Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Candid Remarks of Professor Nisar Ali, Dean of the Social Sciences faculty, University of Kashmir, are an Eye-Opener

"Economic packages from GoI act as painkillers which ease away pain, leaving the core problem unaddressed. Our state must be stripped of the parasitic label," says the learned professor.

Unfortunately for a common man the "core problem" is not exactly what the civil society has in mind, and thus there is only a superficial debate on the subject in public.

Professor Nisar Ali is the only economist of Kashmir who is connected with economy of our state at thetheoretical as well as the operational level. He studied economics at the prestigious Delhi School ofEconomics which has produced economists like Amriya Sen, the Nobel laureate. “The people who have studied there learnt only one thing: talk about economics in the language of masses,” says Prof Ali. He says he was fortunate enough to study economics under the guidance of those noble souls who valued commitment than the financial gains. “This is what kept me glued to my motherland despite lucrative offers from other places.” Prof Nisar Ali is the Dean of Social Sciences faculty, University of Kashmir. He spoke to Etalaat Correspondent Manohar Lalgami on Kashmir’s ailing economy and its remedies. Excerpts:

What is wrong or right with economy of Kashmir?

In 50’s some policy shifts in the state started us on the direction of dependency-prone economy where now there is a large gap between the production and market. Our market is as good as a metro city but our production levels are at the bottom. The primary sector of agriculture is showing negative growth. Not only the production side is sinking low, the agricultural land is also shrinking at a very high speed. In mid-fifties our economy started to be relief and assistance oriented and in pure economic terms the motivation for personal initiative was lost. This loss of personal initiative which has continued or decades is showing its ugly head in the form of demonstrations from literate and qualified voluntarily unemployed youth, who are willing to work for meager Rs 1500 per month. Rs 1500 or $ 37 approximately is nothing seeing the market prices.

What is the motivation behind the aggressiveness with which government jobs are pursued here?

Psychological habits die hard. Past, if eliminated physically with relative ease is not erased easily from the psyche. It gets carried away from generation to generation and with the passage of time it carries along with it a life of its own. Since most of human activity is carried at the unconscious level, it is not easily discernible.

We are still carrying the wounds of feudal system in our psyche. You might have heard that when kings ruled Kashmir only aparticular community was in the government jobs. I don’t blame them or the feudal lords for that as this was the only community which was a bit literate at that time…5th pass, 8th pass also could get a job in the government. You can well imagine the scenario…The government employee had all the power at his disposal; when he was in the village people looked at him with awe and apprehension…he was all power personified for the common man, even a village Patwari had a decorum, only select village heads had access to him. This power-wielding man had to do nothing but only order others around. This was the era when sycophancy became normal in Kashmir. People would swarm round these officials to get their favor.

By and by a feudal class emerged which had all the luxuries of life at their disposal and had to do nothing practically to earn it. This class of people became some thing to look up to for the ordinary masses. This psychological makeup or what I call the ‘mindset’ has been carried from generations and the disproportionate demand for government jobs is the carry over from this past. It is the power orthe imagined power of the government official which has become the strong attraction for our educated youth who are willing to work for a meager amount which cannot even provide them enough to purchase a decent dress leave alone fulfilling their other needs. The attraction in the government job is because you do-nothing and get paid, wield power. If you see in developed countries labor enjoys a respect unheard of in our state. Here when we want to degrade someone, loath someone or hurt someone we call him many things which are related to manual labourskilled or unskilled…I don’t want to spell something specific, we all know that.

The disdain for work is now spelling our down fall. You are just witnessing the beginning of it.

Would you elaborate on the issue?

You see our youth are taking out processions demanding Rehbari Zirat, Rehbar Janglat, Rehbari Sehat, Rehabari Bijli, claiming they are unemployed; on the other hand we are a labour shortage economy importing labour skilled and unskilled. A rough calculation puts the figure (of imported labour) at five lakh per annum. But even today the power of a government official is there, it is not imagined absolutely. Not only the people but even our different governing systems are operating under this ‘mindset’. At the level of law everything is okay, all right to a large extent, but when it comes to the implementation level where is it? I am not blaming individuals or any group of individuals it is the same carryover of the mindset which I was talking about earlier. Unless we do something urgently some worst will follow for sure.

