Describing bridges as key component of rural infrastructure, Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti, Friday promised to break new ground in annihilating distances and adding value to life of people living in remote and inaccessible areas of the state.
She congratulated the Rural Development Department (RDD) and DDC, Udhampur, Shahid Iqbal, for their trend-setting initiative by adopting the Convergence Model. “Today we are witnessing at Udhampur what Mufti Saab had envisioned during the DDB meetings when he used to emphasize upon Convergence Models to create sustained infrastructure,” she stated.
The Chief Minister made these observations while addressing a huge gathering of people after e-inaugurating 56 small bridges (footbridges) under Project Rahat, here today. She also inaugurated Model Girls’ Higher Secondary School, Udhampur, as part of the Model School Scheme of the Education Department.
Deputy Chief Minister, Dr. Nirmal K. Singh, Minister for Rural Development, Law & Justice, Abdul Haq Khan, Minister for Education, Naeem Akhtar, Legislators, Pawan K. Gupta, D. N. Baghat and R. S. Pathania were also present on the occasion.
Speaking on the occasion, the Chief Minister said Udhampur district has shown the way in how convergence model can be put together to create assets worth crores. She said other Deputy Commissioners need to take a cue from Udhampur in convergence so that these are replicated in all the districts of the state.
Seeking people’s cooperation in putting J&K firmly on the path of development by good governance, the Chief Minister said the Coalition Government wants to bring the three distinct regions of the state together on one platform so that it reaches out to over one billion people of the country unitedly. “If we are able to gel the three regions together, only then will we be able to turnaround the state on the development front,” she said, while praising the pluralistic values of the people, whom she called the torchbearers of communal harmony and brotherhood.
Drawing the attention of the people towards the industrial scenario in the state, the Chief Minister said she has flagged ‘Skill Development’ as a major area of intervention. She said I&C Department will start mapping skills of local human resource as per the requirement of the big investors who venture into the state.
Appreciating the Model School Scheme launched by the State Education Department to provide students access to e-learning, Mehbooba Mufti said all District Hospitals will be upgraded as Model Hospitals in the state adding one Maternity-cum-Childcare Hospital will be set up in each constituency of the state.
In his address, Dr. Singh congratulated the RDD and DDC for introducing a new concept of convergence by pooling in resources. He said the present government is standing on the strong foundation laid by former Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed. “People have great expectations from us and we assure you that with full support of the Centre, we will fulfill all the promises made with the people,” he added.
Naeem Akhtar, in his speech, gave a brief insight into how the department is rationalizing so that shortage of staff in far-flung and remote areas is addressed on priority. He said the present government is committed to put the Education sector back on rails by putting a permanent end to the transfer industry that had plagued the department. “I am happy to inform that under the Model School Scheme and CM’s Super 50 Coaching, we have made huge progress,” he added.
The RDD Minister gave a brief overview of the Project Rahat and assured the Chief Minister of replicating the model in other districts of the state.
The Chief Minister today dedicated 56 small bridges constructed under the first phase of ‘Project Rahat’, a unique concept launched by Udhampur District Administration at a cost of Rs.18.50 crore with an aim of providing connectivity to remote schools and inaccessible hamlets under convergence of funds from MNREGA, CSR, District Innovation Fund and Untied Grants.
Earlier, she inaugurated the first footbridge near Middle School, Mand East and launched the third phase of the project in which another 56 bridges will be taken up, which will take the total number of bridges to 170. In Phase II, 58 footbridges bridges are in various stages of construction with most having a length of 140 ft. These will be maintenance-free for the next 50 years and have been designed by DRDO.
The Chief Minister also e-inaugurated Model Girls Higher Secondary School Udhampur and congratulated the students by video-conferencing. Under Rahat, the footbridges have been constructed over such rivulets which have a history of flooding, loss of lives and livestock and disconnecting hamlets in rainy season. Given the huge catchment area, these rivulets are flooded in no time and to safeguard education and ensure safety of life apart from providing connectivity on ration routes, the district administration initiated Project Rahat for construction of 170 bridges in a limited time of 6-8 months.
The Chief Minister also inaugurated a photo exhibition on Project Rahat, detailing the various aspects of the convergence scheme. DDC Udhampur, Shahid Iqbal, explained the main features of the novel scheme, which was appreciated by the Chief Minister. The DC also briefed the Chief Minister about a similar convergence scheme for Panchayat Tourism, which will be launched shortly.
Welcomes Indo-Pak talks
Replying to the questions asked by media-persons on the sidelines of function, the Chief Minister welcomed the Foreign Secretary-level talks between India and Pakistan. She said J&K will benefit immensely if the two neighbours come together and engage in a meaningful dialogue. “I hope the two neighbours will be able to break ice so that lasting peace is established in the region,” she observed.
The Chief Minister said Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance and added that majority of the Muslims, barring a few, believe in peaceful coexistence, including the Muslims of India. “This is the reason why Indian Muslims are respected all over the world despite a cloud of suspicion hovering over Muslims at the global level. “It pains me when I see hapless people in Syria, Libya and Pakistan being sucked into the vortex of violence for no fault of theirs,” she added.
Mehbooba Mufti said she was happy that despite Pathankot incident, the two countries have carried forward their engagement which indicates their commitment to firmly entrench peace in the region.
Describing terrorism as a global phenomenon not confined to one region or nation, Mehbooba Mufti said internationally countries are coming together to jointly fight the threat of terror. “Terrorism is a global concern and is spreading its tentacles far and wide, even into Europe. I think the widening gap between rich and poor and the lack of employment opportunities are fuelling instability which we are witnessing now,” she said, while citing the example of US-Iran rapprochement after several decades of confrontation.