Harsh Dev Singh
Jammu region gave a massive mandate to BJP in 2014 Assembly Elections with the Party recording an unprecedented victory by winning 25 seats. The huge victory came in the wake of the saffron party ensuring a fair deal to Jammu region besides compensating it for all bias doled out to it in the past. Tall promises of development, employment, progress and prosperity of the region were made with the people who were mesmerized with several other seductive slogans. The voters were swayed by pro Jammu rhetoric and several glamorous slogans given by the saffron leadership to woo the masses. The gullibility of the dogras was exploited to the full to attain the high seats of power. The spell bound people blindly reposed their faith in the BJP giving it a landslide victory from Jammu region in Assembly seats as well as the Parliamentary elections. Not only that, the people of the region continued to vote heavily in favour of BJP in the Municipal and DDC elections as well under the hope and belief that BJP leadership would fulfil its promises sooner than later.
It’s seven years now. Time to ruminate over our predicament. Where do we stand today vis a vis our position and status in the year 2014. Has anything changed for the better after 2014 in so far as the economy, tourism, trade, development, employment, funds allocation etc of the hitherto deprived region of Jammu are concerned? In what way has the last 7 year BJP rule affected the dogra land and its people would surely make an interesting study.
The BJP’s coalition rule in the state invariably witnessed an appeasement policy for separatist forces vigorously pursued by the then Govt with Jammu’s interests perennially compromised under the smokescreen of national interest. With a highly mollycoddled Kashmir getting the lion’s share in employment and funds allocation, Jammu region was made to content with a mere sprinkling that fell in its kitty. It was during the BJP partnered govt that AIIMS was offered on a platter to Kashmir thus forcing the Jammuits to take to streets. Dogra Certificate and Dogri satellite channel for Jammu which were some of the loudly trumpeted slogans of BJP during elections were conveniently forgotten. And when the centre announced 10,000 posts of SPOs for J&K they were all assigned to Kashmir with a top BJP leader of J&K justifying the decision by slating that it was necessary in national interest. Promises of withdrawal of cases registered during Shri Amar Nath Ji land row against Jammu youth proved as ‘Jumlas’. 11,000 stone-pelters of valley were released and FIRs registered against armed forces. Central probe in Rasana case was vehemently opposed and Dogras dubbed as ‘rapists supporters’. Again it was the BJP partnered Govt which imposed service tax on helicopter service to Mata Vaishno Devi. Pilgrims visiting the city of temples, Mata Vaishno Devi shrine, Shiv Khori, Amar Nath Ji shrine continued to be subjected to heavy taxation in the form of multiple Toll Plazas. The narrative scripted by BJP during its coalition rule gave the deadliest blow to Dogra pride and honour.
The situation as of now has invariably grown from bad to worse under central BJP dispensation with the Jammu region having been deprived of even its nominal share in the recent past. Dogra land has faced a terminal decline after re-organization of state with the centre focussing primarily upon Ladakh and Kashmir. While pampering of Kashmir goes unabated, the centre has announced a slew of measures for Ladakh including benefits of sixth schedule, protection of lands and Jobs of locals, smart cities for Leh and Kargil, central university costing Rs. 750 crore, Infrastructure Development Corporation besides announcing several other doles. Likewise Kashmir also continues to receive the unmitigated attention of the central BJP regime.
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 affecting 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 apple 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 to 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 the 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. And only recently the GOI has announced the procurement of Kashmiri saffron through NAFED with assurances of remunerative prices for the saffron cultivators of the valley.
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 hectares 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 succour 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 major development projects of Jammu including Artificial Lake, Jumboo Zoo and Development of Tawi Banks on Sabarmati pattern etc. all seem to have been abandoned or stalled. The lakes of Kashmir continue to be given preference while neglecting Surinsar, Sanasar, Mansar Lakes. The Central Sports Ministers in-augurated the Watersports Academy at Nehru Park Srinagar this year with world class facilities for sports and providing requisite infrastructure for training of olympic players therein for the first time in history. The potential of Jammu for water rafting, water sports in water bodies like Basohli Lake and Mansar was completely ignored.
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 even tried to trivialize the significance of the day by commenting that dogras should do double the work on Maharaja’s birthday. It was during BJP-PDP rule that Asia Andrabi was described as a women achiever and her photograph placed alongside national and international women celebrities in a function organized by Social Welfare Deptt in Kashmir. It was the saffron flavoured govt which refused to honour the demand of Jammu for CBI probe in Rasana case. They have only last year 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. Wherein Kashmir got 620 Jobs and Jammu merely 70. 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 advertisement for Lecturers posts issued recently notified 690 posts for Jammu region and 2225 for Kashmir. The Fisheries Deptt made 304 appointments from Kashmir region with merely 40 such appointments falling in the kitty of Jammu region. Again in the matter of PG seats in Medical Colleges, Jammu region has been subjected to most hostile treatment. The J&K Bank selections completed post Art 370 abrogation were quashed only for the reason that the share of Jammu region was higher than that of Kashmir. In an IIT convocation held in Jammu last year, the participants were directed to wear ‘Pherans’ and Pakhtooni caps. 4G was denied to Jammu for more than a year only because of some troubles in Kashmir.
Even today 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 through a novel mechanism of making it the biggest tax payer and by installing multiple Toll Plazas and opening liquor vends 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. We surely have become a multi dimensional loser in BJP rule. Should we not therefore rise to the occasion to dislodge those who have dis-respected our mandate and plunged our region to into an abyss after their ascendance to power? Please do give it a thought.
(The writer is former Education Minister and Chairman J&K National Panthers Party)
Harsh Dev Singh