Brig Anil Gupta
The issues like NFSA, NEET, Establishment of Sainik Colonies in Srinagar, honourable return of Kashmiri Pandits to Valley and settlement of West Pakistan refugees and the positions taken by various political parties and the separatists has brought to fore a very important question. Do the people of Jammu & Kashmir want to join the rest of the nation on the path of growth & development, enjoy dividends of peace and live a dignified life or they want to continue to remain in the era of backwardness, poverty, lawlessness, terror and lead a life full of fear and uncertainties? I for one and am sanguine majority of my fellow citizens are interested in the former. I can understand and accept the position taken by the separatists on these issues because they have no ideology of their own. They only speak the language of their masters sitting across the border and hence have no choice but to repeat what their akas want them to say? Pakistan is no friend or well -wisher of the people of Jammu & Kashmir. Its intentions viz a viz Jammu & Kashmir are aptly clear, “If you can’t get it, destroy it.” Pakistan having failed miserably to annex the state through four wars and tree decade old proxy war backed by state sponsored terrorism, it is now embarked on the path of destruction. Having successfully destroyed the cultural identity of the state based on diversity, tolerance and mutual love and respect for each other, it now wants the state to remain underdeveloped and plunge it into the dark era of medieval thinking. This strategy also suits Pakistan to supress the voice of the people of POJK (so called Azad Kashmir) and Gilgit-Baltistan and legitimises the loot of its natural resources and exploitation of their poverty stricken population. Pakistan furthers its interest in our state through the Hurriyat and hence rhetoric of its leaders of all hues and shades do not surprise me at all and can be dismissed. What are baffling are the statements of the leaders of so called mainstream political parties who owe allegiance to the Constitution of India and its unity and integrity. Why are they becoming a party to Pakistan’s strategy; is it to please Pakistan or for their narrow selfish political ends? Either way it is not in the interest of the majority of the people of the state who want to restore the state to its pristine glory and enjoy the dividends of peace. These politicians have mastered the fine art of making issues out of “non-issues” to remain in limelight lest they are forgotten by the people. Jammu & Kashmir known as the “heaven on earth” is rich in natural resources and has numerous tourist destinations but is unable to generate financial resources adequate enough to run the affairs of the state. It has vast potential but is unable to exploit the same because it woefully lacks adequate infrastructure. The mutual distrust between the three regions of the state also hampers its development. The vast reservoir of youth wants jobs which are very few in numbers. The misguided youth of the valley wants to shun violence but do not find a worthwhile alternative. The government of the day is grappling with these problems. The Central Government has announced a massive, unprecedented financial package. Is this the panacea? In my view the answer is “NO”.
The state needs to develop self-sustaining economy. It needs to create jobs. It needs to develop the state into a major tourist hub for Recreational/Pleasure, Pilgrimage, Heritage, Adventure, Border, Health, Handicraft, Horticulture, Rural and Wildlife tourism both for international and national tourists. Tourism being a labour intensive industry provides a very vast scope for employment opportunities which would facilitate in overcoming the problem of unemployment in the State. Tourism is regarded as multi-segmental industry; therefore it provides different types of jobs like hotel managers, receptionists, accountants, clerks, guides, travel agents, drivers, chefs, transport operators etc. It also encourages private entrepreneurship. It will not only contribute to state’s domestic income generation but generate foreign exchange as well. However, the state does not have the wherewithal to directly involve itself in running the tourism industry. The participation of the private sector both from the within and outside the state is a pre-requisite for achieving the desired aims. The government jobs are limited and hence cannot satisfy the aspirations of the unemployed youth of the state. There is a need to create jobs. As mentioned earlier tourism sector is one of the major sources of employment generation but that by it would not be sufficient to create the adequate number of desired jobs. As per an estimate there are about six lakh unemployed youth in the state and it tops in unemployment rate among the North Indian states. Suffice to deduce that other sources of employment generation need to be tapped. While industry is a known source of employment generation, jobs are also created as a by- product of infrastructure development. Software industry and a few start-ups as part of “Start Up India” need to come up in the state. For promoting health tourism, we need to create medical institutions of excellence with renowned doctors and Para-medical staff so that coupled with the salubrious climate of the state these institutions become a major attraction for the cash-rich foreigners. Another sector in which the state can excel is the education sector. There are numerous places in the state that are suitable for opening public schools and higher centres of learning with boarding and hostel facilities on the pattern of popular boarding schools in Himachal, Uttarakhand, Maharashtra and Tamilnadu. But why is J&K lacking in these assets and facilities. Why is it that despite fervent appeals made by all the Chief Ministers the big business houses/ software industry are chary of investing in the state? Despite huge amount of financial support from the central government why the infrastructure (both economic and social) continues to be in shambles and state’s tourism potential has not been harnessed to its full capability?
Many would blame poor governance and rampant corruption for the same. While these may be contributory factors but are not solely responsible. Let us accept the fact that we lack in-house resources both capital & talent. We may be able to raise buildings but our hospitals and educational institutions would not be able to deliver without qualified super specialists and renowned educationists. There is no denying the fact that we do not have adequate in-house talent and there has to be enough motivation for talent from outside the state to make the all- important decision of re-location. The main cause is Article 370 and Article 35A of the Constitution of India. In fact these Articles have become raison d’etre for some of the valley- centric political parties. These temporary provisions of the constitution are acting as a hindrance to the economic growth of the state. The time and situation as it prevailed when these acts were enacted have changed. The need of the hour is to be more pragmatic in the larger interest of the state rather than being narrow minded and exploit the provisions for petty
political gains. nThe argument that any sort of relaxation would result in demographic reversal of the state is flawed, motivated and intended to promote separatism. Rules will have to be relaxed to provide incentives for investors and professionals to attract them to the state. To promote investment in industrial sector land on long term lease will have to be provided to the industrialists. I appeal fervently to the political leadership of the state to face the reality and be more open & practical for the holistic development of the state. Otherwise, the future generations would hold them responsible for all their woes.
(The author is a Jammu-based political commentator, columnist, strategic and security analyst. He can be contacted at email@example.com)
Brig Anil Gupta