Three years after the repeal of Section 370, Lieutenant Governor of Jammu and Kashmir, Manoj Sinha, says every effort is being made to integrate the Union Territory with the rest of the country. The administration, he says, is trying not only to increase the GSDP, but also to bring peace by eliminating the entire terrorist ecosystem. Edited excerpts from an interview with Prerna Katiyar in Delhi:

What has been achieved in the three years since the repeal of Section 370?
The State Reorganization Act 2019 was formed so that Jammu and Kashmir could be integrated with the rest of the country and make available the common facilities which were denied to its people. Now more than 800 rules and facilities, which were not applicable or available before, exist here. In addition, the social status of Dalits and refugees from West Pakistan was deplorable. Now they are on an equal footing. Previously, schools and colleges were closed for six months. Stone throwing was commonplace. Hartal calendars were once published. Now we publish academic calendars. Our larger goal is total integration and we are working on it wholeheartedly.

Cultural elements such as cinema and theater are still missing in Kashmir.
The culture of Jammu and Kashmir has always been very rich. It is the land of Shaivism, Buddhism, Sufism… there was no place for hatred. But for political reasons, this narrative has been changed. There was a time when many Hindi movies were shot here. This comes back. Music and literary festivals are relaunched. The Tiranga Yatra under Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav saw 10,000 people steal the Tricolor and sing Bharat Mata Ki Jai. The soft power is very present. I will soon inaugurate 10 cinemas. A 5,000 square foot mall, developed by UAE-based MR Group, is coming up in Srinagar. We are also working on our lost heritage sites which will involve rebuilding and restoring temples as well as building churches and mosques.

Kashmiri pundits are worried after recent attacks on them.
The Indian government has given away 6,000 jobs and sanctioned 6,000 houses for rehabilitation. When I joined in 2020 there were 3,000 vacancies but one excuse or another was given for turning down jobs. We accelerated the recruitment process and over 2,700 vacancies were filled. Similarly, land has been identified for the construction of houses. Tenders for all but 700 apartments. We will offer 1,200 apartments in October. All the houses will be assigned in a year and a half. Also, Kashmiri pundits got jobs in safe places such as the district headquarters. No one was posted inside. Their safety concerns have been taken into account.

One of their concerns was that they were employed under a special program. So when other government employees were promoted, they were left out. Now we have created supernumerary positions which include registered and non-registered employees. We have promoted all eligible unregistered agents. For employees registered in the Official Gazette, we have sent recommendations to the JK Civil Service Commission. Those appointed in 2009 will be promoted in a few months. We have resolved all their outstanding issues. Everything we can do, we do. Nothing will be left to chance when it comes to their safety and well-being.

Migrant workers were also killed.
Their families will receive Rs 11 lakh each as compensation. The government is also considering giving jobs to their family members. We have also taken security measures in the places where they live. They will also be granted insurance coverage.

What can the government do to provide better facilities at the Amarnath Yatra?
I agree that better facilities can be provided. The topography is very difficult. We have developed a facility in Chandanwari for 3,500 pilgrims and similar facilities will soon be set up in other locations. Pilgrims set off on foot from Chandanwari. When I went after the recent flash floods I felt that a road could be built up to Baltal. The government will soon undertake a feasibility study and roads similar to Char Dham Road will be developed here.

The Electoral Commission (EC) has postponed the publication of the final electoral list until 25 November. The opposition believes this would help the BJP.
The EC is a constitutional body. He will decide when the elections will take place. The Union Home Secretary discussed the timetable in Parliament: first the delimitation, then the elections and, when the time comes, the creation of a state. Now, the boundary work is complete. Naturally, the polls cannot be disputed on the 2015 voters list. The population has grown and changed in seven years. The EC is therefore considering new electoral lists and new polling stations. When the EC is satisfied, elections will take place.

When will J&K get full statehood?

The Minister of the Interior gave an assurance to Parliament. When the time comes, statehood will be granted.

About 25 lakh people have been added to the electoral list. The opposition fears that the demographics of the electorate will be changed in favor of the BJP.
The Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Act came into force on October 31, 2019. After that, the Representation of the People (RP) Act applies here as elsewhere in the country. We must not forget that 32,000 foreigners voted here in the Lok Sabha polls in 2019. They were called non-permanent residents. They could vote in Lok Sabha elections, but not in Vidhan Sabha elections. Under the PR law, they can now also vote for Vidhan Sabha. If mufti (Mohammed Sayeed) sahab could fight from UP and become home minister, then why couldn’t others vote from Kashmir?

After the delimitation exercise, Jammu gained six seats while only one seat was added to Kashmir. The opposition alleges that this was done to favor the BJP.
The EC has formed a Boundaries Commission (DC) headed by Judge (retired) Ranjana Desai. Regarding the modification of the number and distribution of the proposed seats, they solicited suggestions from citizens, parties and leaders, including those of the opposition. Five deputies are members of the DC. Three of them are from the National Conference. They had every chance of raising an objection. Once a decision has been made, they now give their opinion and create a problem.

You talk about doubling J&K’s GSDP. What sectors are you focusing on?
First, agriculture and related sectors, including sericulture and horticulture — about 70% of the people here depend on it. Over the past three years, J&K has made great strides in these areas. We are third in per capita income of farmers, after Punjab and Haryana. From a milk deficit state, we are now in surplus. Saffron is labeled GI. Basmati rice is exported in large quantities. I am sure we will double agriculture’s contribution to the GSDP over the next three years.

Second, private investment. Until about a year and a half ago, it was a tiny Rs 14,000 crore since independence. On April 24, the inauguration ceremony of the projects worth Rs 38,080 crore was conducted by the Prime Minister. We have received offers for Rs 20,000 crore. We acquired land for infrastructure projects. We are building many multi-specialty hospitals and also increasing the number of MBBS seats. Many UAE groups invest here.

Third, connectivity. Next year, Kashmir will enjoy rail connectivity with Kanyakumari. Today, 104 flights operate from Srinagar, compared to just 32 two years ago. We will focus on promoting tourism and hospitality.

Fourth, we provide transparency through our BEAMS (Budget, Estimate, Allocation & Monitoring System) portal. No work can be carried out without administrative authorization, call for tenders and financial sanction. Physical verification and geolocation are mandatory for all development work. People can see on their mobile phones the condition of the roads being built in their villages.

In 2022-23, Rs 22,126 crore was allocated for district capital expenditure, which is 2-3 times more for each district. Last year it was Rs 12,600 crore and the previous year Rs 5,134 crore.

Moreover, we had not fully exploited our electricity production capacity, which is 18,000 to 220,000 MW. We only produce 3,450 MW. We are trying to grow our economy through electricity generation.

Terrorists still pass through the LoC every year. Is it a failure of the intelligence services or the security forces?
Coordination between the security forces is much better. We have the upper hand. People’s perception of the government has changed dramatically — the earlier peace has been bought (by the government); now it is being established. We’re not just trying to take out the terrorists, but the whole ecosystem.