- A group of Union Ministers visited nine places across the Jammu region
- Mahendra Nath Pandey and Anurag Thakur were also inluded in the group
- Congress termed the outreach an "attempt to mislead country and world"
A group of Union Ministers, including Smriti Irani and Piyush Goyal, visited nine places across the Jammu region today, as the centre's week-long outreach effort - which comes over five months after Jammu and Kashmir's special status under Article 370 was withdrawn and it was placed under a security lockdown - entered its second day. Textiles Minister Ms Irani visited Reasi, where she claimed a "new journey" had begun in the former state. Meanwhile Mr Goyal, the Commerce Minister, was in Jammu, where he said the centre would provide an economic package to help local industries flourish.
In addition to Ms Irani and Mr Goyal, Mahendra Nath Pandey, Arjun Ram Meghwal, Anurag Thakur, G Muraleedharan, Jitendra Singh, RK Dodha and Ashwini Choubey were part of today's programme.
"...very happy at the progress (of development) that I have seen on the ground... will soon come out with an industrial package... hope to see investment in Kashmir," Piyush Goyal told reporters at Jammu Airport before returning to Delhi.
"A new journey has started in Jammu and Kashmir after it was made a Union Territory... Prime Minister Narendra Modi has plans to establish IITs and IIMs..." Ms Irani was quoted by news agency ANI.
The programme, criticised by the Congress as an example of the BJP-led central government's "double standards" - opposition leaders have been stopped from visiting while foreign MPs and diplomats have been allowed - will see 36 ministers visit more than 60 locations across the union territory.
The Congress's Ghulam Nabi Azad, who was twice stopped from visiting the region last year, said the outreach was an "attempt to mislead the country and world".
"This is the 3rd attempt by the centre to mislead the country and the world. One attempt was made last year and another this year... they chose a few MPs from countries of their choice... only from parties aligned with BJP ideology... the result was nothing," he said.
Left leader Mohammed Tarigami, who is among several leaders from the region still under detention or house arrest as the centre looks to stifle protests, is also among those to have criticised the outreach.
"When you change a place to a prison... not allowing political activity (or) parliamentarian to visit... allowing senior leaders to talk... if there is development then why do they feel shy?" Mr Tarigami asked.
A list containing details of the visits, accessed by NDTV, shows that more than 50 trips have been planned for Jammu and only eight for Srinagar.
A senior BJP leader told NDTV earlier: "When we do not meet people, there is criticism we are isolating Jammu and Kashmir. And when we do, then also eyebrows are raised".
On Friday Prime Minister Narendra Modi instructed his ministers to spread a message of development, with a focus on rural areas.
With inputs from ANI, PTI