Top on PM Modi’s J&K itinerary: Infra push from carbon-neutral village

In his first visit to Jammu and Kashmir for a government programme since the abrogation of Article 370 in 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will launch projects worth Rs 38,082 crore on Sunday from a village in Samba district that has been billed as India’s first carbon-neutral panchayat. This infrastructure push was an attempt to showcase how fast the Union Territory was transforming, officials said.

A senior administration official said leading investors from the UAE would be among the industrialists present at the event in Palli village from where Modi will address the people of the Union Territory and members of rural local bodies across India.

All of Palli’s 340 homes will be powered by a 500 KV solar plant that was set up in 20 days. On Tuesday, Union Minister of State (PMO) Dr Jitendra Singh, accompanied by a team of over a dozen senior scientists and officers from the Union Ministry of Science & Technology, inspected the plant. He said around 20 stalls would be set up to display the latest technologies and innovations beneficial for villagers and farmers.

The prime minister, accompanied by Union Minister for Rural Development & Panchayati Raj Giriraj Singh, will also inaugurate the 8.45-km, all-weather Banihal-Qazigund road tunnel that has been built for Rs 2,100 crore. This will reduce the distance between Jammu and Srinagar by 16 km and the travel time by almost two hours. Modi will also lay the foundation of the 850-megawatt Ratle and the 540-megawatt Kwar hydel power projects that have been built over the Chenab. These projects are expected to double the Union Territory’s power-generation capacity in the next four years.

“We have already received applications regarding investment proposals worth Rs 53,000 crore. Of these, ground-breaking ceremonies for proposals worth Rs 38,082 crore will be held during PM’s visit on April 24,’’ Principal Secretary (Industries and Commerce) Ranjan Prakash Thakur told The Indian Express, adding that the Union Territory’s administration will have investment proposals worth Rs 75,000 crore by the year-end.

Meanwhile, sources said the delegation of businessmen from UAE was likely to be led by the Gulf country’s ambassador to India Dr Ahmed AlBanna. Leading companies such as DP World, Emaar Properties, Lulu Group, Royal Strategic Partners, and WizzFinancial had pledged to invest almost Rs 3,000 crore in infrastructure, information technology, hospitality, and food processing, the sources added.

Thakur said DP World’s Group chairman and CEO Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, Emaar Properties founder and managing director Mohamed Ali Alabbar, Lulu Group chairman and managing director Yusuf Ali MA would be among the visiting group of investors.

“The prominent private investors from Abu Dhabi and Dubai are arriving in Srinagar on April 22 and from there they will come to Jammu on the morning of April 24,” Thakur said, adding that “investment from Qatar is also coming to J&K”.

The principal secretary said Apollo would build a hospital in Jammu while Emaar would construct towers in the city and in Srinagar. He added that in the next two years private medical colleges with combined 1,000 medical seats and at least six five-star hotels would be built in the Union Territory.

Thakur also said that DP World would construct dry ports in both Jammu and Srinagar and several other manufacturing units, including ones dealing with optic cables and fibre cables, would set up shop.

With massive investments in the offing, the administration has brought in the J&K Industrial Policy 2021-’30 and amended existing land laws, including changes in the land-use policy.

“However, we are trying to bring in selective and hi-tech investment, keeping in view the environment and the local people. We do not want to set up huge factories and destroy Jammu and Kashmir,’’ said Thakur.

Meanwhile, asked about Modi’s visit to Palli, Lt Governor Manoj Sinha said on Tuesday, “Palli is the country’s first panchayat to become carbon neutral, fully powered by solar energy, with all its records digitised and saturation of benefits of all schemes of the Government of India. This model panchayat will motivate other panchayats in J&K and the country to become carbon neutral.”

Sinha attributed the push for development and investment to Modi’s “commitment” to the Union Territory, pointing out that more than 50,000 projects were completed in the previous financial year compared to around 9,200 projects finished in 2018-’19. With the transfer of necessary funds, functions and functionaries, the Panchayati Raj system in the region had been empowered, he added.

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