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Does Jammu exist anywhere in BJP’s itinerary?
11/25/2021 10:39:23 PM

Harsh Dev Singh

Re-organization of J&K effected on August 5, 2019 saw the division of the J&K State into two Union Territories. While Ladakh was conferred an autonomous status, Jammu was again clubbed with Kashmir. The decision came as completely unexpected. Like a bolt from the blue. For J&K was the oldest Dogra State conceptualized and created by Maharaja Gulab Singh. In fact the only Dogra State in the country. The people of Jammu though unnerved by the decision yet were made to reconcile. More so through persuasion and also to some extent coercion, rather than conviction. With regard to many others, their nationalist sentiment was invoked. It was said that it was necessary in public interest and that prevalent Kashmir situation warranted such a step to be taken in national interest. A ploy, an overriding mantra that has often been used to consecrate any opportunist or political maneuvering by the BJP. It was most vociferously assured that Jammu would henceforth witness its empowerment with an enhanced share in funds allocation, employment and allied sectors. While the gullibility of the innocent masses was exploited to the full, those who objected to the dismantling of the Dogra State and its downgrading were dealt with through the coercive apparatus of the State. Almost all the prominent leaders of Jammu except those of BJP were either put behind bars or placed under house arrest with massive restrictions imposed upon them. It was saffron leadership alone which was given an open field and enjoyed the monopoly to hold public seminars and to propagate the so called benefits of government move with the support of some more-loyal-than-the-king brand ‘intellectuals’ of Jammu. More than an year has elapsed since the abrogation of Article 370 and conversion of the State into UT. And more than six years have passed since the ‘nationalist’ and ‘pro Jammu’ BJP ascended to power. It’s time to ruminate over our predicament. Especially in the light of what was promised to us by the so called champions of Jammu and what actually has transpired and delivered on the ground.
They talked about giving a boost the developmental activity in Jammu. Has it really materialized? Lets have a look at the major development projects of Jammu. They have either been abandoned or going on at a snail’s pace or suffering cost over-runs. Be that the Artificial Tawi Lake Project, Mubarak Mandi Heritage Project, Smart City Project, AIIMS Project, Jumbo Zoo Project or the like-they all seem to be having the least priority for the BJP government which appears almost completely focused on Kashmir and also Ladakh to a great extent.
Soon after the abrogation of Article 370 and State’s conversion as UT, the Government of India issued an order fixing the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for Kashmiri apples by introducing Market Invention Scheme (MIS) without effecting any corresponding increase in the support prices of any of the crops produced by Jammu region farmers. The govt had enhanced the MSP for ‘A’ grade apple from Rs. 48 to 52 per kg, ‘B’ grade apple from Rs. 32 to 36 per kg and ‘C’ grade apply from Rs. 15.75 to 18 per kg which was an appreciable step. Not only that the govt. was procuring the Kashmir apples through its own agencies including NAFED so that the Kashmir farmer was adequately compensated for their produce. On September 5, 2019 the Union Govt. had announced that for the first time NAFED will be involved tor procuring 13 lacs metric tons of apple from Kashmir at a cost of Rs. 5,000 crores. This was followed by yet another announcement by Union Finance Minister, at a conference on rural and agricultural Finance, directing NABARD to ensure fair remunerative prices for the crops of farmers of Kashmir. While urging the Chairman NABARD to ensure that Kashmir farmers produce was marketed all over the country, the Union Finance Minister gave strict instructions for ensuring fair prices to valley farmers for cash crops including saffron, peaches and walnut.
The Jammu farmers however, particularly the Basmati growers who had been seeking identical relief and fixation of adequate MSP for their produce continued to be ignored and disregarded, more appropriately discarded. The farmers of R.S Pura/border belt raising traditional Basmati crop over 45,000 hectors of land extending from Akhnoor area to Samba has been facing acute financial crisis in view of uneconomical rates of return for their produce in the open market. Border tensions and frequent Pak shelling had aggravated their woes with a hapless and apathetic govt. least bothered about the concerns of these nationalist people. The value of their produce which ranged from Rs. 3,000 to Rs. 3,500 per quintal had come down to Rs. 1,500 to 2,000 per quintal which did not suffice to meet even their costs thus forcing these farmers to starvation with govt. playing a mute spectator to their woes. And while the J&K govt. always boasted of rare quality Basmati production in Jammu as compared to other states, it failed to provide the much needed succor to the cultivating sections and agriculturists engaged in the ungrateful profession.
