NEW DELHI: India says it plans to hire tens of thousands of government workers in occupied Kashmir after New Delhi stripped Kashmiris of the constitutional rights they had for seven decades through a rushed presidential order.
Satya Pal Malik, the New Delhi-appointed governor, called it the largest recruitment drive in the disputed region, with officials planning to fill up “50,000 vacancies in various government departments in the next few months”.
At a news conference on Wednesday in Srinagar, Malik also announced that the government is willing to commit $700 million to help apple farmers. Indian authorities believe the move will expand the region’s economy, to which horticulture, particularly apple orchards, is critical.
Malik assured people of peace and said ‘normalcy’ will soon return to occupied Kashmir. He said mobile phone services in 10 districts of occupied Jammu and Kashmir will be restored and mobile phone services also will be back in the northern Kupwara and Handwara police districts in the Kashmir valley.
The Press Trust of India news agency reported that Malik acknowledged at his news conference that Indian paramilitary forces used pellet guns during protests in occupied Kashmir.
Malik spoke hours after India’s top court took up challenges to ending occupied Kashmir’s special status and asked the government to explain its stance.
India’s government, led by the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, decided on August 5 to repeal of Article 370 of the Indian constitution, that granted occupied Kashmir special status. The government instituted a security lockdown and communications blackout to avoid violence. As the clampdown enters its 25th day, authorities say they have eased some of the restrictions.
Indian officials have characterized their surprise move to strip occupied Kashmir’s special constitutional status as a way to boost its economic potential. They are also planning an international investment summit in the disputed region as India has seen a slowdown in its economy.
Many people in Kashmir believe the loss of special status has nothing to do with the region’s economy and see it as a form of aggression from the Indian government.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his first address to the nation after revoking occupied Kashmir’s special status, said the region now has “the potential to become the biggest tourist destination in the world”. Indian Home Minister Amit Shah also said earlier this month that revoking the status will “kick start” development.
State data, however, shows occupied Kashmir’s gross domestic product, the value of all goods and services in the state has risen from $16.7 billion in 2012 to an estimated $21.9 billion last year.
In contrast, India is grappling with economic growth that has slowed to a five-year low of 5.8 percent in the quarter from January to March. Declining industrial output and automobile sales have further raised fears of a deeper slowdown in the country.