A healthcare worker administers a dose of Covishield to a shepherd in South Kashmir

Home Minister Amit Shah’s maiden visit to Jammu and Kashmir next week after the abrogation of Article 370 is significant

After August 5, 2019—when the Centre announced its decision to scrap Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and divided it into two union territories—the erstwhile princely state has recorded many firsts and direct flight from Srinagar to Sharjah, likely to commence from October 23, is one more such initiative that has brought smiles on the faces of Kashmiris.

More than one lakh Kashmiris are working in Sharjah. The direct flight to Srinagar will bring them home within a few hours as customs, immigration and all other facilities will be available at the Srinagar Airport. It’s a welcome step and a major relief to travellers intending to fly to the Emirates.

The travel time between the two cities will be three hours and as an inaugural offer the ‘Go First’ airline has priced the ticket at Rs 5,500. It’s much less than what a traveller used to spend to reach Sharjah via New Delhi.

In the past two years, the Centre has taken many steps that a common Kashmiri couldn’t have even thought about. The tourism sector in Kashmir has witnessed a boom. The outbreak of COVID-19 did slow down the process to some extent, despite that things have moved at a fast pace.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah and J&K Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha, under the guidance of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, have been successful in rewriting Jammu and Kashmir’s history. The government has set new benchmarks for governance and no one is being allowed to take their job casually.

Amit Shah is slated to visit J&K next week. It will be his maiden visit to the Union Territory after the abrogation of Article 370. He has been personally monitoring the developments in Jammu and Kashmir and has shown keen interest in ensuring that the erstwhile princely state witnesses a massive development. He has gone on record to say that former political regimes couldn’t do much for the people.

After August 5, 2019, many new projects have been announced and the ones that were awaiting completion for the past many years have been thrown open for the public. People of J&K are reaping the benefits and are witnessing development that they couldn’t become a part of for the past 70 years.

People of Kashmir to a great extent have understood that development needs a peaceful environment and nothing can move if the situation remains disturbed. Most people in J&K have boarded the wagon of peace, prosperity and development but there are still some elements who want Kashmir to burn so that their shops don’t get closed. A common man in Kashmir is no more interested in slogans and rhetoric because they have observed that there is a difference between lip service and proper delivery system.

During the past two years, the development of J&K has been a priority for the Centre. Many far-flung areas that had no road connectivity have been connected with highways and main roads. The power scenario has improved. Healthcare facilities have got a major boost. The work culture in government offices has seen a rapid transformation.

But the hate-mongers sitting across the Line of Control are unable to digest that J&K is developing, and that too at a very fast pace. Every attempt is being made from the other side to push Kashmir back into uncertainty and turmoil. Recent civilian killings of non-locals and members of minority communities are an attempt to destabilize J&K again, especially Kashmir, where stone-pelting and street protests have become a history.

The Home Minister is visiting J&K at a very crucial time as the situation is volatile. A sense of insecurity has crept in among non-locals and even the natives. The security forces are facing a tough challenge as every soft target cannot be provided with security cover. But the Centre seems determined to ensure that J&K does not walk backwards and the development that has commenced continues. The challenge posed by a few elements should not affect the overall development and the Centre needs to ensure that the forces inimical to peace are given a befitting reply.

J&K has to see many firsts—the Srinagar-Sharjah flight is just one example—and New Delhi is on a mission to bring Jammu and Kashmir closer to the country. This mission needs to be taken to its logical end.