Modi pledges to win hearts in first visit to Kashmir

July 05, 2014 - 7:13:28 am
Prime Minister Narendra Modi (left) with Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, during the inaugural function of the first train from Udhampur to Katra yesterday. 

SRINAGAR: Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged yesterday to “win the hearts” of the Kashmiri people as he faced a hostile reception during his first visit as the prime minister to the Himalayan region.

As schools and shops closed in the main city of Srinagar to protest the visit, Modi opened a railway line elsewhere in the restive Muslim-majority state, promising increased infrastructure and development.

Modi inaugurated the line in Katra town, 270km from Srinagar, that links a popular Hindu shrine in the region with India’s vast railway network. “Our railway stations can be better than airports. This is possible,” Modi said after flagging off the first train on the Udhampur-Katra line.

“Private parties can also participate, they will also benefit,” he added.  “It is every Indian’s dream to see happiness and prosperity in Jammu and Kashmir. “My aim is to win the hearts of the people of the state.”

The line is part of an ambitious project to connect the Kashmir Valley with the network sometime in 2017.

The trip by Modi, whose party secured a landslide win in polls in May on a pledge to revive the economy, has provoked a sharp reaction from influential separatist groups which called a general strike.

Businesses were mostly closed in Srinagar as a result and the city’s streets were largely deserted, while top separatist leaders were put under house arrest in a security crackdown ahead of Modi’s arrival.

Separatists rejected Modi’s comments yesterday, reiterating demands for a political process to resolve the dispute over Kashmir.

“Development is fine but our primary aspiration is security, right to life and fundamental political rights which will come when the Kashmir dispute is resolved,” chief cleric and a top separatist leader, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, said from his house where he is confined in Srinagar.

He criticised Modi’s decision to visit Kashmir on the first Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan which meant he was barred from leading prayers in the city’s main mosque as part of the crackdown.

Separatist leader Yasin Malik also rejected Modi’s comments on development, saying it would never take priority “over our demand for freedom and self government”.

Ahead of the visit, Modi sparked anger in the region over his apparent plans to curb the region’s autonomy. During election campaigning, Modi had argued for “a discussion” about Article 370 of the Indian constitution, which specifies that laws passed by the national parliament are not applied to Kashmir unless approved by the local legislature.

Yesterday, Modi also met troops and held a security meeting at army headquarters in Srinagar where hundreds of police and paramilitary were seen patrolling the streets. 

Restrictions for the visit were also imposed on civilians’ movements in parts of the city’s volatile old town, a top police officer said on condition of anonymity. AFP

All help to exploit power potential: Modi

Srinagar: Prime Minister Narendra Modi yesterday said that Jammu and Kashmir has a huge eco-friendly hydropower potential and the central government would give all possible help to exploit it.

Addressing a gathering while inaugurating the 240 megawatt Uri-II hydro power project near the Uri town in Baramulla district near the Line of Control (LoC), the Prime Minister said the government has laid stress on environment-friendly energy of which hydro power is an important constituent.

Jammu and Kashmir has a potential of production of 13,000-14,000MW clean and environment-friendly energy and all efforts would be made to channelize it, he said. 

This is the second power project on River Jhelum in Uri area and is located downstream of the 480-MW Uri-I HEP, which is already operational. The project is run-of-the-river with a concrete gravity dam which is 52 metres high and 157 metres long with four spillways of nine metres each.

The 4.23-km head race tunnel carries water from the dam to the powerhouse, which has four units of 60MW each designed to generate 1,124 million units of electricity in a year. The work on the power project was completed in time despite a massive earthquake striking the area October 8, 2005 — two weeks after the work started. 

Modi said Jammu and Kashmir is on the path of development and progress and he visualised many big milestones in coming days.

He announced upgradation of Kendraya Vidalya from high school to higher secondary school for which admission would be started from the coming session. IANS

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