New Delhi: A group of 24 Foreign Heads of Missions, representing various geographical regions, arrived in Srinagar on Wednesday, Feb 17. They visited Magam in Budgam District of Central Kashmir to witness the “Block Diwas”, a public outreach initiative organised every week by the local administrations in the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir. The envoys were warmly received by the elected representatives and the public of Magam. The local District Development Council Chairperson briefed the envoys about Magam and the developmental activities undertaken in the recent past in Budgam. They also visited various stalls set up for the public at the Block Diwas to get themselves acquainted with the people-centric schemes being implemented by the Government. The visit also provided the envoys with an opportunity to interact and hear directly from the general public and their local level people’s representatives on the functioning and empowerment of grass-root democratic institutions, devolution of power, developmental activities, local issues, grievance redress mechanisms among others. Their program in Srinagar involves interaction with elected representatives of Block Development Council and District Development Council from across the UT of J&K, civil society members and mainstream media. These interactions have been facilitated by the Ministry of External Affairs as a part of the central government's approach to convincing the global community of India's sincerity in ensuring development and enhanced and meaningful democracy in Jammu and Kashmir after the abrogation of Art 370 since Aug 5, 2019. Sourced said Block Diwas is a weekly public outreach initiative in which District Administration officials along with grassroots level elected representatives (Block Development Council Chairperson, Sarpanchs) visit different block headquarters in the district to listen to the local demands and issues raised by the public for on-the-spot grievance redressal; assess the progress of developmental works being executed in different sectors. During their stay in Srinagar, the envoys had a fruitful interaction with the elected grassroots leadership from all districts of Kashmir Division, representing various regional and national political parties . The Mayor of Srinagar, Chairpersons of Urban local bodies and Chairpersons of BDC and DDCs shared their vision for development centric administration in the decentralised and empowered grassroots framework. They unanimously voiced that the historic DDC elections were conducted in a peaceful transparent and fair manner. The local body representatives were also in unison in sharing a view that democracy has taken stronger and deeper roots in Kashmir, paving way for an era of peaceful and inclusive development. While sharing their optimism and aspirations, the locally elected democratic leaders sought assistance from foreign envoys to bring tourism and investments into J&K to further job creation; and sharing of best practices and advanced technologies in the field of horticulture including apple cultivation. While speaking to the media, Juan José Cortez Rojas, Charge d Affaires, Embassy of Bolivia in Delhi, lauded the Centre and said, "What we are realising is that democracy took place here. It is impressive." He also said that people here are happy with the political decisions taken by the central government. Sources in Delhi said the group of foreign envoys visited the famous Hazratbal Shrine, the holiest and the only domed mosque in Srinagar on 17 February 2021. The envoys were received by the Imams of the shrine and were briefed on its historical significance as the holy relic of revered Prophet Muhammad is preserved in the mosque. The historical mosque, dating back to 17th century, is an epitome of love and devotion of Muslims for the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), whose Moi-e-Muqqadas, the sacred hair from his beard is preserved here. Needless to add that the holy shrine is frequented by thousands of locals for mass prayers and experiences an influx of visitors on special occasions when holy relics are displayed. The visit of the foreign envoys came days after Union Home Minister Amit Shah made an elaborate statement in Lok Sabha on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir and also assured that statehood would be granted to the bifurcated province within a short time after improvements in situation and the developmental works are put on the track. Earlier too, foreign diplomats had visited Jammu and Kashmir and had got a feel of the ground situation after the abrogation of Article 370 that ended a special provision granted to the province earlier. On Aug 5, 2019, the centre had abrogated the contentious Article and also bifurcated Ladakh region from J&K and declared that both would be under centrally administered union territories.
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