced the people there to seek employment of different natures, and it was legitimate for them to expect that the construction of mega projects in hydropower, railways or highway construction would provide opportunities for skilled and unskilled workers. But, unfortunately the openings were either politically exploited or filled up through non-locals.
"The PDP would make it incumbent on the executing agencies of various projects to give preference to locals and invest in skilled development of the youth so that a workforce is created that helps to tap the human resource of the area which could ultimately find job opportunities anywhere," said Mehbooba.
Referring to the difficult topography of the region, Mehbooba said most the road projects started have been abandoned or are suffering from extremely slow execution. "This has resulted in the funds going into private pockets mostly political agents, and also increasing hardships to the population. This must be one of the few places where human population continues to be disconnected by road. And there are areas which are accessible only on foot involving a trek of several days together," she said
Mehbooba said tourism has substantial potential in the region but it remains untapped not to speak of opening of new areas. "Not even highway tourism on Srinagar-Jammu road has been developed," she said.
Mehbooba said modern wayside facilities would be promoted for tourist so that the locals can set up their units and also find dignified employment.
The PDP president said her party would implement an integrated connectivity and tourism plan for the entire region. That could help open up new areas and help taking tourist to these areas.
She said tourism development authorities set up by the previous government have almost become dysfunctional and the new PDP government would revitalise them.
Mehbooba said it will be the endeavour of the new government to ensure that the benefits of locally generated power also reach the residents of the region.
She said not only should the power generated in the area provide light to every household but it should also be used for setting up Small Scale Units for the local youth to generate employment opportunities.