indica News Bureau-
With the communication and movement lockdown in Jammu & Kashmir entering its third month, India’s embassy in Washington, DC, has swung into damage-control mode.
The embassy issued a detailed press statement on Tuesday, Oct 8, listing the steps that have been taken since Aug 5 to “normalize” the situation.
The statement claimed that essential supplies, including round-the-clock electricity, water supply, health care and sanitation, are being ensured throughout the state which is to be partitioned into two Union territories—Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh.
The statement also accused “terrorists and their proxies” of trying to “create an atmosphere of fear and intimidation in Kashmir, to disrupt normalcy”, listing an attack on a family of apple growers in Sopore Sept 7, in which a three-year-old was injured, a terror attack outside the Anantnag divisional commissioner’s office Oct 5 in which 13 civilians were injured, burning of taxis and other vehicles, and posters by banned groups warning schoolchildren and parents, youth, government employees and shopkeepers to observe a ‘shutdown’ or face consequences as examples.
At the same time, it said there has been no major incident of violence and not a single live bullet was fired by government forces and no lives have been lost in police action. The statement admitted that “some protests” had taken place but said they were handled by the local police with restraint.
The note claimed that sufficient stocks of all essential items, food items, cooking gas and baby foods are available and being replenished regularly. With winter approaching, it said more than 200 winter stock centers have been established to keep essential items.
Hospitals and medical facilities are functioning normally and there is no shortage of medicines, it said. To improve health services, recruitment of 800 additional doctors has been approved and a Government Medical College was inaugurated in Kathua on Sept 14, when construction of an additional 200-bed hospital also began. The government has also announced the setting up of a medical college in Leh, Ladakh, while the administration in Budgam released US $15,000 on Sept 25 to improve health infrastructure at the district hospital.
The embassy claimed that banking and ATM facilities are operating normally and cash is regularly loaded so that people do not face any difficulty. It said more than US $15 million equivalent Indian rupees had been disbursed through Jammu & Kashmir Bank ATMs alone in the last three weeks of August.
The note claimed there is no restriction on movement in Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh. Air services to Srinagar, Jammu and Ladakh are operational and the rail service to Jammu is also in operation. Vehicular movement in Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh is normal, it said, with private taxis plying normally and government offices fully functional.
All schools in Kashmir (around 8,000), all schools in Jammu (more than 15,000) and all schools in Ladakh are open and functioning normally, the embassy said, while colleges are also open and medical and dental students are appearing for their examinations.
Landline telephone communication has been restored, it said, and all telephone exchanges are operational. Mobile connectivity has been restored in 14 of the 22 districts of the state, including Kupwara and Handwara districts in the Kashmir valley. Special arrangements have been put in place to make phone lines available to enable people to contact their family members in other parts of India and abroad and internet kiosks have been set up in all 10 districts in the Kashmir region.
The embassy said there are no restrictions on journalists or the media and all mainstream newspapers are being published, including 37 English dailies, 53 Urdu dailies and two Kashmiri dailies. Five local newspapers are being published in Ladakh. Satellite channels and cable TV networks are operational.
The note also listed a series of steps taken by the Narendra Modi administration to improve economic activity, including Geographic Indication (GI) registration for Kashmiri saffron on Sept 25, a special market intervention scheme for price support to apple farmers, and identification of 50,000 job vacancies to be filled in the next few months, generating employment.
Prime Minister Modi, in his address to the nation on Aug 8, had promised people the opportunity to elect their representatives as soon as the situation returned to normal and as a first step, elections to 310 of the 316 Block Development Councils in the state would be held on Oct 24.
The embassy also noted that the Supreme Court of India has observed that the government needs to be given more time to bring normalcy in the situation. A five-member constitution bench of the court will hear petitions challenging Parliament’s decision to revoke the state’s special status under Article 370 and partition it. The hearing begins Nov 14.