Art 370 abrogation brought transparency, accountability in J&K: Sitharaman

Art 370 abrogation brought transparency, accountability in J&K: Sitharaman
File Photo of Union Finance and Corporate Affairs Minister Nirmala Sitharam

Jammu: Union Finance and Corporate Affairs Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday stoutly justified the abrogation of Article 370 by linking it to impetus in “financial activities, transparency in administration and growth in J&K’s economy.”

She refused to borrow the argument, even for question sake, that J&K economy had taken a hit in any manner after abrogation of Article 370.

“For..bringing in transparency in governance.. accountability, I would honestly thank abrogation of (Article) 370. If that was the obstruction for bringing in a transparent and a democratised government, we’ve done ourselves a biggest favour by that abrogation. Within last two years, after the abrogation, the entire administration is

now visible for every citizen of J&K to see what’s going on here. It cannot be a few families’ oligopoly. Money of the people should go to the people and it should be in a transparent process,” she said.

Oligopoly is a market term where “few big companies exert control over the market or dominate the state of affairs.”

The Union Finance Minister was addressing a press conference at the Raj Bhawan before winding up her two-day visit to J&K- her first after the abrogation of Article 370 and 35-A on August 5, 2019.

Her “measured” replies laced with “conscious use of words” as she chose to describe, on more than one occasion came in response to questions about “slump in J&K’s economy” and “how Centre and J&K government were moving ahead to bring accountability” post abrogation of Article 370.

“If you don’t mind, I’ll make a small correction to your question. If you say pandemic affected and there was problem all over India; it affected Jammu and Kashmir also, I’m fully with you. But post abrogation of Article 370, if you think the economy has been affected adversely. No, I’m sorry, not at all. But on the contrary, post 370, I, now, very clearly get information from the officers. They can expand on it. There’s fervour to complete the pending projects also. Today I was astonished to know that a project, which was commenced in 1979, is getting completed now. People, who never had access to any kind of funding through banks or any other source, are all getting that now,” she stated.

“You would have seen in the morning’s programme the number of people who are benefitted due to PM’s Development Package (PMDP) and the people who are opening new businesses. There were stalls where I went to the Jammu University where quite a few of these people were saying – now we’re starting another unit and therefore we’ll be bringing a new work capacity. So while the pandemic affected, yes, I’m with you. But post abrogation, not only old projects are getting completed, newer activities are also being taken up,” she elaborated.

“Banks have come up in a big way to fund these activities and the various schemes of the Lieutenant Governor, whether it’s a scheme for supporting students who need scholarship or various other, probably eight schemes, which he had listed viz., “Tejaswini”; “”Hausala”; “Umeed”; “Mumkin.” They all are schemes through which people are being given assistance for doing their business. This is like never before in J&K. Today therefore activities are far more than they were ever before,” the Union Finance Minister maintained.

At this point of time, the Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha also joined the Union Finance Minister in sharing some “data about investment in J&K post 370.”

How Centre and state administration were trying to infuse transparency in Jammu and Kashmir, which was being run like a private limited company as far as its discipline and financial health were concerned and it was marked by usual ailments/hiccups viz...overdrafts, delay in projects, her response to this question was also exhaustive.

Sitharaman also linked it to the “benefits emerging out of abrogation of Article 370.”

“In the last two years, the work that has happened is absolutely - I’m using the word consciously, “stunning.” The government procurement, recruitment, government spending of its resources, taxation or the deployment of resources, whatever be, they are now available online 24X7 and the transparent processes. One example I was stunned to know even recruitment to the junior-most levels have been completely backdoor operations all these decades. In a state, where probably there are more than five lakh government employees, nearly two-and-a-half lakh employees, I’m told, are clear backdoor people. And if that’s the record for the last 60-70 years, what has happened now in terms of what is collected, what comes from the Centre, how much does the government get and how was (is) it used – they are all available online for you to see,” the Union Finance Minister averred.

