It is hoped that attracting investments for Jammu & Kashmir, now that the process of its mainstreaming has started, is on top of Prime Minister Narendra Modi government’s agenda. Now that the special status of Jammu & Kashmir has been removed, and Ladakh has been carved out as a separate entity, immense possibilities have opened up for investors from outside the Union Territories to make substantive contributions to the development of these regions. In fact, within just four months of the abrogation of Article 370, between August and December 2019, over 40 companies expressed interest to invest in J&K an amount of Rs 13,120 crore, according to information given to Parliament by the Minister of Commerce and Industry. One of the biggest hurdles to setting up industry in J&K has been, apart from Articles 370 and 35A, the absence of land. A measly 240-odd acres of land was made available for industry earlier. Compared to that, according to news reports, the Union Territory administration is opening up a land bank of 6,000 acres to attract potential investors for a variety of commercial and industrial activities. But for the coronavirus pandemic, the J&K Global Investors’ Summit would have taken place in Srinagar in April this year. Hence, it is encouraging news that the UT administration is hopeful of holding the summit early next year and that it is in the process of shortlisting the companies that want to participate in it. J&K is in dire need of investments. Infrastructure building has been near zero in that part of the country, and not for want of money, because around 10% of the Centre’s annual grants over the years has gone to J&K, even though it has just 1% of the country’s population. If the money has not brought development or reached the intended beneficiaries both in Kashmir and in Jammu, it is because it has been misused by certain quarters. In fact, very little funds actually reached Jammu and Ladakh, because of the grip of some Valley politicians on the state. Add to this lack of development, decades of Pakistan-backed terrorism and separatism and even things that the rest of the country takes for granted, such as traffic lights, could come to Srinagar as late as 2012—unbelievable, but true! One of the major complaints of the residents of the Valley is that after 1947 almost no development has taken place there. The mainstays of the economy in Kashmir have been cottage industry and tourism, both sectors vulnerable to disturbances created by elements who want to make constant turmoil Kashmir’s way of life. As a result of which jobs are limited and even qualified young men and women, in the hotel industry, to give one example, would earn a fraction of what similarly placed youngsters would earn in any other part of the country. Government jobs are limited, although it must be said that a huge push is coming from within the Valley to qualify for the Central Services and with much success. To top that, the rise of radicalism has ensured that the Valley is devoid of all avenues of entertainment, as a result of which it’s almost as if life itself has been sucked out of Kashmir. Mishandling of the situation by successive Central governments, including over-reliance on certain local political families, has aggravated Kashmir’s victim narrative, which has been fully exploited by Pakistan and its representatives in the Valley to make a section of the population go astray. All this has fed into a feeling of alienation, which may need time to be uprooted. When stone throwing and working as overground workers for terrorists are seen as lucrative job options, then it has to be admitted that the rot is quite deep. Kashmir can be a depressing place, for there is too much depression there—depression and sullenness. All the more reason why it needs a glimpse of what rest of India is about—vibrant, in spite of adversities. Unless and until development is brought to Kashmir, unless and until jobs are aplenty, the mainstreaming of Kashmir will not happen. And this should be the focus of the Modi government. Development should not only happen but it also should be visible so that it touches the lives of every ordinary resident of both Kashmir and Jammu. Kashmir in particular should not be allowed to fall victim to its own depression.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

*

*