Centre to push development schemes for individuals in J&K, Ladakh
The Union government will sharply focus on government schemes aimed at individuals, such as scholarships or houses, in the Union territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh, in an effort to push its development narrative in the region.
Earlier this week, cabinet secretary Rajiv Gauba chaired a meeting on social schemes for the two new UTs. According to two officials who attended the meeting, it was decided that the schemes must see 100% coverage with no potential beneficiary being excluded for lack of funds. The meeting, attended by secretaries of home affairs, minority affairs, tribal affairs, rural development and officials from Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh focused on the two main issues involved -- challenging conditions on the ground and the financial implications of covering everyone. For instance, the two officials said, one of the participants pointed out how the limited availability of 3G network in the valley makes the enrolment process difficult.
The emphasis on schemes that touch individual beneficiaries comes from the belief that this will have a perceptible impact on the ground, and highlight the government’s intent on the development front to residents. Indeed, this has been one reason consistently put across by the government to support its decision of August 5, 2019 to scrap constitutional provisions that had given the erstwhile state of Jammu & Kashmir special status and its citizens special privileges -- the ability to ensure people in the region benefit from welfare schemes as much as those in the rest of the country have.
“Proper implementation of individual schemes can directly improve people’s lives,” one of the two officials said on condition of anonymity.
Individual beneficiaries have been a key element of the National Democratic Alliance government’s social schemes and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party made special efforts to carve out a vote-bank out of the 220 million who benefited from various schemes in the run-up to the 2019 national polls, reaching out to them through dedicated campaigns and interactions.
According to data provided by the National Scholarship Portal, Jammu and Kashmir has received 517,000 new proposals for pre-metric scholarship in the academic year 2019-20 but money has been disbursed in just 8,294 cases.
Similarly, as on February 26, against a total target of building 62,932 houses for the rural poor in the region, only 36,780 have been sanctioned and just 122 have been completed, according to the data available with the rural development ministry.
In the meeting, it was decided that the schemes such as scholarships, gas connections under the Ujjwala programme, and housing for the poor must start with a 100% offtake with complete enrolment and funding. “This is an important step. The government has targeted 100% saturation in social programmes earlier too. But this time, 100% offtake is also envisaged, making it a special case for J&K and Ladakh UTs,” said the second official, who too didn’t wish to be named.
One of the other challenges discussed at the meeting was data on potential beneficiaries. The data provided by Union territories officials didn’t match with that of the Union home ministry and the latter has been asked to devise an online mechanism for data reconciliation.
Former rural development secretary Jugal Kishore Mohapatra underlines that J&K has very low poverty indices and so the welfare programmes must focus on skill development and employment . “Livelihood programms would do very well in J&K. I remember in his first Pragati meeting with secretaries, the PM had reviewed J&K livelihood programme and sought its continuation. While some schemes such as housing or scholarships must target individual beneficiaries, entry point for livelihood schemes has to be in groups.”