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.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Politics by Deceit

Arjimand highlights how Naukri Politics fails to deliver everytime

(Mr. Arjimand Hussain Talib, 33, is from Srinagar and matriculated from Tyndale Biscoe Memorial School in 1991. He subsequently graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Engineering from Bangalore University. He is also an alumni of the International Academy for Leadership, Gummerbach, Germany. Arjimand writes regular weekly columns for the Greater Kashmir and The Kashmir Times since 2000 on diverse issues of political economy, development, environment and social change and has over 450 published articles to his credit. His forthcoming book: "Confronting the Myths: A Critical Analysis of the Political Economy of Jammu & Kashmir" will be published soon.)

Election manifestos promise jobs. There're reasons why they can't

There is a common streak, something of hogwash, to all the election manifestoes released by various political parties in J&K - all of them sell the dreams of jobs. What is striking is that none of the manifestoes speak of employment generation with a realistic vision. Sadly, all are drafted to mislead.

National Conference has taken the same old beaten track – government jobs, mainly in police. Its leader, Omar Abdullah, has 'promised' to lower the educational eligibility in police recruitments. He also 'promised' his party would fill all vacant positions in government and create many new jobs. On the other hand, though muted, one the main electoral USPs of PDP is government employment. The ideas this party had circulated in its Youth Policy seem little lost.

Congress is talking bigger. Its local chief, Saif-ud-din Soz, while talking to media persons at Lolab on Saturday, said, if voted to power his party would usher in 'unprecedented development' and create massive jobs in the State. He further said that 'it was only the Congress Party that had the potential to make it big for the people in the State.'

Then there are smaller parties - which are basically village-based in origin – that are talking moon on jobs. One such party, Democratic Party (Nationalist) of Tangmarg, has made a meteoric promise: the party would work out a Rs 20,000 crore plan to create jobs in the State, if voted to power.

Politicians selling dreams in the run up to elections is nothing new or novel. Promises of jobs are also normal. Ironically, in J&K's context, these promises signify a deep rooted malaise – a legacy of political thinking which is narrow and lack economic logic. And this thinking is what is basically at the heart of the political troubles which this state is faced with. This malaise signifies the inability of these political parties to create a political system which could help create a direct linkage between job creation and economic well being based on self reliance rather than chronic dependency.

I casually talked to hundreds of educated youth in rural Kashmir during the last one month and asked about their vision of jobs and the reason they were voting. The answers were by and large similar: an elected political system could give them employment in government since they have no alternatives. Most of the youth today, mainly in rural Kashmir, have only one hope with the current elections: it may get them government jobs.

So where would all the new jobs come from?

The coming days will leave the new government with no option but to implement the recommendations of the Sixth Pay Commission. That would mean an additional financial burden of at least Rs 1000 crore annually. In other words, our annual salary bill will be around Rs 5389 crore. Those who know the state of J&K's public finances know it well that this additional burden will leave the State government with little or no elbow room to create further jobs in the government or fill up the vacant posts. Let us don't forget J&K government has made a commitment to the government of India to keep its salary bill at a certain level, which it cannot afford to raise.
When we look at the State's tax revenues, it is obvious that the targets for this year won't be achieved due to the overall economic slowdown. And let us make no mistakes about government of India's willingness to fund this additional burden of this State. India's Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister, P Chidambaram, both, while downplaying the fears of a major slowdown in the country's economic growth, have said that the overall growth during this year is likely to be around 6-8 per cent. Looking at the current global situation this growth rate is not bad. What is certain, however, is that India's overall tax revenues would be far less than projected earlier. And this revenue deficit is very likely to happen both at the State and the Central levels. In other words, already hard pressed for the Sixth Pay Commission recommendations, the central government will have nothing to spare this year.

Jobs are surely handy in police and other security systems because of our booming conflict economy. That we are already an overly police state is no secret. Political parties have always used the tactic of recruiting police personnel amongst certain political pockets and minority ethnic denominations in J&K to get votes. This approach creates social tensions and breeds inter-ethnic and inter-communal divisions. Though politically correct in a narrow sense, this approach is a zero sum game.

Politicians in J&K have always relied on public expenditure to create both short and long term non productive jobs. And that is where the trap lies. Public expenditure, in turn, has been overly import-oriented, creating little jobs and tax revenues.
In situations where sub-national entities like ours have certain degree of political autonomy to influence macroeconomic policies, obviously, raising salaries has its own merits. Bigger salaries mean greater consumption, production, jobs and of course greater savings. And greater savings naturally mean lower interest rates and greater investment. This is a kind of cycle which works naturally in sovereign political entities which have considerable local demand and production. In J&K's case demand is surely there but internal production is quite low. So greater demand does not naturally translate into greater jobs.

There are no reliable figures to tell us how many unemployed and under employed people we have. But one thing is certain: rural agrarian economy is not able to provide sustained livelihoods. Rural unemployment is aggravating urban unemployment. Our education system does not help in producing marketable human resources. The prevailing political system does not have the power to influence the macroeconomics to create real, productive jobs.

This irony is exasperated by the fact that the recently created rural colleges are creating undue and wrong hopes. These colleges are dogged by a highly mediocre teaching system. They lack infrastructure and quality teaching staff. So the products of these colleges would end up taking jobs in police or other non productive government jobs, mainly for teaching.

We have now become a cynical economic system which produces teachers to produce the next generation of teachers. Economic value addition and revenue generation are both very limited. An economic system which is highly consumptive but overly import-based will always lack the capacity to create jobs and generate revenue.
he biggest irony in J&K is that the political parties here which claim to work for the wellbeing of the people that they lack a vision in creating such political conditions which could create an economic model creating productive jobs and revenue for the state. So the promises of employment in election manifestoes can't be anything but lies.

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