New Delhi, February 8: Rajya Sabha Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad on Monday reiterated the Congress party's demand to restore statehood status to the Union Territory (UT) of Jammu and Kashmir.

He put forth this demand while addressing the Rajya Sabha on the issue of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill, 2021, which aims to merge the Jammu and Kashmir cadre of Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Police Service (IPS), and Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officers with that of the Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Mizoram, and Union Territory (AGMUT). Rahul Gandhi Condemns Arrest of Jammu and Kashmir Congress Unit Chief Ghulam Ahmad Mir and Spokesperson Ravinder Sharma, Asks 'When Will This Madness End?'

He claimed that the UT status is doing more harm to Jammu and Kashmir than good. Azad further said the habitable land is almost limited in Jammu and Kashmir as most of the areas are in the form of forests and mountains.

"Most areas in Jammu and Kashmir are forests and mountains. The habitable land is almost limited over there. When Jammu and Kashmir was made a UT, some Members of Parliament said that they will buy land over there. I replied by saying that I have myself not been able to do so. I asked them if they know the cost of land in Jammu and Srinagar. Price of land in these cities is Rs 40-50 crore per acre," said Azad while addressing Rajya Sabha.

He also raised the issue of unemployment saying that it rose phenomenally in Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution. "There was a curfew and the state remained closed for a long time. After that COVID came and the tourism in the valley reduced to almost zero. Developmental works were stopped. Schools and colleges closed, due to which teachers were unable to get salaries even. People got unemployed," he added.

Azad added that no new industries came in the UT and 60 per cent of already existing industries got shut down due to uncertainties.

Azad made these statements on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir post-abrogation of the Article 370 decision taken by the Union Government on August 5, 2019. This revoked the special status given to it. The Centre also declared Jammu and Kashmir as a Union Territory with the legislature.