I find it easier to move around in Srinagar than the Naxal-hit districts of Chhattisgarh, Orissa and Jharkhand, quipped Union Minister Jairam Ramesh.
The minister, who visited the Kashmir Valley on Monday to promote Centre's Himayat Programme for unemployed youths, noted that security situation has improved in Jammu and Kashmir and said it was "an achievement of the Congress-led UPA Government" at the Centre.
"I have been coming here for last 25 years. I can tell you, it is easier moving around in Srinagar than in some parts of Chhattisgarh, some parts of Orissa and some parts of Jharkhand," Ramesh said during his interaction with Kashmir University students.
His statement came when a participant raised the issue of alleged harassment of university students at the hands of security officials.
The rural development minister is a frequent visitor of Naxal affected areas including Malkangiri (Orissa), Saranda (Jharkhand) and Sukma (Chhattisgarh) to monitor the development programme initiated by the Centre in the tribal dominated areas.
Later, talking to reporters, Ramesh said, "Look at the change. Look at the security. There are no bunkers. This is my 15th visit to the valley as a Union minister. For the first time, I didn't have personnel security and I travelled in a non-bullet proof car.... This is 100 per cent achievement of the Congress party," Ramesh said.
Though then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee announced elections in the state in 2002, the only national leader who campaigned in the same year was Congress chief Sonia Gandhi.
"No other leader campaigned in 2002 elections," the minister said, adding that the positive change in Kashmir started occurring during the tenure of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and Ghulam Nabi Azad as chief ministers.