Five top industrialists will fly to Srinagar on Friday, as part of a Rahul Gandhi-driven initiative: they will “listen” to Kashmir University students to get a firsthand feel of the ground situation and then work on what they can do to create employment opportunities in the trouble-torn State.
Those on the Congress general secretary’s list include Ratan Tata, Kumar Mangalam Birla, Rajiv Bajaj and Deepak Parekh, party sources said.
“This is a completely new initiative for Jammu and Kashmir,” Mohan Prakash, senior Congress functionary in charge of the State said, adding, “Rahulji is keeping the promise he made to Kashmir University students he met last year in September.” The students, Mr. Prakash said, had complained about the lack of industry and jobs, and Mr. Gandhi assured them that he would bring some top businessmen to Srinagar so that they could interact with them directly.
After a meeting with students of the university, scheduled for 10.30 a.m. Friday, the industrialists will meet members of the local Chambers of Commerce to discuss the possibilities of investment in the area. Mr. Gandhi would be present during the meeting with the students, Congress sources said.
This comes days after Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, welcoming the Centre’s decision to permit FDI in retail, complained about other States which were trying to block the move.
Mr. Gandhi’s efforts to push some of Indian industry’s biggest names to invest in Kashmir, the sources stressed, had nothing to do with Himayat, a placement-linked skill development initiative for training and placement of J&K youth, part of the PMO’s Skill Empowerment and Employment scheme for which the nodal department is the Union Rural Development Ministry.
Of course, while the industrialists will spend just a day in Srinagar, Mr. Gandhi will arrive in the Kashmir Valley on Thursday on a two- day visit.
On his agenda is a meeting at the Sher-i-Kashmir International Conference Centre with panchayat members in the Valley on Friday: this follows his call to increase security for panches and sarpanches who were facing threats from militants, and a meeting with a delegation of sarpanches who travelled to Delhi last week. Mr. Gandhi is a strong votary of more powers to panchayats.
On Thursday, he will visit the Ladakh region and hold public rallies in Leh and Kargil town, after which he will attend the foundation stone laying ceremony of the Z-Morh Tunnel in Sonamarg. Union Surface Transport Minister C.P. Joshi will lay the foundation stone. Mr. Gandhi will then meet members of the Jammu & Kashmir NSUI and address the ongoing meeting of the Youth Congress National Executive in Srinagar.