Independence Day 2017
On the joyous occasion of our 71st Independence Day I convey my greetings and good wishes to the people of Jammu and Kashmir. On this auspicious day we must pay homage to our great leaders who made enormous sacrifices to carry out a prolonged struggle for liberating the country from the foreign yoke.
In the past seventy years India has achieved notable development on many fronts and, today, we are the fastest growing among the large economies in the world. However, for the past many years now, J&K’s growth and progress has been retarded by the continuing programmes of protestations and agitations, calls for which are given by the separatist elements.
Besides the sad loss of lives, the recurring disturbances have adversely impacted tourism and all trade, business and economic activities. The day to day shut-downs and hartals have also resulted in disrupting the functioning of the governmental machinery and the public delivery systems, closure of transport, difficulties in the movement of goods and services and prolonged delays in the implementation of growth and development programmes in the State.
Alongside the continuing disturbances in the hinterland caused by the activities of separatist groups, Pakistan has maintained its strong support to subversive and terrorist activities and, in the recent past, also very significantly stepped up ceasefire violations and attempts at infiltrating a much larger number of terrorists into Kashmir. In the past over a year now, the Security Forces have remained perennially engaged in carrying out counter terrorist operations, particularly in South Kashmir.
The educational system has suffered irreparable damage on account of the recurring agitations. The repeated interruptions in the teaching and examination schedules of educational institutions have adversely affected the career prospects of our youth. I have held many meetings with teachers and educational administrators and repeatedly appealed that all possible steps must be taken to see that arising problems are not allowed to affect the education of our children. It is unfortunate that parents, teachers and the civil society have not so far gathered the courage for protecting the educational system and saving our youth from getting embroiled in the agendas of the disruptive elements. However, it is noteworthy that, notwithstanding the severe difficulties faced in the recent years, our boys and girls have been doing extremely well in the various pan-India competitive examinations.
Other States are forging ahead on the path of growth and development and J&K must not continue to lag behind. I would yet again appeal to the leaders of all the mainstream political parties in the State to shed their differences and urgently join hands, forge an agreed approach and commence meaningful discussions with the leaders of all groups which propagate divergent beliefs. As past experience has shown, differences of varied nature can be peacefully resolved through dialogue and discussion.
The collective voice of the various mainstream political parties would assume much greater strength if all the civil society groups in J&K, of whatever kind, also join the cause to negate the agendas of those who seek to de-stabilise the State.
In the backdrop of the prolonged sufferings which the people of the State have been going through, the time has come for every political party in the State to critically assess the net outcome of the policies it has followed in the past and what exactly it seeks to achieve in the future. It is a sad reality that in the past years, when the State witnessed recurring turmoil, members of the various political parties, whether in or out of power, failed to muster courage for venturing out of their secure habitats to meet, hear and talk even to their own electors! The mainstream political parties in the State need to accept the challenge of reaching out to their people in the villages and towns and winning the hearts and minds of our youth.
I would conclude by reiterating that if our State is to achieve peace and normalcy and embark on the path of progress and prosperity, the leaders of all political, social, cultural and religious organisations, the civil society and all other stakeholders in Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh regions, must lose no more time in closing ranks and working together for restoring a positive environment in the State. Side by side, the various public services cadres which comprise the governmental machinery must also not be found wanting on any count. They must re-commit to work devotedly for rendering prompt, efficient and accountable services for advancing the welfare of the people.
I take this opportunity of paying homage to all the brave men and officers of the State Police, Central Armed Police Forces and Army who continue to sacrifice their lives for safeguarding the territorial integrity of our country. In the past months the terrorist groups have been particularly targeting personnel of the State Police to deter them from carrying out their duties. It is heart warming to observe that the State constabulary has been facing this challenge with uncompromising resolve. I salute their devotion.
I convey my greetings to Chief Minister Ms Mehbooba Mufti and members of her Council of Ministers and trust that the State Government shall take all required initiatives, including early elections to Panchayats and Urban Local Bodies, to provide good governance and restore normalcy in the State.
JAI HIND !