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.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Does Good Governance Matter for a Society Embellished in Rhetoric?

Good Governance is a 24/7 activity. In Kashmir it becomes a passing issue every 6 years. Sajjad looks at possibilities following the latest elections

(Mr. Sajjad Bazaz, 44, was born in Srinagar. He attended the Khalsa high school and the Sri Pratap College in Srinagar. He received his bachelor's degree in Media and his master's degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from the University of Kashmir. Mr. Bazaz has over two decades of experience in journalism (both print & electronic), and he is author of the book "Bankwatch" which is about a financial scenario with particular reference to the J&K state. He is currently incharge of corporate communications department in a leaduing financial instution in J&K. Mr. Bazaz likes to spend leisure time watching movies and enjoying company of his friends.)

Will the new government eradicate corruption from the system?

The second phase of elections is underway today, giving way to yet another round of dingdong battle between the state government and separatists. Whatever the outcome of these elections, the new government, apart from political challenges, has a big challenge of providing quality governance with a difference. A governance which can explore the economic potential of the state to the maximum extant and also brings down the rating of the state as far as corrupt practices are concerned. In all regimes, J&K state has continued to confront the challenges of governance as the conflict itself and the civil strife have been disrupting normal life.

In other words, it is the bad governance coupled with rampant corruption, weakened management systems leading to low growth, unemployment menace and poverty etc., which have been burning issues here since decades. Almost all sectors of economy are in bad shape, resulting in failure to tap the potential. One of the drawbacks has been inability to use the natural resources to the fullest extent.

The economic health of a region is gauged through its strong industries sector. Especially small and medium industries sector plays a great role in the economic development of a region. But on this front J&K state is one of the weakest states. Even as we have small scale and cottage industries, most of them are sick due to various reasons. Large and heavy industries are almost non-existent. Recent economic blockade is enough to substantiate the fact that how much our state is heavily dependent on other states for most of its requirements of consumer and capital goods. The absence of a strong industries sector in the state has resulted in one of the most complex development challenges of creating employment opportunities. There may be an argument that agriculture and horticulture are the dominant sectors of economy of the state, but the fact remains that its promise on the employment front has been limited. And for this, adverse ratio of agriculture land to the total geographical area is responsible.

In order to tap the potential of the state in various sectors of economy, experts have been stressing on expanding skill sets, knowledge base, New Delhi’s support, protection of economy till it grows to an extent where it can compete with other states, incentives and financial support and finally assistance in marketing of its indigenous products. The translation of this prescription into action is a huge challenge and it is the good governance, which can only ensure the plans of these experts executed into workable programmes. So, on economic front, the biggest challenge for the new government is the quality of governance, where only good governance practices can ensure to carve out full benefits of the various policy interventions. They need ideas and capacity to turn these ideas into policies and programmes, as ideas, policies and execution form the musical tones of good governance.

The new government irrespective of their alliance, should not turn a blind eye to the fact that in the past majority of the plans and programmes framed by the experts for transforming the ravaged economy of the state into a normal economic process have fallen victim to poor quality of governance. And they should also remember that the failure to execute these plans, which ultimately can lead to the comfort of a common man, has been instrumental in blocking the peace in the State.

However, before setting in motion of any economic development programme, the state’s vulnerable political environment is to be taken into account. For the past few years, ideas of having Special Industrial Zones, luring private sector investment in reshaping the state’s economy etc. made several rounds, but what this conflict zone desperately needs a think tank which can carve out a track where there is peace and prosperity for all. Unfortunately, we have seen that recommendations of the Prime Minister’s high-powered task force on the development of J&K, commonly known as Rangarajan Committee, submitted in November 2006, became victims of bad governance and they never saw light of the day. Under these circumstances there is need for the state to reposition its economy and secure benefits of globalization and the increasingly global trading environment.

Another most important thing is the level of corruption prevailing in the state. The “Corruption Perception Index of Transparency International” has depicted J&K state as “2nd corrupt state in the India. We have to understand that the extent of corruption amongst politicians and government officials depends on monopoly of power and the discretionary power they exercise in discharging their duties. Basically, the causes of corruption are generally rooted in the practices of governance observed in the past.

Corruption and nepotism have been the main reasons behind the fall of many empires like Roman empire, etc., Our politicians whosoever assume power have to take any lesson from these pages of history.

Will corruption continue to remain the characteristic feature of the new government in 2009? At least, they should not give an opportunity to the people here to look regretfully back to the old regimes of comparative justice, as well as efficient, and more or less honest administration.

So to combat corruption, it is very essential to have a strong political will and commitment, good government and good governance, administrative accountability, simplification of procedures, and public participation through watchdog ship approach of public audit committees. These public audit committees can go a long way to check the menace. Precisely, the corruption practices need to be dealt very seriously and severely. For this, there is need to do away with the slow and tardy legal system, so that the culprits are booked quickly under law of the land.

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