New Delhi: Lok Sabha Thursday witnessed an intense debate during a discussion on supplementary demands for grants for Jammu and Kashmir with Opposition alleging the situation has worsened there after it was made a union territory, while the ruling BJP asserted the move empowered grassroots democracy and ushered in development.
BJP's Jamyang Tsering Namgyal hailed Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a "yug purush" for realising the dream of BJP ideologue Syama Prasad Mookerjee, who had opposed special status to Jammu and Kashmir.
Initiating the discussion, Congress' Anumula Revanth Reddy said the incidents of "crossfire" have risen to their highest numbers in the last 16 years in the union territory and accused the government of slapping criminal cases on local journalists for writing critical pieces.
The 2019 decision to scrap Jammu and Kashmir's statehood has proved to be wrong, he said, and also took a dig at the BJP for its bid to associate itself with Sardar Patel while criticising Jawaharlal Nehru, saying India's first home minister was part of the "Congress parivar".
Patel, as member of the Nehru cabinet, had banned the RSS, Reddy said, adding that BJP ideologue Mookerjee was a member of the same Cabinet which had enacted Article 370 to give Jammu and Kashmir special status.
The Modi government had nullified the operative provisions of the Article in August 2019.
Reddy's assertion drew a sharp retort from Union minister Arjun Ram Meghwal who said B R Ambedkar, besides Mookerjee, were opposed to Article 370. And it was only a temporary provision, he added.
Union minister Anurag Thakur said the Congress had "forgotten" Patel and even "opposed" the Modi government's decision to build the world's largest statue in his honour.
It is "us", he said, who reminded the country of Patel's contributions, forcing the Congress to remember him.
Namyang praised the budget for Jammu and Kashmir, saying it will lead to its all-round development.
He took a swipe at the Congress for criticising the Modi government for detaining Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti just before scrapping the Jammu and Kashmir's special status, saying a Congress government at the Centre had put Sheikh Abdullah behind bars for over a decade.
Since Article 370 was annulled, development has reached grassroots with the election of 4,103 sarpanches, 28,942 panches and the constitution of block and district development bodies.
"Such an empowerment of grassroots democracy never happened earlier," he said.
He, however, asked the Centre to speed up the process of filling up vacancies in Ladakh and also sought creation of more districts in the vast but thinly-populated region.
TMC's Sougata Ray said Jammu and Kashmir's statehood should be restored and alleged that peace has not been brought to the Valley as was promised by the government.
Neither have Kashmiri Pandits been rehabilitated in Kashmir nor has tourism been restored, he added.
He also criticised the role of former Puducherry lieutenant governor Kiran Bedi, saying she often fought the elected government there.
The budget for Puducherry was also part of the debate.
Bhartruhari Mahtab of the BJD said he looked forward to the day when Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh are accorded statehood and also supported the government's measures to bring normalcy there.
Noting that two Lok Sabha seats are reserved for the area under Pakistan's control, he said the issue remains an unfinished agenda .
Hasnain Masoodi of the National Conference accused the government of pushing Jammu and Kashmir into bureaucracy from democracy and said ruefully that the budget should have been discussed in its assembly.
The steps taken by the Centre have turned out to be a "misadventure" that has achieved nothing, and only future will tell what all this "fire" will consume, he said.
Youth from the region has been lodged in jails outside and disagreement is being muzzled, he alleged.
Law And Order Situation Has Improved: Nirmala
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Thursday said law and order situation has improved in Jammu and Kashmir and assembly elections can be held only after completion of the delimitation process.
She said abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A of the Indian Constitution has been welcomed by the people, who came out in large numbers to participate in the local body elections
The minister was replying to a discussion on Budgets for Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Puducherry in the Lok Sabha.
The Budgets for 2021-22 were later approved by the lower house.
''Law and order is coming back to absolute normalcy in Jammu and Kashmir,'' she said adding the development works are taking place in the union territory at a faster pace.
Citing figures, the minister said rail, road, and housing projects are making progress.
With regard to assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir, she said it can be held only after completion of the delimitation process and the decision to hold elections lies with the Election Commission.
Regarding Puducherry, she said the vote on account is being approved to allow the UT government meet its expenses for the period April 1 to August 31, 2021.
The Lok Sabha also approved the supplementary demand for grants for Puducherry for 2020-21.
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