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Jammu and Kashmir is touching new heights of development and breathing freely after the abrogation of Article 370 in 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said here on Thursday. Addressing a public rally, Modi also accused the Congress of misguiding not only the people of Jammu and Kashmir, but the entire nation on Article 370 for a long time.

The prime minister extended his “advance wishes” for the upcoming holy month of Ramzan and Maha Shivratri, which falls on Friday. “Jammu and Kashmir is touching new heights of development after the abrogation of Article 370. Jammu and Kashmir is touching new heights of development today because it is breathing freely. Jammu and Kashmir has broken the shackles after abrogation of Article 370,” he said at the rally named as ‘Viksit Bharat Viksit Jammu Kashmir’ at the Bakshi stadium here.

This was Modi’s first visit to Kashmir since the Centre abrogated the special status given to the erstwhile state and bifurcated it into two Union territories — Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh on August 5, 2019.

After inaugurating development projects worth nearly Rs 5,000 crore for boosting the agri-economy in the Union territory, Modi said he was “elated to be among the wonderful people of Srinagar”.

“The development projects being dedicated today will boost the development of Jammu and Kashmir. A developed Jammu and Kashmir is the priority for a developed India,” he said.

Describing Jammu and Kashmir as the crown of the country, the prime minister said the path to building a developed Jammu and Kashmir will emerge from tourism possibilities and empowerment of farmers.

“Jammu and Kashmir is not just a region but India’s head. A head held high is the symbol of development and honour. That is why a developed Jammu and Kashmir is the priority of a developed India,” he said.

Modi said the power of development, tourism possibilities, empowerment of farmers and the leadership of the youth of Jammu and Kashmir will lay the foundation in building a developed Jammu and Kashmir.

He also asked non-resident Indians to send at least five family members to tour the country under ‘Chalo India’ programme.

With the Lok Sabha elections round the corner, there was renewed political interests among opposition parties about the possibility of an announcement on assembly polls in Jammu and Kashmir by the Election Commission. However, the prime minister did not mention anything about polls.

Among the projects the prime minister launched include tourism sector worth more than Rs 1,400 crore under the “Swadesh Darshan” and “PRASHAD” (Pilgrimage Rejuvenation And Spiritual, Heritage Augmentation Drive) schemes and a project for the integrated development of the Hazratbal shrine in Srinagar.

He also launched the “Dekho Apna Desh People’s Choice Tourist Destination Poll” and the “Chalo India Global Diaspora” campaign as well, besides announcing tourist destinations selected under the Challenge-Based Destination Development scheme.

Modi distributed appointment letters to nearly 1,000 newly-recruited government employees in Jammu and Kashmir and also interacted with the beneficiaries of various central schemes, including women achievers, farmers and entrepreneurs.

One of the projects launched — the “Chalo India Global Diaspora Campaign” — aims at inspiring the Indian diaspora to become Incredible India ambassadors and promote tourism in India.

The campaign is being launched based on the clarion call of the prime minister, wherein he requested Indian diaspora members to encourage at least five non-Indian friends to travel to India.

With more than three crore overseas Indians, the Indian diaspora can serve as a powerful catalyst for Indian tourism, acting as cultural ambassadors, officials said.