On the joyous occasion of our Independence Day I convey my greetings and good wishes to the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Today, when we celebrate the birth of our freedom, we must pay homage to the great leaders who made monumental sacrifices in carrying out the prolonged struggle for freedom. Today, we must also commit ourselves afresh to safeguarding the unity and integrity of our nation.
Since the attainment of Independence, despite numerous constraints, our country has been continuing to achieve enviable successes on varied fronts. It is truly an occasion for celebration that, presently, we are not only the largest democracy but also the fastest growing among the leading economies in the world.
Like other States, J&K has also been striving to achieve its developmental goals. Located at one end of the country, our State suffers disadvantages on account of long distances from the major markets, difficult geographical and climatic conditions and inadequate connectivity. But, most of all, steady growth and advancement has suffered because of Pakistanís continuing proxy war and its unceasing campaigns, for the past nearly three decades now, to perpetrate violence and destabilize Jammu and Kashmir.
In the past year, our western neighbour attempted to infiltrate an unusually large number of trained terrorists across the International Border and Line of Control. Our Army and Police Forces carried out effective operations and neutralized perhaps the largest ever number of terrorists in the past many years. Side by side, we also suffered the loss of Security Forces personnel and civilian lives.
During this year also there has been progressive increase in the attempts at infiltration across the LoC. And till June this year there were repeated cease fire violations by Pakistan which caused manifold sufferings for our people living in the villages along the LoC.
In the past over four years the various initiatives taken by our Prime Minister to secure amicable relations with our neighbor have not so far engendered any result. Elections have just been concluded in Pakistan and a new Prime Minister shall be soon taking over. I very much hope that the new leadership in Islamabad will recognize the futility of continuing with its terrorist agenda in J&K and accept that peace between our two countries will contribute towards the establishment of fruitful relations, growing trade, prosperity and all around mutual benefits.
Notwithstanding the terrain, climate and other challenges our Army is continuing to enforce strict vigil on the frontiers. I take this opportunity to raise my hand in salute to our fearless officers and men and pay respectful homage to the brave hearts of the State Police, Central Armed Police Forces and the Army who made the supreme sacrifice to preserve the territorial integrity of our country.
Our people in the Valley have been facing continuing difficulties and sufferings on account of the recurring disturbances. Every call for a hartal affects the functioning of public delivery systems, stoppage of transport, tourism, trade and business and closure of all educational institutions. In brief, almost every activity comes to a halt, with consequential difficulties for the people and losses on all fronts.
The recurring unrest has most seriously affected the academic schedules and the future careers of our youth. Whenever I have had the opportunity of visiting any educational institution I have been appealing to the teachers, parents and the community leaders to take every possible step for protecting the interests of the younger generation. It is extremely important that the anger of our youth, from whatever reasons it may arise, must not lead to their getting involved in violent activities.
In the past year, a number of our youth, some of whom were pursuing professional studies, were influenced to pick up the gun and join groups which perpetrate violence. It is gratifying that some of these young men have since returned to their families. I appeal to all our community leaders to exercise their utmost influence to get all the young men who have deviated from the path to return home and pursue their careers.
A few weeks back, consequent to certain developments, Governorís Rule had to be imposed in the State. For the past nearly two months now it has been my unflinching endeavour to see that the functioning of the entire administrative apparatus, from the village level up to the State Secretariat, functions with promptitude, efficiency and complete accountability. My three Advisors, Chief Secretary and I have been working to infuse the governmental machinery with the required zeal for performing effectively and delivering efficient services to all the people in our State.
For resolving outstanding issues which are delaying the implementation of development works and delivery of welfare programmes we have been continuously engaged in reviewing the functioning of every department. Also, I have been visiting the districts to meet and hear the views and suggestions of the local Legislators and, thereafter, holding meetings with officers of the Divisional and District Administration to review the execution of all development schemes and welfare programmes.
The first priority of the Governorís Administration is to ensure the maintenance of public order and to see that the entire administrative apparatus functions with speed and efficiency. Among the many problems facing us there is a huge requirement of funds for securing the completion of scores of projects all over the State, some of which have been lingering for 10-15 years. Side by side, the services of a very large number of workers, not all of whom may have been inducted against available vacancies or after following the due processes, need to be urgently examined for appropriate decisions. It is also necessary to ensure that all those who get paid from the State exchequer report timely for work and perform their tasks with due diligence.
The Administration is working assiduously to ensure that the resources available under the Prime Ministerís Development Package of Rs 80,000 crore and under the various pan India Flagship Schemes are efficiently utilized to timely implement the various infrastructure and development projects and welfare promotion programmes for which we are receiving assistance. Attention is also being devoted to see that the available resources are equitably allocated to promote the welfare of people living in the three regions of the State, particular attention being paid to ameliorate the lot of the neglected segments and those who live in the remote, difficult and ill connected areas. Side by side, very special attention requires to be given to provide prompt support to widows, the aged and impoverished and all those who suffer from one or the other kind of disability.
Elections to Urban Local Bodies and Panchayats have been pending for long periods. The prolonged delay in the establishment of democratically elected self-governing bodies at the grass root level in the urban and rural areas has resulted in the loss of considerable funds which would have become available if elections had been held.
Soon after assuming responsibility the Governorís Administration has taken the required steps for organizing elections to Panchayats and Municipalities. Necessary amendments to the existing laws have already been made and speedy action is underway to gear-up the administrative and logistical arrangements for undertaking both these elections. Elections to Urban Local Bodies are scheduled to take place during September Ė October and the phased Panchayat polls during October - December this year. Side by side, we are also taking action to ensure that adequate funds, delegation of administrative and financial authority, deployment of the required staff and necessary logistical support is provided to the Municipalities and Panchayats, as soon as they get established.
Ever since I came to serve this State, which is now over ten years ago, I have been repeatedly urging that the pursuit of divisive and confrontationist approaches can never lead to the resolution of any of our problems. As we have seen for ourselves, such approaches have only generated vested interests which have fractured our society and severely damaged our centuries old syncretic values and traditions.
Today, yet once again, I appeal to the leaders of all the political parties in our State, and to all those at the helm of various social, cultural, religious and other influential organizations, to ponder most seriously over what exactly has been gained from the endless turmoil, the continuing human and economic losses and the sufferings which our people have been undergoing in the past several decades. It also needs being recognized that the activities of all those whose sole objective has been to stoke unrest have resulted only in branding our State with a negative profile which has discouraged tourism, external investments and adversely affected the economic advancement of the State.
To pull the State, and all our people, out of the prevailing environment of suspicion, fear, distrust and growing cynicism it is of crucial importance that all the stakeholders ― whatever be their political convictions or religious ideologies ― close ranks and muster the courage to accept that our problems can be resolved only through dialogue and discussion and by making sustained sincere efforts towards promoting reconciliation and communal harmony.
I would conclude by appealing to the leaders of all political parties in the State to provide full support to the Administration to improve efficiency and accountability in every arena of functioning and to lend their valuable support towards engendering an environment in which the forthcoming elections to Municipalities and Panchayats produce a positive outcome which would, in turn, pave the way for the restoration of peace and normalcy and enable the State to take on bigger challenges.
I also appeal to all the employees in our State to forthwith commit themselves to work with honesty and devotion to efficiently discharge the tasks entrusted to them. In this process, they shall not only win the respect of the people they are required to serve but also enable our State to move speedily ahead on all fronts.