We don’t care for anything; our roads, our environment, we have no parallel as encroachers. This encroachment is once again the carryover of the feudal area. Something sinister inside our own minds tells us do this. Since we were once the victims of this encroachment mentality, we unconsciously think that to heal the wounds of the past we have to be like prosecutors. This is a very tight circle and only understanding of the same can free us from its clutches.

Just see the economic condition of our state. It has become simply a market where we are selling goods produced elsewhere and we expect to grow. This kind of daydreaming won’t take us very far. To develop we need to be producers and this is the sphere where we are receding. Our talent is running away to other places because they feelsuffocated over here and people from other states are coming to Kashmir. I believe a census after a few years may tell a different tale about the demography of our state.

What is the remedy?

I have no shortcuts to offer. No instant cure, but only request I would make to everyone is think a bit deeply and seriously, not about our economy but about us. Just see we are undergoing ill effects of globalization like price rise, more demand less supply, wholly market-driven economy, but far away from the benefits of globalization. Investment over here is not happening, because electricity is the biggest hurdle. We are power-starved on that front apart from the power at the grass root level…I mean panchayat level and all that goes with it.

Government of India has been consistently offering different packages for J&K, don’t theyhelp in shaping our economy?

Economic packages are only a temporary relief. They simply act as painkillers which ease away the pain without addressing the problems at the core. Pain, even of starvation can act as an impetus to economic growth. Problems and lots of problems have not destroyed nations but called forth the talent initiative and creativity of every nation.Hunger which is considered a big problem created the impetus for green revolution in India. Problems don’t always need immediate solutions or to put it in other words relief packages are not always the solution.

What are our strengths which can be tapped?

We have problems, but fortunately we have strengths which can be tapped. We must pay attention to agriculture, horticulture and other related factors. Our disdain for manual labour has virtually taken away our pride-silk industry away from us. Once upon a time we were exporters and Kashmir silk was a prized product, where are we now?Our agriculture produce is shrinking, cultivable area is shrinking, like the feudal lords of the past we go on building mansions big houses for what-to keep waiting for our wards who have settled in foreign countries, and these empty houses keep us reminding of our inner emptiness.

Handicrafts is our another strength, anyone associated with it should not feel low but proud of himself, because he or she is not just earning his livelihood only but contributing towards the overall economy of the state. This sector needs attention and I stress that we all recognize its importance on social level and not wait for the governments to do it.

Secondly we must come strongly for their brand protection that is protect their identity and don’t allow anyone to tamper with the brand ”Kashmiri”. The tampering is done not only at the highest level but at the grassroots level even. Kashmiris sell shawls made in Punjab as Kashmiri Shawls thereby violating the brand goodwill of”Kashmiri.” We must get emotional about it.

There are other fields like sheep rearing, diary products, aromaticplantation, mushroom and medicinal plants for which there is a very supportive environment in our state and have an international market. We need to revive our age old crafts like sozni which is at the verge of extinction.

On the other hand I would say that packages are good but J&K needs to be compensated for the losses of Indus Water Treaty. The people concerned should implement the recommendations of Dr Rangarajan Committee. Power starvation is keeping the investors away and our state is not able to reap the benefits of globalization. Government of India should see to it that benefits of globalization trickle down to this state also. Kashmir should be declared as a Special Economic Zone.

What is the present position of our economy?

Distressing, I am afraid to say. Our state is under the debt of Rs 20,000 crores and our GNP has been just 21000 crore for the last financial year. Our state must be stripped of the parasitic label. And on the social and community level we must work hard to eliminate the feudalistic thinking and tendencies and promote the culture of commitment and dedication. This may sound old fashioned but this is the only way-out. White collar worship has to go and we must respect working hands. We must work on social level as the government departments and theofficials are still in feudalistic web. I don’t mean to blame anyone but every one of us has contributed in some way to keep the lethality of power psychoses venom alive.

We must get active socially, not like the social organizations we have. A New Delhi official told me that there are 34,000 non-government oganizations working in J&K. Where are we? Same exploitation. Panchayat Act should be implemented sooner the better if people concerned are serious regarding the emancipation of people.

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