The year 2021 started its journey with the hope that it will be business as usual after
witnessing Covid mayhem in 2020. After a brief respite from it, Covid reared its ugly
ahead once again by bringing a wave of death and despair. But situation stabilized
after Government took slew of measures and the year sped along, stopping briefly
at beloved halts. Rajan Gandhi looks back at the year for the esteemed readers:
After turbulent first wave of COVID19 Jammu-Kashmir and Ladakh administration under GoI started things on positive note with focus on vaccination to make citizens safe in pandemic; special drive through advertisements, camps, door to door campaign and even use of drones to deliver vaccine at remotest area of UTs. Oxygen capacity increased from fourteen thousand LPM before COVID to one lakh LPM, from 3 to 7 GMCs now this year.
GoI showered skew of schemes with huge budget allocation for both the UTs of Jammu- Kashmir and Ladakh; eight hydroelectric projects, special film policy, tie up with NAFED for marketing agricultural and horticulture products and UAE to develop industrial zones, metro work to start at both Jammu and Srinagar, new national highways, Delhi-Katra Express corridor, Kishtwar-Zanskar higway, railway link to
Kashmir, tunnels to make Jammu-Srinagar-Leh all weather highways, speedy progress on AIIMS, start of international flights/declaration of Srinagar airport as Major Airport-but Jammu International Airport project got shelved, additional 1500 crores for Srinagar airport and 650 crores for Jammu airport. Visit of 300 plus MPs, scores of Parliamentary Committees, almost every Central minister visited J&K and Ladakh, a testimony about special attention of GoI towards Jammu-Kashmir-Ladakh. HM Amit Shah’s visits, PM Narinder Modi celebrating Diwali at Nowshera sector of Rajouri in Jammu Division, President Ram Nath Kovind visited Drass to pay homage to Kargil martyrs and Kashmir visit shows the importance of the region.
New industrial policy with new land purchase rules allowed huge investments from outside with projects worth thousands of crore being locked in UT with big corporate from steel, telecom, cyber optics, and hosiery sectors ready to invest in UT, even investment commitments came from Japan and Dubai as well. Around 3,000 hectares from the
government’s land bank of about 6,000 hectares got earmarked for the projects at Jammu, Kathua, and Samba districts in the Jammu region and Srinagar, Budgam, Pulwama, Shopian in the Kashmir Valley. In Jammu region food processing, beverages and profile sheet industries while in Kashmir the investments committed in sectors such as healthcare, wellness centres, tourism, apple, food processing, meat processing, BPOs, printed circuit boards, and educational institutions. Some pharmaceutical companies planning to move from Baddi in Himachal Pradesh to Jammu to avail incentives.
Ladakh getting its due share; world’s biggest solar plant, Central University, examination centre for civil services and CET, full fledged police force to name a few. First GMC at Ladakh coming up in 201 kanals at Shey Sindhu Ghat village in Leh. But despite this both Leh and Kargil demanding full statehood, PRC type identity protection, 2 LS- 1 RS seat and safeguards under article 370, 371 or 6th schedule on the pattern of North Eastern states.
In addition to leading from front during COVID second wave with visits to various hospitals, LG Manoj Sinha initiated various measures to streamline administration which included new Jammu and Kashmir portal, online grievance cell and Awaam Ki Awaaz-a special interactive broadcast on third Sunday of every month based on suggestions from citizens. A delegation of 22 foreign envoys from various countries toured Jammu and Kashmir to assess the development work and security situation following successful conduct of maiden DDC polls. Government placed Chairpersons of DDC equivalent to Mayors within their respective territorial jurisdictions but kept the members at bottom along with District Magistrates, Head of Departments and chairpersons of BDCs. GoI merged J&K cadre of IAS/IPS/IFS into AGMUT with inter cadre deputation of IAS officers for posting in J&K and massive induction of JKAS cadre to IAS in pipeline after decades of neglect. Administration rolled out the process to issue domicile certificates to
the spouses of erstwhile state subjects who have a domicile certificate.
Power infra got special attention as Kashmir to Ladakh transmission line given to Power Grid, power augmentation of Barn, Udhampur, GSS II , Canal and Gladni grid stations done to increase capacity. Similarly in Kashmir this year record peak 1750 MW electricity has been transmitted which is around 320 MW higher than last year thereby reducing curtailments. In all with a cost of Rs.2064.97 Cr 13 projects in Jammu, 17 projects in Kashmir and 2 projects in Ladakh are being implemented by PGCIL, JKPDD and RECPTCL. However more than twenty thousand PDD employees went for indefinite strike over privatization and other demands plunging J&K into darkness.
