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Kashmir to get first trade & culture mission in Pune: Mayor

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By Quaid Najmi

Pune, Feb 2 (IANS) The Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) on Tuesday announced plans to establish a permanent ‘Kashmir Trade & Culture Centre’ in the state’s cultural, academic and IT capital this year in collaboration with an NGO Sarhad.

Pune Mayor Murlidhar Mohol made the announcement at the inaugural of Sarhad’s periodic weeklong J&K Handicrafts Festival in Kothrud where artisans from the Union Territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh are showcasing the best of their talent and products.

“The trade & culture centre marks a revival of the country’s first ‘sister-city’ agreement signed between Pune-Srinagar around 13 years ago. It will boost the farmers, artisans, businessmen of Jammu & Kashmir and further strengthen the cultural bonds between the diverse communities of the two states,” Mohol said.

Present at the occasion were Kashmir Hotels & Restaurants Owners Federation President Wahid Malik, Deputy Commissioner of Police (one-III) Pournima Gaikwad-Khandare – the wife of IPS officer Satish Khandare, who is the Additional Director-General of Police, Leh (Ladakh).

Slated to become operational by 2021-end, this will be the first-ever permanent trade & culture mission outside Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh in Pune, officials said.

Pune-Srinagar already enjoy strong academic bonds with around 250 students from the 3 UTs currently studying in various top educational institutions here, besides another 4,500-plus in Mumbai and other parts of the state, according to Sarhad President Sanjay Nahar.

“During the Corona pandemic last year, many students returned to their homes territories but after the educational institutions reopen, they will return and the figures could be nearly double,” Nahar told IANS.

Mohol said that after the abrogation of Art. 370, followed by the Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown, farmers and artisans of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh suffered immensely owing to a severe drop in tourism and related activities.

Besides, the developments resulted in a lack of markets for their traditional products which in turn led to an increase in overall unemployment and fuelled poverty in the three border UTs, he added.

On its part, Sarhad took the initiative to mitigate the farmers’ sufferings by organising regular sales in Pune for fresh and dry fruits, arts and handicraft products and other activities.

“The proceeds from the sales not only ensured improved financial condition back home for the farmers in the 3 UTs, but also helped pay the fees and other expenses for many Kashmiri students here, who were cut-off for prolonged periods from their families,” Nahar explained.

DCP Gaikwad-Khandare said that the concept of farmers to consumers is mutually beneficial for both, boosts the local economy and helps generated employment opportunities in Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh.

Other dignitaries were Sachin Jamge, Asim Sarode, Yuvraj Shaha, Shailesh Wadekar, Nilesh Navalakha, Shailesh Pagaria, Sanjay Sonawane, Amol Deolekar, Anna Raut and Vijay Kumbhar.

Simultaneously, after nearly nine years, the PMC has decided to beautify and augment facilities at the ‘Pune-Kashmir Friendship Square’ in Katraj, at a cost of Rs 5.50 million, and to be opened in the next couple of months, said Nahar.

The PKFS will have a large mural depicting a Kashmiri and Maharashtrian girls holding hands, a Peepal and Chinar tree in metal, highlights of the culture of the 3 UTs and this state, landscaping with lush greenery and colour lightings plus a children’s play area.

(Quaid Najmi can be contacted @ q.najmi@ians.in)

–IANS

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