Rapid development of J-K, Ladakh among priorities of govt: Prez

New Delhi, Jan 31 (PTI) Invoking BJP's idealogue Syama Prasad Mookerjee, President Ram Nath Kovind on Friday said rapid development of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh are among the priorities of the central government.

He said the abrogation of Article 370 and Article 35A of the Constitution by two-thirds majority in both the houses of Parliament is not only historic but has also paved the way for equitable development of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.

'Through this House, I heartily congratulate the people of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh for joining the mainstream of development,' Kovind said addressing the joint sitting of the two houses of Parliament.

He said Mookerjee, who was the great son of Bengal and the minister for Industry and Supply in the government headed by Jawaharlal Nehru, had said in the Lok Sabha, 'In a democratic federal state, the fundamental rights of the citizens of one constituent unit cannot vary vis-à-vis the citizens of another unit. Are not the people of Jammu and Kashmir entitled to the fundamental rights that we have given to the people of India minus Jammu and Kashmir?' Today, after seven decades, the whole country is happy that the dream of crores of freedom fighters, including Mookerjee, has come true and the people of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh, Dalits and women from that area have also got the same rights as the people in the rest of the country, the president said.

'Rapid development of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh, preservation of their culture and traditions, transparent and honest administration and democratic empowerment are among the priorities of my government,' Kovind said.

He said during the President's rule and since becoming a union territory all the developmental projects in Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh have gained momentum.

'The people there are now getting full benefits under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Ujjwala Yojana, Ayushman Yojana, Ujala Yojana, Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) and food subsidy in a transparent manner. Under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, while around 3,500 houses were built in Jammu and Kashmir till March 2018, in less than two years thereafter, construction of more than 24,000 houses has been completed,' the president said.

Apart from this, works relating to connectivity, irrigation, hospitals, schemes related to tourism and establishment of institutes of higher education such as Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT), Indian Institutes of Management (IIM), All India Institute Of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) are also proceeding at a rapid pace in Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh, he said.

The NAFED (National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Ltd) has been entrusted with the responsibility for the direct procurement of apples in Jammu and Kashmir, the president said, adding that 'this has especially benefited the apple growers of the Kashmir Valley'.

Towards the end of 2018, elections in more than 4,400 panchayats of Jammu and Kashmir were conducted in a peaceful manner, Kovind said.

For the first time since Independence, elections to more than 300 block development councils have also been held there, he added. PTI AKV KJ