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The economic transition of India’s Jammu and Kashmir

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By Mir Junaid

For years Kashmir has had to bear the brunt of the most chaotic developments which had shattered the whole idea of progressive living.

The insurgency into Kashmir started at a point in the history of India when India was about to go for the historic Liberalisation, Privatisation and Globalisation reforms.

While the Indian economy attracted investments in different sectors from various multi-national companies, J&K and especially Kashmir was facing an emergency which could overthrow the Indian sovereignty over the region.

This crisis was a spiral of violence which had completely shattered the economic principals of normal living in Kashmir.

Many critiques of Indian policy of Kashmir have often subsumed and neglected the economic investment that has gone into the region directly from the public exchequer without any returns.

The conflict experts have often chosen not to speak on the lines of economic consequences of the terror-prone nature of Kashmir. this topic has been conveniently taken up, whenever the Indian administration has had to act for the maintenance of law and order.

Innumerous strikes and Bandhs complimented by terror activities, a few constitutional isolators (Articles 370 and 35A) and unmeasurable corruption Kashmir was an isolated region with no connect with the contemporary style of economic and social patterns of living.

Kashmir was living under a stigma which made everything about it getting concentrated on the narrative that had been set by Pakistan on the ground.

Since the abrogation of the so-called special status of Jammu and Kashmir, a new wave of reforms has been introduced in the political and economic conventions of Kashmiri society.

Precluded by an overhaul of the political institutions through the introduction of grassroots democracy, comes a whole string of interlinked economic reforms which would help in fast-forwarding the loosely socialistic economic patterns towards a robust market based economic organisation which would make Kashmir a competitor in the globalised market.

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This transformation of Kashmir from a state-run economy to a market economy is a key towards realising the new Kashmir.

The government of India has introduced a new economic policy in Jammu and Kashmir through which more than 28,000 crore Rupees are going to be spent towards the economic liberalisation of Jammu and Kashmir which would boost the manufacturing and services based industries in the region.

This money shall be pumped in over 15 years to keep the policy of economic reforms intact and allow the organic growth of the investment in J&K’s economy.

The psyche and the culture of the Kashmiri population had remained stuck in the old colonial way of living, according to which, the best job to do was get in governmental services and this would be a source of recognition and reputation for the youth.

This also led to a class divide which made the commoner feel that his respect was directly linked to the post he or she held in the governmental hierarchy.

This setup was a source of alienation of youth who were not allowed in politics due to its hereditary nature and services due to large scale corruption in the governmental institutions encouraged by the dynastic political support.

The policies for employment could cater to a limited number of youths who would join the administration and somehow get elevated to a position of respect within the society.

It would naturally make the left out section feel disconnected as industrialisation and value of education was scarce in the region.

The dissatisfied youth with limited opportunities politically and economically would naturally look for a place that would recognise them and turn them into heroes.

It gave separatism and Pakistani propaganda the breeding ground on which it survived till almost the end of last decade.

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With the new industrial policy set to be implemented in the region, the hopes for an inclusive social structure guided by a free market economy are high.

The proposed plan was supposed to employ more than four lac youths, which has the potential of restructuring the social convention of relying on the state for employment and also for respect through governmental employment.

This policy encourages the entrepreneurial spirit and talent that exists within the region and also promises to support the energetic youth in finding the purpose of life beyond violence and terror.

The region has had too much reliance on the government policy which has led to, the under-recognition of the effort that the state has put in for public welfare in Kashmir.

It has been like a spoon feeding process which has made things too easy for the people in terms of having benefited from the state without having to identify the work and its essence.

There have been grants to the erstwhile state and subsidies added with policies which either could not reach the ground due to the lethargy of the corrupt state administration or even if it reached it was never presented as something which was a welfare measure for the populations of Kashmir.

The people have felt caged between violence and compensation for violence narrative which Pakistan had been able to create in the minds of people.

But the time was right for shifting the attention from the state to the citizen of J&k. This policy intends to put resources in the hands of commoners in an apolitical manner and give them the freedom to take control of the living they want to have.

The government wants to switch from a mediator to a facilitator in Kashmir and for this many measures have been included in the policy.
From the single window system for clearances for business to dedicated industrial estates a whole plethora of business-friendly and business-encouraging prospects have been set in the policy.

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Tax relief, Capital Loan, Land Lease are a few layman terms to point out.

Many people would want to question this move on grounds of the industrial shortcomings that Kashmir faces right now in terms of shortage of energy supply and no proper physical connection network for transportation of goods and people.

But, these two points of concern are getting addressed each day as Kashmir is about to be connected with the rest of the country through railways as the long-pending Jammu Baramulla Railway Line is to be completed in this decade.

Also, the Government of J&K has signed MOUs worth 3500 Crore Rupees with the NHPC for transforming J&K from a power deficit region to a power surplus region in the three to four years to come.

The region is planned to have an extensive industrial establishment composed of manufacturing, services and information technology.

The youth are being encouraged to take charge of business which would make them job providers from job seekers. This spirit provides a liberating feeling to the now connected and integrated Kashmiri youth who for years has had very few means of visualising and realising success.

This policy is key in changing the attitude of looking towards Kashmir, both from within and outside.

The focus is not going to be on the state but on the private individuals and corporations who would take economics out of politics and therefore would empower the people in a segregated manner yet complimenting the political empowerment process of Grassroots Democracy.

This policy will make the machine the producer of goods and not guns.

Vanguard News Nigeria

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