A special group of administrators is working on laying the blueprint for the development of Kashmir for the next 15 years, Union Home Minister Amit Shah said

New Delhi: Union Home Minister Amit Shah has said the government has a 15-year blueprint for Kashmir. Packages are already in place, but they weren’t implemented well so far because of corruption shielded by Article 370 of the Constitution, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president said.

A special group of administrators is working on laying the blueprint for the development of Kashmir for the next 15 years, Shah said in an exclusive interview to News18 Network’s Group Editor-in-Chief Rahul Joshi.

It was for the first time that Shah shared specific details of the government's plan to develop Kashmir after stripping off its special status. "A group of experienced administrators are working on creating a 15-year road map for the Valley. I believe, based on that, if we develop the Valley, it will bring lasting peace and prosperity to the region,” Shah said.

The BJP chief said that with the scrapping of Kashmir's special status, plenty of investment opportunities were now open to Kashmir. "There are several areas that are absolutely open to investment. There is infrastructure, education and tourism. Healthcare is also absolutely open. So investments are bound to come into the Valley."

Shah said the situation in Kashmir is on its way to improvement as with the abrogation of provisions of Article 370, institutions like the Anti-Corruption Bureau, Enforcement Directorate and the Income Tax department have the mandate to look into instances of corruption and identify the spots where money that was sent from the Centre to the Valley for development was being stopped or redirected.

“We have tightened the screws to ensure that central aid and state revenue now reach the public. This will increase development. Also, as amendments 73 and 74 (of the Constitution) will be applicable to the Valley, funds meant for village Panchayats will now come into people’s hands. Panchayat elections will be held regularly now," Shah said.

He added that block development council polls are underway and the central government has already allotted an amount of Rs 6,500 crore directly for the Panchayats.

“This will also boost development work in villages. Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi had already issued a special package for the state, but there was no implementation as there was so much corruption. Now, with a vision and blueprint, we will move towards progress,” Shah added.

With money in their hands, the Panchayats will now be able to decide for themselves, what are their priorities. "Whether they want to spend their money on renovating or constructing schools, improving drinking water facilities or strengthening sanitation. When a village sets its priorities, then the pace of development increases," he added.

When asked about Jammu and Kashmir’s statehood, which Shah had earlier declared would be restored when normalcy returns, the BJP chief said there is a possibility in the near future.

“I can't say anything as such things will depend completely on the situation in the state. If everyone cooperates, then the situation might normalise soon and it could be done quickly," Shah said.

The Union Home Minister was also asked whether the frequency with which apple traders and drivers of vehicles laden with Kashmiri apples was being targeted concerned him.

Shah said these attacks aren't happening regularly. "Since the 1990s, there were roughly 16-18 attacks a month. Compare that statistics with that of the past two months... The numbers have fallen by a great margin. We will bring them down further.”

Shah was also asked whether the future chief minister of J&K could be a Muslim. "You shouldn't think like that. The people of Kashmir will decide who the next CM of the state is. It doesn't matter if the CM is a Hindu or a Muslim. Kashmir will elect the next CM.”