Special focus on Kashmir tourism with road shows all over India despite pandemic, cultural events involving Bollywood as well as local artists, air show and open cinema hall, laser
show, night boating at Dal, special focus on Mughal gardens, declaration of Srinagar as UNESCO City and efforts to get more places of Kashmir on UNESCO list to get due recognition and traction of international tourists, a budget of 786 crore tourism budget almost double the previous year’s budget. Smart vendor hawker zone at Jehangir Chowk, two new fire stations, 5 fire boats at Dal, 50 water ATMs at Srinagar were put in place. 1.2 million tulips bloomed at Srinagar but Sanasar went tulip less this year. Jammu tourism also got a flip with events at every district but three Director Tourism in a year, shortage of staff at Directorate, headless or additional charge of various development authority CEO’s with limited staff, absence of Master plans for major tourist destinations of Jammu division, no boating at Ranjit Sagar dam at Basohli, no rafting in Chenab at Katra/Reasi, almost no progress at Mubarak Mandi heritage complex despite almost three years since Master plan of whole complex was declared, have been few issues including unutilized funds of crores meant for infra development that have made Jammu tourism
progress far less than their Kashmir counterparts. Mythical museum at Katra and Balaji temple at Jammu got approved. Cultural and historical Baba Chamyal mela, Jhiri mela, Shri Amarnath yatra got cancelled this year also. New deadlines for Tawi river barrage, Tawi river front and musical fountain at Bag-e-Bahu. Retreat Ceremony at Suchetgarh border launched. 75 villages under Tourist Village Network identified for tourism.
First quarter of year witnessed bird flu and thereafter second wave of COVID pandemic played havoc especially in Jammu, lack of infra and staff at district hospitals as well as new GMCs left GMC Jammu once again to cater to whole Jammu Division. Shortage/disruption of oxygen at almost every hospital which got further complicated by additional beds, GMC Jammu catering to almost 1000 patients at one time with non visits of HoDs and senior doctors, the result near collapse of medical facilities, daily high death numbers, 1154 deaths in Jammu district itself out of a total of 4512 deaths, resulted in visit of teams from SKIIMs and New Delhi. GMC Jammu is still running with 40% shortage of sanctioned staff, one 21 year old outdated MRI machine in whole Jammu division, non utilization of Chopra Nursing
Home, new Maternity hospital at Gandhi Nagar Hospital, GB Pant Hospital and Narayana Hospital for VIPs only made the things worse. DRDO came up with two makeshift 500 bedded hospitals at Jammu and Srinagar but too little too late as lack of staff remained main issue. Transfer of staff from rural to urban hospitals just left rural population without doctors. Despite all these problems, X-Ray-CT Scan staff worked round the clock for COVID diagnosis, resident doctors and para medical staff, even those working on short term contract, were shining stars in whole pandemic providing exemplary services to public of J&K. GMC Jammu also missed out roll out of On Line Registration System (ORS) and Implementation of Hospital Information Management System (e-Hospital). The Jammu and Kashmir Pollution Control Board imposed a penalty of Rs 18.28 lakhs on MS SMGS Jammu for failing to handle the disposal of bio-medical waste in a scientific manner. Scam in new oxygen plant, malfunctioning of old plants, nonexistent full fledged engineering wing at GMC Jammu, eight thousand NHM employees without
salaries and adhoc three month employees even in new block of GMC emergency are few things demanding immediate attention of administration in 2021 as well.
Delimitation Commission on extension, with March 2022 as deadline, engaged MPs, political parties, various stake holders and civil society members to get the required data and enquiries, made it clear that basis is not only 2011 census but data of voters, topography and composition to be some other factors. Commission met 290 groups comprising 800 people with suggestions ranging from partially unfreezing 24 seats falling in PoJK, postponing the exercise till statehood is restored, adequate reservation of seats for SC/ST, Kashmiri Pandits and West Pakistani refugees among others as such after clarifications from 20 DCs draft report to be discussed with associate members and will be put in public domain for final suggestions.
On terrorism front things were well under control but target killings of outsiders or of one community- chemist Bindroo, dhabha owner Mehra, goldsmith Satpal, teacher Deepak, migrant laborers, political killings specifically targeting BJP cadre, repeated attacks on policemen created panic like situation triggering a wave of fresh migration of thousands as big segment of non-local workers as well as KPs working in Kashmir returned to their native
places and Jammu. Twin drones used in aerial attack on high security Air Force Station Jammu, a first of its kind in the country, investigations handed over to NIA and drones even used for arms dropping. Confiscation of narcotics in huge quantities remained major concern as this drug money is used to finance terrorism. Detection of cross border tunnels and prolonged encounter at Bhata Dhurian and Nar Khas forests, the epicenter of encounter in Mendhar sub-division of Poonch district as nine jawans got martyred shows ample cross border terrorism support from Pakistan. Amidst all this UT administration sacked several government employees for being ‘Terror friendly’ and JKP scripted history by securing highest number of Gallantry Medals including one President’s Police Medal for Gallantry, 256 Police Medal for Gallantry, two President’s Police Medal for Distinguished Service and 16 Police Medal for Meritorious Service. Colonel Santosh Babu awarded the Mahavir Chakra posthumously for his supreme sacrifice during Galwan face off with China.
