The symbolism of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s maiden visit to Jammu and Kashmir post-August 5, 2019, when the Parliament abrogated Article 370 and split the erstwhile state into two Union territories, on Panchayati Raj Day is not lost on anyone as he is scheduled to address a rally in a Jammu village.
“The Day is important for J&K and that is why the Prime Minister is going to attend”, said Shafiq Mir, Chairman, All J&K Panchayat Conference. Even as the Panchayat elections were held in J&K earlier also, the exercise at the grass-roots level was completed in three phases between 2018 and 2020.
The J&K Government is touting the PM’s visit as the one that will lead the UT into a “new era of development.”
Modi is scheduled to address a rally in village Palli in Samba district which shared a border with Punjab and Pakistan. BJP is expecting lakhs of people to participate.
This time a visit to the Kashmir region is not on the PM’s itinerary although in the past he would reach out to all the three regions of the State, Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh.
His visit has not raised the usual expectations of a “political or economic package” to be announced by the Prime Minister.
Though Panchayati Raj Day was being celebrated across India since 2010, in J&K, the 73rd amendment became applicable after the abrogation of Article 370 on August 5, 2019. For two years the day was not celebrated due to the Covid-19 protocol. Panchayat elections up to the level of Panchs and Sarpanchs were held in 2018, and these were followed by the second tier of Block levels electing Block Development Councils (BDCs) in 2019. The third and final phase of electing District Development Councils (DDCs) was held in December 2020.
The ushering of the grass-root democracy in the post-August 5, 2019 era is seen as against the rule of a few families for seven decades in J&K.
“On the occasion of the National Panchayati Raj Day, Prime Minister will lead J&K into a new era of development,” said lt Governor Manoj Sinha. Groundbreaking ceremony of Rs 38,082 crore Industrial Development proposals will be held in the presence of eminent industrialists of the country and abroad”.
He said that due to the projects to be inaugurated by the PM more than four lakh jobs would be generated in different sectors.
The Prime Minister will lay the foundation stones of the 850 MW Ratle Power Project and 540 MW Kwar Hydro Project. Besides, he will also lay the foundation stone for five Expressways, and inaugurate the Banihal-Qazigund tunnel. While the power plants are key to ending power generation in J&K, the Banihal-Qazigund tunnel will make Kashmir accessible during winter too.
During his visit to Palli Panchayat, the Prime Minister will interact with the Sarpanchs, Panchs, and people invited from across the UT. He will also visit INTACH Photo Gallery and Nokia Centre, an exhibition of different departments, besides meeting the business delegation from Dubai.
Union Minister of State, PMO, Dr. Jitendra Singh representing Udhampur Lok Sabha constituency of the Jammu region has said that Technology Exhibition at PM's rally would motivate Start-Ups and help create awareness about enormous new avenues of livelihood being availed across the country but not receiving enough attention in this region due to lack of awareness.
Singh said that the carbon-free solar plant has been installed on a total area of 6,408 square meters and was completed in a record time of 18 days and will provide clean electricity and light to 340 houses in the Panchayat. It was built by Central Electronics Limited, PSE under the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, Union Ministry of Science and Technology, the Minister added.
Of his 12 visits to J&K so far since he took over in May 2014, Narendra Modi had last visited both the UTs of J&K and Ladakh on February 3, 2019, six months before the abrogation of Article 370. However, post-August, 2019, the Prime Minister visited Rajouri district along the Line of Control (LoC) in the Jammu region, where he joined soldiers on the occasion of Diwali on October 27, 2019. Five of his visits to J&K took place between July and December 2014. This was followed by a visit in 2015, two visits each in 2016 and 2017, one in 2018, and two in 2019.