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Modi visit would change destiny of Kashmiris: Mufti

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By Arka Mondal

Despite the escalating media hype around the slated Kashmir rally of PM Modi, traders and civil society activists in the valley have not pinned many hopes on the visit. Modi government’s failure to release the flood package (for the devastating September 2014 floods) even after over a year has irked many in the state.

Though PDP has failed to justify its decision of joining hands with the BJP, it sounded positive regarding the visit. Claiming the visit to be akin to ‘Vajpayesque approach’, Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed said that Modi’s visit would change the destiny of the people of Kashmir.

Though PDP and the BJP are, ideologically, poles apart, the PDP leaders are working to set the tone for the Modi rally. They testified that they wanted to rationalize their move of forging a partnership with the political major of India.

The party went to the extent of claiming that Modi might speak about a probable dialogue with arch rivals Pakistan from the podium of Srinagar’s Sher-e-Kashmir Stadium. This comes at a time when Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Geelani has proposed to hold a rally on the TRC Ground on the same day to thwart the BJP juggernaut in the Kashmir valley.

However, there are hints that Modi might hold dialogues with separatist outfits as BJP cognizes the importance of Kashmir in making India a dominant force in the region.

The pro-PDP faction, however, expects a lot from the visit. In a bid to pacify them, Modi is expected to reach out to all stakeholders; declare a proper rehabilitation package of at least Rs 10 lakh to Rs 15 lakh for each person of the business community; a tax waiver for at least 10 years; and cash compensation so that businessmen are able to recover their losses due to the floods.

Government sources revealed that Modi would announce a development package worth Rs 1 lakh crore which would include Rs 72,000 crore for new projects and for relief and rehabilitation works in the flood-ravaged state.

The Kashmiris, in general, are not much enthused when Indian premiers visit their state. And there are obvious reasons for that. Developmental projects have always been ignored in the region. When former PM Rajiv Gandhi declared a Rs 1000 crore package aid, Rs 992 crore were meant for National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) and a further Rs 6 crore were spent by the then chief minister, Farooq Abdullah, on converting the city forest into a golf course, leaving just Rs 2 crore for different developmental projects. Similarly, out of the Rs 24,000 crore package announced by Manmohan Singh, Rs 18,000 crore was just meant for NHPC.

Kashmiris are familiar with the fate of such aids. The mediocre aid of Rs 3800 for those whose houses were damaged by the flood speaks volumes of how the people have been ignored but have been utilised to satiate political agendas.

The people of the valley have come out of the hangover of the PM’s last visit last year where he claimed that he ‘felt the pain’ of the people of Kashmir and claimed their dreams as well.

Though Modi is likely to announce a package that focuses on resurrecting the infrastructure lost in the 2014 floods with focus on roads, bridges, power, and tourism projects, it will depend on how much of the package would be meant for infrastructure development and how much of it would reach the flood-affected people.

Only time will tell whether Modi in his address from Sher-e-Kashmir stadium on November 7 declares big package and calls upon the separatists and Pakistan like Atal Bihari Vajpayee did during his iconic visit to Kashmir, or it becomes just another visit by another PM.

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AAP’S Media Spend Is Four Times That Of Previous Government: RTI Reply

A 2017 Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report found that the Delhi government had spent 86 percent of the total budget for its media campaign celebrating the completion of AAP's one year in power in 2016

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AAP
Picture of Arvind Kejriwal addressing a rally. Wikimedia Commons
  • The average annual expenditure of the AAP government on advertisements from April 2015 to December 2017 was Rs 70.5 crore
  • The AAP government’s spending on advertisements increased by about 300 percent compared to the Congress government
  • A 2017 Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report found that the Delhi government had spent 86 percent of the total budget for its media campaign celebrating the completion of AAP’s one year in power in 2016

The AAP government has spent an average of Rs 70.5 crore annually in the past three years on advertisements — four times more than the previous government’s expenditure on print, electronic and outdoor advertising, according to an RTI reply.

In the first year after assuming office in February 2015, the current government spent Rs 59.9 crore on advertisements, Rs 66.3 crore the next year and Rs 85.3 crore up to December 31, 2017, the Directorate of Information and Publicity (DIP) said in reply to an RTI application by IANS.

The average annual expenditure of the AAP government on advertisements from April 2015 to December 2017 was Rs 70.5 crore. The Congress’ average was Rs 17.4 crore in the last five years of its rule (2008-2013).

Also Read: AAP welcomes BJP’s stand on inter-faith marriages

According to the DIP, the expenditure includes, among others, advertisements with photos of the Chief Minister and other ministers in newspapers and hoardings, commercial spots on TV and radio, and tender notices published in newspapers.

For instance, when the AAP government completed its first and second anniversary in 2016 and 2017, leading newspapers in the capital carried full-page advertisements, highlighting the achievements of the government.

The Delhi government approached the High Court and the matter is currently pending there. Wikimedia Commons
The Delhi government approached the High Court and the matter is currently pending there. Wikimedia Commons

In the run-up to celebrating its three years in office, the government in the first two weeks of February carried advertisements flashing pictures of the Chief Minister or other ministers. The highlights included the inauguration of community toilets, excellence awards distribution for students, a government meeting on “smart gaon”, and invitation of applications for scholarship schemes.

The AAP government’s spending on advertisements increased by about 300 percent compared to the Congress government.

Also Read: Blow for Kejriwal: EC recommends disqualification of 20 AAP MLAs

But the average advertisement rate charged by a leading English newspaper, comparing the Congress government and AAP government periods, has increased by about 17 percent, according to DAVP.

For the same period, the average rate charged by another leading English newspaper has increased by about 35 percent.

A 2017 Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report found that the Delhi government had spent 86 percent of the total budget for its media campaign celebrating the completion of AAP’s one year in power in 2016.

According to the DIP, the expenditure includes, among others, advertisements with photos of the Chief Minister and other ministers in newspapers and hoardings, commercial spots on TV and radio, and tender notices published in newspapers. Wikimedia Commons
According to the DIP, the expenditure includes, among others, advertisements with photos of the Chief Minister and other ministers in newspapers and hoardings, commercial spots on TV and radio, and tender notices published in newspapers. Wikimedia Commons

The auditor pulled up the government for using the name of the party in the advertisements.

Last year, the government came under an opposition attack after Lt. Governor Anil Baijal asked the AAP to cough up Rs 97 crore spent on advertisements, allegedly to promote the party instead of the government. The LG order was based on a report by the Committee on Content Regulation in Government Advertising (CCRGA).

Also Read: 5 Years of AAP: How Society Has Been Backstabbed by ChandaChor Kejriwal

The regulatory authority asked the Delhi government to assess the expenditure in issuing “those advertisements/advertorials in which the name of the Aam Aadmi Party is mentioned” and other factors.

The Delhi government approached the High Court and the matter is currently pending there.

Delhi government spokesperson Nagendar Sharma said he has “no comments” to offer on the increase in expenditure.

The auditor pulled up the government for using the name of the party in the advertisements. Wikimedia Commons
The auditor pulled up the government for using the name of the party in the advertisements. Wikimedia Commons

Delhi Congress President Ajay Maken said: “They (AAP) are using the power of advertisements to put pressure on TV (channels) and newspapers. They are doing it ruthlessly”.

BJP MLA and Delhi Assembly Leader of Opposition Vijender Gupta termed the government’s spending on advertisements as “irrational”. “Misuse of public money in this way is completely unjustified and unethical,” Gupta told IANS. (IANS)