Lok Sabha passes Rs 1.42-lakh-crore Jammu and Kashmir budget

Lok Sabha on Monday passed a budget totalling Rs 1.42-lakh-crore for Jammu and Kashmir for 2022-23 amid a war of words between the treasury and opposition benches over the exodus of Hindus from the Valley, with Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman accusing the Congress of leaving the minority community in the state in the lurch.

During a discussion on the budget, the Congress, TMC and other parties alleged that the government has not been able to achieve the objectives it set out while abrogating Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir and demanded the early restoration of statehood.

Opposition parties also accused the government of not doing enough for the displaced Kashmiri Pandits, an issue that has again gained political currency after the film Kashmir Files based on the exodus was released.

Responding to the discussion, Sitharaman attacked the Congress over a series of tweets issued by its Kerala unit relating to the Kashmiri Pandits who were displaced from the Valley during the 1990s following the outbreak of militancy.

Sitharaman said the tweets by Congress with the hashtag #KashmirFiles vs truth on Sunday said that Kashmiri Pandits on their own left the Valley and not because they were forced.

“Our party’s (Congress) belief is that it was not because of terrorism but the movement was due to lure of financial benefit and land offer in Delhi …. another belief is there is a long battle between separatist and those who stand for India , “she said quoting the tweets.

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She also said Congress was an ally of the government at the time of the exodus and the then chief minister left people to fend for themselves when terrorism was on the rise.

She alleged that under the Congress regime, the then prime minister met a separatist who had allegedly killed an airforce officer and later conceded the same to a foreign TV channel.

MPs of the Congress, NCP, TMC and the National Conference walked out of Lok Sabha in protest against the remarks made by the minister after the Speaker did not allow the opposition members to intervene.

The House passed the Budget totaling Rs 1.42-lakh-crore for Jammu and Kashmir and also Supplementary Demands for Grants seeking additional spending of Rs 18,860.32 crore for the Union Territory.

Sitharaman said normalcy has been achieved after the abrogation of special status to Jammu and Kashmir while prior to that it was “fake normalcy”.

The Government in August 2019 abrogated many provisions of Article 370 resulting in the revocation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status. With this, the state of Jammu and Kashmir was bifurcated into two Union Territories – Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.

“Jammu and Kashmir was not normal under Article 370 … there was fake normalcy prior to abrogation of Article 370 …. post abrogation there is no fake normalcy,” she said.

Sitharaman said 890 central laws became applicable in Jammu and Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370.

“Removal of Article 370 was necessary, it was delayed … we have fulfilled that promise given to the people of Jammu and Kashmir,” she said.

Backdoor entry has stopped and there is transparency in appointments, she said, adding the system is getting better day by day.

The government is committed to the development of J&K and for the homecoming Kashmiri Pandit, several steps have been taken.

She assured the House that the government will fulfill the promises made with respect to the rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits.

Reeling out numbers, she said, the government has built 1025 transmit accommodations while about 1,500 are under the process of construction.

The minister said 40,000 projects were completed in Jammu and Kashmir in 2021-22 and connectivity in the Union Territory is improving.

The Union Territory has witnessed a 90 percent decrease in ceasefire as it reduced from 900 in 2020 to 98 in 2021, she said, adding, terrorism has been contained and infiltration has declined significantly.

About investment, she said, an investor-friendly Jammu and Kashmir campaign has paid off.

“Rs 44,177 crore investment proposals have already been received. Employment potential from that is 1.80 lakh … most of the investment proposals are from outside,” she said.

Capital expenditure has increased in all sectors, she said.

A record 50 lakh tourists visited Jammu and Kashmir between October (2021) and January (2022), she added.

The finance minister said that the budget 2022-23 for J&K is more than Rs 1 lakh crore mark again, which is an indicator of commitment to make J&K a model of development.

This is an inclusive budget and all the sectors will get focused attention, she said, adding, the government of J&K shall endeavor to double the farmer’s income.

The investment proposal under the new industrial policy will be cleared on a fast track basis and the power generation capacity is being doubled in the next three years, she said.

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