Not only the disregard of Jammu based farmers but the prestigious Agricultural University of Jammu was also granted a step motherly treatment. In December 2019, the government issued an order allocating Rs. 20 crore for SKUAST-K and Rs. 5.71 crore for SKUAST-J. Likewise, it organized a mega sports events ‘Khelo India’ in Srinagar with central BJP leaders making several announcements to promote Kashmir based sports to the exclusion of Jammu’s talent. The BJP govt has only recently announced to promote the Kashmir saffron without uttering a word about the world class saffron produced in Kishtwar and Doda Districts. It is holding parlays on regular basis with Ladakhi leadership over issues of saving their lands, Jobs, PRCs besides conferring benefits under Sixth schedule of the constitution.
Not only after the State’s Reorganization but even during the BJP’s coalition regime, Jammu suffered the most hostile discrimination. The foundation of such bias was laid at the very beginning of formation of BJP-PDP government in the form of a prejudiced ‘Agenda of Alliance’ which had absolutely nothing for Jammu. And while PDP was allowed to relentlessly pursue its Kashmir centric agenda and given full support by the BJP acting as second fiddle, the interests of Jammu were conveniently compromised. The saffron flavoured regime witnessed the release of around 11,000 stone-pelters, unprecedented martyrdom of Jawans, registration of FIRs against bravehearts and other security personnel, denial of ex-gratia to martyrs, shelving of Sainik Colonies and composite KP townships projects in Kashmir, invocation of obnoxious, anti youth SRO-202, abandonment of ongoing development projects, policy for rehabilitation of militants and stone-pelters, attempts to change the names of places particularly in Kashmir from Hari Parbat to Kohe-maran and Anantnag to Islamabad in official records, imposition of service tax on Mata Vaishno Devi chopper service, describing militants as brothers and martyrs; increased infiltration and border tensions; massive backdoor appointments in J&K Bank, Health, Power besides other Deptts; reduction of share of Jammu youth in employment, initiation of proposal for doubling scholarships for wards of militants and so on and so forth.
What after all did Jammu get despite giving massive mandate with 25 seats and both seats of Parliament to BJP? Mere humiliation and insult to its very self respect and honour! The BJP refused to oblige the Dogra land even with respect to grant of holiday on Maharaja Hari Singh’s birthday. They refused to honour the demand of Jammu for CBI probe in Rasana case. They have only a few months back dis-engaged around 1500 health employees of Jammu region appointed under SRO-24 while allowing their Kashmir counterparts to continue. The first select list issued after abrogation of Art 370 relating to selections of Firemen and Drivers in Fire Services Deptt provides another glaring example of step motherly treatment to Jammu. The advertisement issued for filling up vacancies in Agriculture Deptt showed 136 posts for Kashmir and 20 posts for Jammu region drawing a flak from the civil society and youth. Another advertisement issued by SSB provides for filling up 76 posts of works supervisors in PWD all from Kashmir Division with not a single post provided to Jammu region. The J&K Bank selections completed post Art 370 abrogation were quashed only for the reason that share of Jammu region was higher than that of Kashmir. In a recent IIT convocation held in Jammu, the participants were directed to wear ‘Pherans’ and Pakhtooni caps. 4G is being denied to Jammu only because of some troubles in Kashmir. We have been robbed of the status of statehood only because of problems with Kashmir. All decisions seem to be taken while keeping Kashmir in mind. And while we continue to suffer deprivation in terms of development and employment, the BJP has chosen to oblige Jammu thorough a novel mechanism of making it the biggest tax payer and by installing multiple Toll Plazas at virtually the door steps of its electorates. The state of affairs is pathetic. We have lost in development, in employment as well as in terms of dignity and honour. Shall we not give it a thought? The pertinent question therefore remains, “Does Jammu matter at all for BJP?” Except of course for being used by it as perennial vote Bank and a staircase for ascending the throne of power.
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