Jairam's Tryst With A Different Kashmir
5 July 2007
Srinagar: As the Union Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, Jairam Ramesh, landed here on Tuesday, he was here to keep a promise. The promise to tour Srinagar city, much against the advice of officials who still identify Kashmir as a 'danger zone', to follow up on the decisions taken in May this year for revitalising the industrial and entrepreneurship sector. Soon enough, the Minister, thrilled to see the new scales that young entrepreneurs were touching, opined that Jammu and Kashmir needed to be treated with a difference. On his second visit here in the last two months, the Minister made it a point to fulfil his promise with those associated with industries and commerce - a monthly visit to Jammu and Kashmir to follow up on the decisions he had taken. Decisions like opening of offices that include the Spice Board, Directorate-General of Foreign Trade, Export Credit Guarantee Corporation, Export Promotion Council for Handicrafts and Carpet have been vigorously followed up and, according to the Minister, 'this will soon happen'. And his keen interest and seriousness has earned him goodwill. 'It is for the first time we have seen a Union Minister taking so much interest in Kashmir and trying to remove the usual bureaucratic hurdles,' said an industrialist. Next month's destination for Mr. Ramesh will be Jammu. During his tour of the city, the Minister was surprised to hear many success stories in industries. His eyes lit up when he saw a walnut processing plant in the heart of Srinagar where more than 800 people are employed and all the work is done using state-of-the- art technology. 'I think others should emulate such people,' the Minister said, adding that he was surprised to see other success stories of young, third generation Kashmiri graduates who have returned with MBA degrees from London and set up their own businesses. Kanwal Spices, he said, was one of the notable examples where a young graduate has excelled in a short span of time. 'My impression about J&K as a subsidy State is fast going,' he said. The only disappointment for the Minister came in the form of Dar Kashmir Tanneries, where the owners' land has been occupied by the J&K police and even the machinery is locked. Due to the uncertainty that prevailed in Kashmir since 1991, the unit has turned defunct. In spite of claims of normalcy, the premise is occupied by the police and the owners are not allowed to run it.