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Jammu and Kashmir to get booster shots in Prime Minister’s Panchayati Raj Diwas address

Ahead of Prime Minister Modi’s address in Jammu and Kashmir‘s Palli panchayat, thousands of elected rural representatives from across the union territory made their way to the frontier district.

The Prime Minister is set to address the nation on Panchayati Raj Diwas, on Sunday, and launch development projects amounting to more than Rs 20,000 crore.

Security along the routes and at the venue is tight and travellers passed through several checkpoints as authorities ring-fenced the area to thwart any attempt by terrorists to sabotage the event, which will be the PM’s first general public function in J&K after the abrogation of Article 370 in August 2019.

More than 30,000 members of J&K’s rural bodies are expected to attend the event and hear PM Modi address gram sabhas across the country. The PMO said in a statement that Modi will launch Amrit Sarovar—a new initiative to develop and rejuvenate 75 water bodies in every district of India.

Among projects in J&K, the PM will inaugurate the Rs 3,100 crore Banihal-Qazigund twin-tube road tunnel—all of 8.45km that will cut the distance between Srinagar and Jammu by 16km and travel time by 90 minutes. He will also lay the foundation of three road projects of the Rs 7,500 crore Delhi-Amritsar-Katra Expressway.

The PM is scheduled to participate in a ground-breaking ceremony for multi-crore industrial projects and lay the foundation of several more public welfare schemes. He will interact with a delegation of one dozen investors from UAE, who have arrived in Srinagar and are likely to attend the Samba function.

Modi’s visit, according to the PMO, would focus on bringing wide-ranging reforms to improve governance and enhance ease of living for the people of the region.

Ahead of the PM’s visit, authorities arranged transport to ferry the public representatives to Samba. Members are excited, said J&K Panchayat Conference chairman Shafiq Mir, because panchayats pivot “our democracy and connect the common people with the higher echelons of power”.

Mir said J&K’s rural representatives would request the PM to consider building a memorial for panchayat members killed by the terrorists since 2011. “Terrorists killed nearly 28 members since panchayat elections were held in J&K in 2011 after 32 years,” he said.

There are 19,582 panch and sarpanch seats in the Valley’s 137 blocks, but elections to only 7,528 seats were held in the 2020 rural polls. Official records say almost half of these seats are vacant. In Jammu, the situation is better as fewer seats are vacant.

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