From inaugurating water supply schemes, classrooms and heritage lights, 36 Union Ministers on Saturday started a six-day tour to attend outreach camps in J&K, the first such visit since the special status of the erstwhile state came to an end more than six months ago on August 5.
The public interface programme has been launched on directions of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The Ministers will “educate locals on benefits of the abrogation of Article 370” and “development schemes for the region”.
The first batch of Ministers arrived in Jammu on Saturday, including Minister of State (MoS) in the Prime Minister's Office Jitendra Singh; MoS for Parliamentary Affairs and Water Resources Arjun Ram Meghwal and MoS for Health Ashwini Choubey.
Mr. Meghwal, who inaugurated a tubewell and drain protection wall at Birpur in Mandana of Samba, interacted with people and “listened to their development needs”.
“The BJP government does not believe in discrimination on the basis of caste and colour,” Dr. Choubey said.
On dilution of Article 370, Mr. Singh said, “People had to wait for this long because it had to happen under the aegis of a personality like Modi.” He later inaugurated a smart classroom and laid foundation stone of a sports stadium at Gole Gujral, Marh, in Jammu.
Of 36 Union Ministers, 21 will tour Jammu and over five will visit the Kashmir valley up to January 24.
Those likely to visit Kashmir include Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, Minister for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, MoS Home G. Krishan Reddy, Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Youth Affairs and Sports Kiren Rijiju, and Minister Social Justice Tawar Chand Gehlot
Mr. Naqvi will lay the foundation stone of a high school at Srinagar's Dara area and a beautification work of a water conservation at Harwan. Several ministers, including Mr. Prasad, will hold public darbar in Srinagar and north Kashmir.
The outreach programme will also take stock of 55 beneficiary-oriented schemes, rapid infrastructure development including implementation of Prime Minister’s Development Programme (PMDP).
A central control room has been established to ensure seamless coordination, an official said.
Chief of the J&K National Panthers Party Harshdev Singh said, “The visit is nothing but a publicity stunt.”
Earlier, senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said the BJP can’t change J&K situation by “air dropping ministers”.