Poonch- Rajouri Development

The twin border districts of Poonch and Rajouri adjacent to PoK are among the most vulnerable districts to infiltration by Pakistani jihadis. These two strategic districts allow frequent movement of Pakistani and Pakistan sponsored terrorist to make stealthy moves along the Pir Panchal mountain eastward to Reasi, Doda and Kishtwar and northward to Southern Kashmir. Much of border area of these two districts is within the range of Pakistani firing and shelling with the result that entire border population remains exposed to constant threat of displacement and dislocation. One serious matter that needs to be attended by the Government is of providing permanent as well as temporary shelter to the affected people of the twin districts against recurring firing and shelling from across the border.
Security scenario apart, these two districts have unfortunately lagged behind in terms of economic and industrial development, essentially for the reason of distance and lack of dependable connectivity. Some blame will also come to the State Government for not giving due recognition to the strategic importance of both the districts and consequently but erroneously neglecting their development. It is a matter more of neglect than of discrimination.  An all party delegation from Jammu region has recently met with the Prime Minister and submitted a memorandum in which they have spelt in detail the deficiencies these two districts have suffered all these years. The delegation led by the State Minister for Food Supplies placed before the Prime Minister a long list of developmental projects which it insisted should be taken up on priority basis by the Union Government. From the reports trickling down from reliable sources, one may say that for the first time in the history of the State, an all party delegation including representatives of all political shades in the two districts presented the case of development of the twin districts to the Prime Minister comprehensively. We have reports that the PM has given them very patient hearing and reacted very favourably assuring them that his Government was committed to all round balanced development of the J&K State as a whole and the two districts under discussion in particular. The first and perhaps the most important demand of the people in the entire region is about connectivity. During the previous regime at the Centre, survey of rail link between Jammu and Poonch had been conducted and report submitted to Railway Ministry. But for unknown reasons, the Congress Government had put off action of going ahead with the rail connectivity project. The PM has assured the delegation that this project would be undertaken by his Government. The other areas of connectivity are four-laning of the existing Jammu-Akhnoor-Poonch road and declaring this and the ancient Mughal Road as a National Highway. Evidently the development of economy of the entire region falling under the two districts depends on road connectivity, which has been assured by the Prime Minister. At the same time demand for resumption of Vayudut service in Jammu-Rajouri-Poonch and Delhi sector suspended in 1998 was to bolster the concept of connectivity.
The delegation rightly emphasized the need for serious re-thinking on how the sector of tourism could be developed in Jammu region. The region of Pir Panchal falling within the territorial jurisdiction of the two districts is gifted with extraordinary scenic beauty in the shape of dense forests, lush green meadows and seven beautiful mountain lakes. Development of so many tourist spots would immensely strengthen the economy of the region and also provide employment to the youth of the two districts. The region lacks in industries. No attention whatsoever has ever been paid to develop suitable industries in the region. The Department of Mining and Geology has never attempted to explore and exploit the mineral wealth of the area nor has the Industries Department ever thought of what industries could be viably established in the area. We find sense in the demand of the delegation that a special development package for these two districts should be considered by the centre keeping in mind the strategic importance of this belt. Immediately the Government should take up the project of building bunkers for the population living close to the border and exposed to recurrent shelling by Pakistan. There is much sense in modifying the scheme from collective shelter to individual shelter and both within the house and outside the house. The people want to be given the sense of security. The delegation has made many other demands also all appearing very genuine and we hope given the tremendous goodwill which the PM has in the development and progress of the State, all these demands will be  met in stages by the Union  Government. We say well-done to the delegation for undertaking a much needed mission, presenting the case very effectively to the highest administrative authority of the country and earning the good will of lakhs of people to whom the benefits of these schemes and projects will accrue. Economy and identity of the entire area will receive impetus once these beneficial projects are floated.


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