Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad at an eatery in Baramulla on Thursday. (Express photo by Shuaib Masoodi)
Carrying a picture of officials inspecting the rubble of his house and an application torn at the folds in a plastic bag, Fayaz Ahmad, 60, reached the Dak Bungalow at Baramulla from Silikote, the last village on the LoC that lies beyond the border fence.
“My home was destroyed in shelling two years ago. I have come all the way to get some compensation and build a house for my children,” he said.
Ahmed said he and his five daughters are living in the village panchayat ghar for the last two years. The security did not let him enter the Dak Bungalow.
Inside, Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad congratulated the newly elected chairpersons of various Block Development Councils in Baramulla district. “You fought the elections despite (calls for) boycott and threats. (PDP chief) Mehbooba Mufti and (NC chief) Omar Abdullah kept opposing it, saying there will be violence.... I want to congratulate you for having shown the courage, fought the elections, and won,” he said.
After taking stock of the district’s development scenario, Prasad urged officials to “create opportunities” for creative people and the youth, as J&K is craving development.
During their meeting, sarpanches from the district underscored the need to empower their office. “There is a delay in getting work done, and even in funds arriving, due to lack of proper authority,” Nazeer Ahmad Sofi, sarpanch of Shirpora panchayat, told The Indian Express.
On the second day of his visit, as part of the Centre’s outreach programme in J&K, Prasad inaugurated an indoor sports stadium at Baramulla, where he interacted with students and laid foundation for a mini-pavilion block. He met with 19 delegations, including the Farmers’ Welfare Committee, Students Association of Baramulla, Sports Development Forum, and transporters.
A youth delegation under the banner of ‘Save Youth, Save Future’ met Prasad about creation of political space for the Valley’s youth. “After abrogation of (special status under) Article 370, all politicians were detained and the Centre spoke of creating a new leadership. We want that chance,” Wajahat Farooq from the organisation said.
A generation of Pahadi-speaking people from border villages of Baramulla urged the minister to grant ST status to the community. A group of women artisans also presented their demands.
Union MoS for AYUSH and Defence Shripad Nayak, who was in Srinagar, said at a function that Gulmarg, Patnitop, Pahalgam hill stations would be promoted as AYUSH tourism destinations.
Continuing his visit at Ganderbal, MoS for Home G Kishan Reddy said corruption will now be tackled and funds will reach on time.