Jammu and Kashmir economy has collapsed due to restrictions imposed since last August: Manish Tewari

Initiating a discussion on the budgetary proposals for Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh, Congress member Manish Tewari urged the govt to “open ears” and “listen” to the voices of people

Congress leader Manish Tewari (File photo: PTI) 
Congress leader Manish Tewari (File photo: PTI)


Targeting the government over restrictions imposed in Jammu and Kashmir since August last year, the Congress on Wednesday said the economy of the region has collapsed due to the measures and demanded the immediate release of former chief ministers Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah.

Initiating a discussion on the budgetary proposals and demand for grants for the union territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh, Congress member Manish Tewari urged the government to "open ears" and "listen" to the voices of people as he claimed a "dangerous situation" is developing there.

He said that social peace is important for the economic development of a place.

Tewari alleged that the decisions of August 5, 2019, to abrogate provisions of Article 370 of the Constitution, which gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir and divide the state into Union territories, have demolished the economy.

He said that the growth of key sectors, including agriculture and tourism, are declining. "It will be better if the budget for Jammu and Kashmir could have been discussed in the Assembly," he said, adding the August decisions are a "tragedy" for these union territories.

Citing data of Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry, he said there was a loss of ₹18,000 crores. "...USD 2.4 billion worth of economy was lost after the decision of August 5-6, 2019," he said, adding the agriculture sector has lost ₹10,000 crores in the last seven months.

Similarly, he said, apple farmers earned ₹6,500 crores in 2016-17 and after the imposition of restrictions only 50 per cent of harvesting could be done.

He said that the tourism industry, which is the biggest after agriculture, has "totally collapsed".

Tewari said that tourist flow too has impacted as it was estimated that about 21 lakh tourists will come to Jammu and Kashmir but till July 2019, the figure was 5.21 lakh.

Over 5.6 lakh jobs are also impacted in the sector and about 50,000 jobs are hit in the carpet sector due to closure of restrictions on internet services.

Noting that maximum budget has been allotted to the home affairs department, he said, "...this is an unsustainable model, it will not work."

These decisions have not been taken keeping in view "diplomatic" strategies but due to "narrow thought processes", he said.

On the abrogation of Article 370, he said the matter is sub-judice in the Supreme Court and "I expect a positive result from that".

Tewari said that "one thing is clear" from these decisions that "the government want the territory of Jammu and Kashmir and not the people".

He said that this decision was implemented by deploying additional 40,000 paramilitary force personnel, detention of 5,161 people and imposition of the stringent Public Safety Act (PSA) on 609 people.

"We do not know how many people are in jail in different parts of the country...I demand from the government to put a list informing about the number of people from Jammu and Kashmir who are in different jails," he added.

He also said that although Lok Sabha member Farooq Abdullah has been released, two former chief ministers -- Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah -- are still under detention.

"I demand the immediate release of two former chief ministers...PSA is completely unconstitutional and I condemn this action of the government," he said.

He said internet closure of over five months in the union territories were relaxed only after the order of the Supreme Court on January 10.

However, he said the internet services have not yet resumed completely and only 2G services have been started. "We seek detail answer from the government on this," he added.

Intervening, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that terrorists' use the internet to spread fear and threaten people.

Tewari said that terrorism is not new phenomena and previous governments had dealt with the menace and "this cannot be an excuse to close internet services".

He added that closure of the services has impacted children a lot and as many as 11,308 schools were closed seven months.

"This is big damage from the government's decision," he said, adding judiciary too has collapsed in the union territory and "this is the biggest tragedy".

He added that since August 5-6, 2019, as many as 459 Habeas corpus petitions are pending. "So what kind of country we want to make," he said, alleging courts are not listing these petitions.

Further, Tewari said that now the government seems to realise that the August decision was a "mistake".

Participating in the discussion, Jagdambika Pal of the BJP said the decision has led to the development of the union territories. He said that now no one can dare to hoist the flag of Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir.

He said bids are being sought for 13 airports and it will give a boost to the tourism sector.

He claimed that the Delhi riots of last month were pre-planned and Pakistan's ISI hand was also there and "you should be ashamed of this".

A Raja of the DMK criticised the government's decision on Jammu and Kashmir. Concerns raised by Opposition parties on Jammu and Kashmir have not yet been resolved, he said.

"This budget discussion is just ceremonial and not in true spirit because we are not Kashmiris," Raja said.

He added that a state cannot become prosperous if social harmony will not be there.

He said that Home Minister Amit Shah has assured and promised good administration and corruption-free society, but it has not yet been fulfilled completely.

The Centre on Tuesday presented a ₹1-lakh crore Budget for Jammu and Kashmir for 2020-21, and said the "highest ever" allocations reflect its commitment to make the Union Territory "a model of development".

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