As the sun sets on the evening of December 31 and people across the globe ponder over what they went through all the year, people of Jammu & Kashmir would have a reason to smile and be contended with.
As the scars of 2016 unrest-both physical and economic-were yet to heal, Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti started the year with a determined zeal and dedication to pull the people out of the morass they had been caught in during the previous year’s unfortunate turbulence.
The biggest challenge was to restore the faith of the people in the system and reconnect with them. Known for taking the challenges head on throughout her life, Mehbooba Mufti started to reconnect the administrative apparatus with the masses. Something for the first time in the administrative history of the State, the Chief Minister started visiting far flung districts along with the heads of Departments and officers of her secretariat to personally assess the developmental needs, fix the problems and listen to people’s grievances which so far remained unheard. A Chief Minister at the doorstep of people!
And which district to start from? Pulwama, which suffered the most due to the unrest of 2016. Its economy, development, social life, everything. People came in hoards to narrate their tales of deprivation. The Chief Minister listened patiently during her first public outreach programme. They made demands and in many cases Mehbooba Mufti ordered on spot redressal of the same.
The public outreach programmes extended through Kupwara, Budgam, Bandipora, Gurez, Baramulla, Ganderbal, Kulgam, Anantnag in Kashmir province and Doda, Kishtwar, Kathua, Samba and Rajouri in Jammu province. She visited Leh and Kargil even about 3-4 times and inspected the developmental pace in the region. She continued to listen to people till late in the night and at Doda when the clock stuck 1.40 am in the night, she was asking administration not to prevent anyone who still wanted to meet the Chief Minister. An elderly person of a remote village of Paddar area bordering Zanskar, during such a programme at Kishtwar remarked, “We had seen Chief Ministers coming and lecturing but first time we see a Chief Minister listening, noting down our problems and issuing orders”.
But that was not all the Chief Minister did through the year. Many of the scars the unrest of 2016 left was a large number of cases against youth. Their parents had been pleading for amnesty to let them be home, with family and work peacefully. Considering the demand, the Chief Minister ordered review of the cases against such youth and taking a lenient view. More so, she also directed withdrawal of cases against around five thousand youth from 2008 to 2015 and not involved in heinous crimes. A big relief for the parents of these youth besides the much-needed healing touch for these youths who so far had only seen commotion, ruthlessness and restlessness but compassion.
Working of the Government in the State had been plagued by, what you call, a daily wage culture. Inadequately paid for full services and even sometimes not paid at all. As a remarkable feat of compassion, the Chief Minister took the bold decision of regularising the services of these 60 thousand youth which many of previous regimes were shying to take. Today their services stand duly regularised with all the perks and benefits of other regular employees. Indeed a step to celebrate.
The Chief Minister had been maintaining, consistently, on the need for dialogue with all stakeholders in the State. This, she believes, is the only way ahead to ensure a lasting peace, tranquility and equitable development of all the regions of the State. This, she has impressed upon the Central Government time and again. As a sequel to her efforts, the Central Government decided to appoint a special representative for Jammu & Kashmir, with the status of Cabinet Secretary. So far he has conducted three visits to the State and met hundreds of groups and delegations for the consultative process.
One hopes the process moves on and concludes with some good results for the people of the State.
But for now, the decisions and hard work done by the Chief Minister during the ending year has been able to bring to people in the State the smile and hope back on their faces.
This is just the beginning, the journey is still on…..