ED, CBI and ACB continued its tirade against money laundering, hawala and corruption throughout the year acting against JeI, politicians, JK Bank cases and UT administration
announced SIA on the pattern of NIA for UT. Roshni and fake gun licenses case pursued and even Advisor Baseer Khan removed to face trial on this account. More judges for Jammu-Kashmir and Ladakh High Court took oath as such HC bench increases to thirteen. Several important directions/rulings given by HC including reclaiming Roshni Act land, forest land, removal of dairies, taking over of JKCA by BCCI, Dal dwellers to name a few.
Jammu Kashmir national highway remained closed for days during winter/rainy season although consultant and contractor got removed and Union Minister Nitin Gadkari also showed serious concern over delay beyond valid reasons. Two crore interim environmental compensation imposed on NHAI for dumping in Chenab. Natural calamities took its toll this year also with rains playing havoc in Jammu while 19 killed in cloud burst at Hunzar in Kishtwar.
Former Governor of J&K Jagmohan passed away at the age of 93 while Jammu also lost iconic Dogra figure Padma Scahdeva, Syed Ali Shah Geelani also passed away this year.
Jammu Bar association and Jammu Chamber of Commerce and Industries elections held and Jammu witnessed first complete hartal on various issues including opening of Reliance Retail Stores, scrapping of Darbar Move without consulting the stakeholders, new Geology and Mining Policies, restrictions on banquet halls, abrupt closure of bars, treatment with wine shop owners, debarring Mahajans, Khatris, Sikhs and Jains from purchasing agriculture land-which got amended later on, issues of crushers and brick kiln traders,
passenger tax on commercial vehicles and issues voiced by the Bar Association.
High security registration plate, fast tag became mandatory throughout the country while HC struck down Jammu and Kashmir transport department order to impose 9% fresh road tax on outside vehicles.
Though 5 year deadline for 100 Smart Cities to complete their projects extended to June 2023 yet Jammu lagged far behind in achieving it, a ranking of 169 among 372 participants and Srinagar at far better 42 place. JMC area had increased from 119 to 190kms, 71 wards to 75 wards but funding problem remained this year also. Jammu and Kashmir ranked at the bottom in Niti Ayog innovation index and recorded the highest unemployment rate of 21.6%.
Political churning went on throughout the year with prominent leaders leaving PDP and NC to join either BJP or other Kashmir based parties. Former PDP patron Muzaffar Hussain Baig joined Sajad Lone-headed Peoples Conference in Srinagar whereas Devinder Rana along with Surjit Singh Slathia joined BJP with Slathia later on appointed Vice President of J&K BJP unit. Congress’s G-23 led by Ghulam Nabi Azad, in a show of strength held a rally in
Jammu challenging the party leadership. Later in the year pro Azad leaders resigned from party positions, Azad even interacted with civil society of Jammu over a tea party whereas Raman Bhalla got appointed as Working President of J&K unit of Congress. Right now there is no J&K representative in Rajya Sabha, only second time in history of RS in three decades.
School, colleges and university students continued online classes with mobile 4G restored after 18 months. Despite GoI push to restore past glory of various forts and historical sites yet Archaeological and Museums department received no money in last 10 years for digitization, no proper place for invaluable archives, depleted trained staff, part time Director and Deputy Director at Jammu made things grim and complicated.
Sahitaya Academy awards for Sunita Bhadwal for Dogri book “Kishtwad: Sanskriti Te Parampara and Shafqat Altaf for Kashmiri translation of Rabindernath Tagore’s 101 selected poems in Bengali “Akh Hath Akh Nazme”. President confers 2020 Padma awards, two Padma Bhushan for Kashmiri political leader Muzaffar Hussain Baig and Dr Tsering Landol, the first gynecologist from Leh, Padma Shri for Jammu’s Dogri writer Prof Shiv Datt Nirmohi for education and literature, Chewang Motup Goba for promoting adventure sports in Ladakh, Javed Ahmed Tak for social work for disabled. For 2021 Ghulam Rasool Khan, a Jamawar patchwork artist from Srinagar, for working towards conserving the oldest form of Kashmiri shawl technique and the family of Shri Chaman Lal Sapru (posthumously for Literature and Education) got nominated. Tanmay Gupta, created history by being the first student from Jammu and Kashmir to score a perfect 720 out of 720 in NEET medical entrance exam although he shifted to Delhi and is the state topper of Delhi/NCT.
With new COVID variant OMICRON now prevalent, just be safe as Daily Excelsior wishes all its readers ‘A Very Happy and Prosperous 2022’.