“Development” is the buzzword. By the way, what do we mean by “Development”?
After “Azadi”, the most battered word in Kashmir these days is “Development”. Almost all the so called mainstream leaders talk about “Development”. After having failed in going ahead in their attempts to address the basic political problem in Kashmir, they always chant about the “Development Agenda”!
However, the moot point is what type of “Development” has taken place in Kashmir since 1947 and where are we heading? The first important development is the mortgaging of our main resource, the power generating water! In spite of the fact that the water available in the state for generation of electric power has a potential of thousands of megawatts, we have a power famine in the state. This water is being exploited by outsiders and the state is getting peanuts, 12% of the share! This is thanks to our so called mainstream leaders. No attempt has been made honestly to exploit this potential by the state government with funding from J & K Bank which has been funding a lot of outside agencies including the now infamous Vijay Mallya. J & K Bank could have easily funded many development projects including the ones related to generation of hydro-electric power with their huge resources. Instead they have given liberal funding to motor vehicles creating a traffic mess all over the state! It is reported that over Rs.500 crore worth cars are imported into the state every year!
Every politician in the state has been singing the tunes of Tourism claiming it to be the backbone of Kashmir’s economy. However, in reality it constitutes less than 7% of the GDP. Kashmir’s main economic activity since ages has been agriculture. Next is the horticulture which has substantially grown in recent years. Before 1947 Kashmir was self-sufficient in various items of food including vegetables, milk, mutton etc. Not now! We are now totally dependent on import of everything. Had food based industries been given the right thrust and encouragement we might have been not only self-sufficient but supplying various items to consumers outside the state. Unfortunately, most of the rulers have been singing tunes of Tourism being the back bone of our economy. Thousands of crores have been invested by the State as well as by private sector in setting up tourism infrastructure but the arrival of up market tourists that contribute to the economy is yet to fully take off! Tourism at the movement provides seasonal employment and some retail sale of handicrafts.
Then is the age old profession of handicrafts. Large scale export of handicrafts is a lucrative activity. Kashmir Pashmina and Kashmiri Silk carpets have been known for their quality worldwide. Not now. These days these too are going down with competition from other countries and sources. Moreover, the artisans are giving up the profession as they have been grossly exploited by the traders selling these items within the state and exporting the same. While they make huge profits, the workers get peanuts!
The most important “Development” has been the creation of an army of educated unemployed youth numbering almost a million now. At the same time we have a similar number of outsiders both skilled and non-skilled attending to every job under the sun in the valley. Bihari’s, Bengalis, Punjabis, and workers from Orissa, Rajasthan and so on do all sorts of jobs here which could have been easily done by the Kashmiri youth had they not been given the addiction of a government job at the lowest possible level regardless of their educational qualifications. The dignity of manual labour has been totally lost in the valley. If the youth had been put on the vocational path, they would not be blindly running after the lowest government jobs. Kashmiris have now become totally dependent on outside help in every field. Even the rural people who had been traditionally engaged in farming activities depend upon outsiders for most of the farming activities. We have truly turned into the Ulysses’ Lotus Eaters! However, there is small silver lining among the new generation which is taking up entrepreneurship. The need of the hour is to re-orient the “Development Agenda” to provide self-sufficiency in every sphere of activity. All those leaders who keep on battering the word “Development” must re-examine their “Agendas” and give maximum thrust on the most essential items oriented towards the realisation of the points already highlighted.