Just two years ago, students in Jammu and Kashmir had no idea about foreign study tours. However, in "Naya J&K" it has become a reality.

Recently J&K Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha flagged off a batch of 12 undergraduate students from SKUAST-K on a study tour to Kansas State University, USA. These students are visiting the USA under the Student Overseas Fellowship Programme of National Agricultural Higher Education Project (NAHEP) funded by Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) & World Bank.

This tour was one among the many initiatives that have been taken by the government to provide J&K youth with the opportunities to get quality education so that they can face the challenges and grow-up as responsible citizens.

After August 5, 2019-when the Centre announced its decision to abrogate J&K's special status and divided it into two union territories-the government announced multiple scholarships and other schemes for the students.

5000 scholarships provided under PMSSS

In 2021-22, under Prime Minister's Special Scholarship Scheme (PMSSS), J&K a total of 5,000 scholarships were awarded for students pursuing courses in general degree, professional degree, and medical streams.

Students selected for the scholarship for general degree courses were eligible to receive upto Rs 30,000 per annum for the academic fee (payable to the institution) and maintenance charges of RS 1 lakh per annum (payable to the student), a total of 2070 scholarships were offered under this category.

For professional degree students were eligible upto Rs 1,25 lakh per annum for the academic fee (payable to the institution), maintenance charges of Rs 1 lakh per annum (payable to the student). A total of 2830 scholarships were offered.

For MBBS/BDS or equivalent medical streams students are eligible upto Rs 3 lakh per annum for the academic fee (payable to the institution), maintenance charges of Rs 1 lakh per annum (payable to the student). A total of 100 scholarships were offered under this category.

The steps taken by the government in the past 2-years have facilitated the access of students to quality education so as to equip them with knowledge, skills, experience, and training for higher academic level/profession.

The implementation of the National Education Policy-2020 has empowered young students to engage not only in advanced research but also in various other fields which facilitate development of new and innovative technologies and their commercial development. The international outreach initiatives are in line with the NEP-2020.

Separatists used education as tool

Prior to the abrogation of so-called special status of J&K the separatists used to provide recommendation letters to students for pursuing studies in various colleges in Pakistan and Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK). More than education the aim was to indoctrinate the young minds.

Last month officials revealed that seventeen Kashmiri youth, who had travelled to Pakistan on valid travel documents and sneaked back into the Valley through illegal routes were killed in anti-terror operations.

Since 2015, a large number of youngsters have procured travel documents to visit Pakistan to pursue higher studies.

Recently, the University Grants Commission and the All Indian Council for Technical Education, the higher and technical education regulators of the country, had issued a statement, advising students not to travel to Pakistan for pursuing higher education.

In December last year the State Investigation Agency (SIA) of the Jammu and Kashmir Police had filed a chargesheet against nine people, including Hurriyat leader Zaffar Bhat, in a case connected to selling Pakistani MBBS seats to Kashmiri students against huge payments.

The SIA in its chargesheet had stated that Bhat earned a great deal of money selling Pakistani MBBS seats to the top notch people of Kashmir.

Bhat used to operate through his brother, Altaf Ahmad Bhat, who moved to Rawalpindi, Pakistan, after crossing into PoK for arms training. Altaf Bhat is at present in Pakistan and is a known property broker in Rawalpindi.

Besides Zaffar Akbar Bhat and his brother Altaf Ahmed Bhat charges were also framed against Fatima Shah, Qazi Yasir, Mohammad Abdullah Shah, Sabzar Ahmad Sheikh, Manzoor Ahmad Shah and Mohammad Iqbal Mir. The investigating agencies took the lid of the scandal and brought to fore the nefarious designs of the separatists, who were turning Kashmiri youth into terrorists at the pretext of providing education.

In last 2-years no student went to Pak

During the past two years no student from Kashmir has gone to Pakistan or Pakistan occupied Kashmir to acquire any sort of education. The government has ensured that no need arises for Kashmiri students to even look towards the neighbouring country. Education has been made accessible to all.

The implementation of New Education Policy, 2020 and various scholarship schemes for young minds have provided them with multiple opportunities across the country.

The renewed thrust on providing quality education to the youth has been one of the integral elements of "Naya Jammu and Kashmir".

The mainstream Kashmiri leaders, who ruled J&K till 2018, were aware about the conspiracies that were hatched by the separatists and Pakistani agents present in the Valley. Unfortunately these rulers just turned a blind eye towards how the adversary was using education as a tool to misguide a common man in the Himalayan region. Had they acted and made an attempt to implement the centrally sponsored schemes aimed at making education accessible to all, no Kashmiri student would have run after the separatists to seek recommendation letters for pursuing higher studies in Pakistan.

Now, the scenario has changed. J&K students are going on study tours to foreign countries. Colleges across the country have opened the doors for them. The government besides sponsoring the annual fee of the meritorious and deserving students is also providing them with the sustenance allowance yearly to help them complete their courses.

The new dawn has broken out in J&K and everyone from bottom to top is getting benefitted. People of the Himalayan region had to wait for 70 long years for getting the benefits and privileges they deserved. The dispensation led by Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, has made it possible by changing J&K status-quo and by merging it into the Union of India completely.