Prime Minister Narendra Modi has asked ministers to spread the message of development in Jammu and Kashmir, with a focus on rural areas, ahead of a mega outreach programme starting today. Thirty-six ministers will be visiting several areas of the union territory - over the next seven days - five months after the government ended special status to the state granted under Article 370, and bifurcated it into two union territories.
PM Modi, at a meeting on Friday, reportedly asked the ministers to inform locals about the various central schemes to benefit people at the grassroots level. He also said that the ministers should not restrict themselves to urban areas, asking them to visit villages and interact with locals.
Those tasked with the outreach include ministers Smriti Irani, Piyush Goyal, Jitender Singh, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Kiren Rijiju, Hardeep Puri, G Kishen Reddy, Purshottam Singh Rupala, Mahendra Nath Pandey, General VK Singh, Gajender Singh Shekhawat and Anurag Thakur.
A list accessed by NDTV shows that there are 51 trips planned for Jammu, and only eight for Srinagar.
The ministers' visit comes amid continued opposition attacks and international scrutiny over the detention of political leaders in Jammu and Kashmir and internet blackout that is being removed in phases.
The Congress, which has accused the government of "double standards" by allowing foreign envoys to visit Jammu and Kashmir while blocking opposition leaders, dubbed the ministers' visit a "propaganda mission".
"Amit Shah says all is normal in Kashmir. If so, why send 36 propagandists to Kashmir? Why not allow non-propagandists to go and understand the situation prevailing there?" party leader Kapil Sibal tweeted on Thursday.
A senior BJP leader had earlier told NDTV, "When we do not meet people, there is criticism that we are isolating Jammu and Kashmir. And when we do, then also eyebrows are raised".