“So in terms of bringing transparency in governance, in terms of being transparent itself tells you that they are accountable for every one rupee which is deployed on the ground. This kind of an approach to governance was absolutely unheard of, in J&K and for that I would honestly thank abrogation of (Article) 370. And quickly, please have a look, all of you, within last two years, after the abrogation, the entire administration is now visible for every citizen of J&K to see what’s going on here. It cannot be a few families’ oligopoly. Money of the people should go to the people and it should be in a transparent process. That is what has been achieved in J&K and I’m very happy to have learnt about it in last my two days,” she elaborated.

CONSCIOUS DECISION FOR EQUITABLE, INCLUSIVE DEVELOPMENT

How Centre was ensuring equitable development of Kashmir and Jammu regions to dispel notion about discrimination with the latter (Jammu) besides judicious use of its (Centre’s) funds, responding to this question, the Union Finance Minister said that the Lieutenant Governor was working on that agenda in all sincerity.

“The Lieutenant Governor is working in the direction to ensure that every region should get its due. No region should feel discriminated. Not just that Jammu region gets equal funding, if necessitated it should get more funding, it is and it will be ensured. It will be done keeping in view genuine needs, aspirations and potential of every region. The administration is not focussing on exclusion (of any region out of development) but it is working on inclusive development with no discrimination whatsoever with any place, be it Jammu, Srinagar or (any other place of) valley. However to ensure that there’s need to create awareness and build support system at the ground level, at the district and sub-division level,” she averred.

Sitharaman, further elaborating on that account, said that she noted the dominance of two or three districts in the stalls displayed during the function she earlier attended at the University (of Jammu) in the morning.

“I asked banks, in front of the LG Sinha, to visit other districts as well and extend them credit. We’re making a conscious attempt in this direction. Question is genuine but the simple answer is that the administration is consciously serving (the people) on this account and addressing their issues,” she added.

DEFENCE SPENDING IMPERATIVE FOR NATION’S SECURITY

She also justified the enhanced defence spending while commenting on a query related to the statement of senior Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar questioning the enhanced spending on security forces so as to prepare them for war.

“Today we’re spending because we’ve to make up for all that (ten years of UPA government) also when the defence ministry did do nothing and was in hibernation,” she quipped.

“I wonder if it (Aiyar’s questioning) has got (needed) to be reacted at all...Is it (spending) not important for protecting our country? I don’t know if there’s a straightforward answer which will help the leader like Mani Shankar Aiyar, who had been in the administration, in the governance and in the party – the oldest party in this country. Does he not understand that we need to protect the country? And for that in their ten years they did do much at all and as a result of which even that gap is being filled by us. This all was discussed even during the debates in the Parliament, we discussed about how the defence ministry under the ten years of UPA was in hibernation. They did not do a thing for the country,” she said.

Change in GST slab not always linked to inflation: FM

Union Minister of Finance and Corporate Affairs Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday stated that the Centre could not unilaterally effect change in GST slabs and even change in rate would not always be linked to inflation.

She maintained, “Inverted duty structure is corrected consciously by the GST Council along with the technical team for the benefit of general consumers.”

The Union Finance Minister was responding to a question regarding inflation and change in GST slab during a press conference while winding up her two-day visit to J&K at Raj Bhawan. She was accompanied by Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha; Chief Secretary Arun Kumar Mehta and Financial Commissioner (Additional Chief Secretary) Finance Department Atal Dulloo.

“I say it with a certain sense of responsibility, NPAs used to happen even earlier. But we’ve ensured that we pursue in all the cases of loan defaulters including those of Vijay Mallaya and Nirav Modi and get the banks the money back through legal process. We shall not let go any defaulter particularly those who have fled the country and we’ll get their assets back through the courts to give it to the banks,” she assured when asked about her statement on loan defaulters.

“There’s clear headed leadership (of the Prime Minister Modi) which takes a call keeping always the nation ahead of everything, taking security forces in confidence and with a clear objective of strengthening democracy,” she stated while responding to questions related to UPA’s response to 26/11 and AIMIM supremo’s threat to go on dharna seeking withdrawal of CAA.

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