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.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Bridging the Industry-to-Industry Divide in J&K

Mehmood discusses dilemma in reconciling needs of vocal businessmen with rural activists on industrial policy

(Mr. Mehmood-ur-Rashid, mid-30's, lives and works in Srinagar. His commentary is published by the Rising Kashmir.)

Talking industry

Sectoral typology of economy into Agriculture, Industry and Service becomes really beneficial when each of them contributes to the overall economic health of a nation independently and in visible forms. It still benefits if the problems related to each sector are specifically targeted. The typology is denuded of any benefit when people lose the consciousness of being a part of any particular sector.

This has happened to Kashmir. Our failure to institutionalise these sectors of economy, and deepen the understanding of how things specifically work in a particular sector, has resulted in our economy becoming an undifferentiated mass of random economic efforts. Our farmer works in the field or takes care of his orchard but he is least informed about his sectoral belonging. Our Small Scale Industry (SSI) unit holder has the mindset of an ordinary shopkeeper and our government employee could not give a damn to what this Service means. Talking in economic terms might have become a matter of little pride for our ‘vocal businessmen’ and ‘rural activists’, but fact of the matter is that we participate in a terminology laden economic discourse without being serious about what all this means. The change will begin to appear only when while talking Industry we mean Industry.

Federation of Chambers of Industries Kashmir (FCIK) organised an interactive leadership briefing session titled, ‘Kashmir’s Industrial Growth and Development – The Road Ahead’. The organisers of the event explained why the industrial sector in Kashmir hasn’t picked up well, the way it did elsewhere in India; inadequacies in the Industrial policies that were introduced from time to time and what industrial sector in Kashmir expects from current dispensation. Dr Drabu made his point by alluding towards the status of industries in Kashmir and rubbished the very idea of having an Industrial Policy for Kashmir. He instead emphasised on having a strident Enterprise Policy. Omar Abdullah, as politicians always do, brought in the talk of Sangarsh Samiti and the diabolical precedent that the traders in Jammu set by cooperating with the rightwing Hindu parties, to sustain the agitation in Jammu and prolong the economic blockade of the valley. An entrepreneur, an economist and then the politician; all three expressed their mind on how things stand in Kashmir and how is the Road Ahead.

Being always grumbling about the policies of government and asking more in terms of sops and subsidies has been the hallmark of business community in Kashmir; although they cannot be blamed for that because they think and do things in a particular mindscape that has developed in Kashmir over many decades. Further they tend to draw comparisons between how governments in other states of India bolster industries in their respective areas and how Kashmir is being ignored by the central government. In this kind of a situation Shakeel Qalander is absolutely right in highlighting the inadequacies of earlier policies and talk openly about what is needed by this sector if it has to grow.

All this granted, we need to gear up for a real change. Dr Drabu’s reading may actually act as a point of departure from our fossilised approach towards industrial growth in Kashmir. Who knows when the government at Delhi gets really serious to infuse life into Kashmir industries, and Drabu has his wish granted, but if people in the industrial activity give heed to this suggestion they can turn it into an Enterprise Initiative. If governments have policies they are only to strengthen an already present public initiative or to create one. Since the political construct of Kashmir is never going to allow people to grow beyond the confines that Indian colonial cartography has permanently drawn, expecting government to come to our rescue is actually barking the wrong tree.

How the political eye of India gazes at Kashmir was well demonstrated by last year’s economic blockade by Rightwing Hindu parties in Jammu. The way our arm was twisted is proof enough that sky is not the limit, but the limit is our sky. Omar might have his own reasons to talk about Sangrash Samiti and his disgust with the big houses that once pitched their industrial tents in the lands of Kashmir; nevertheless, he has underlined the brutal truth about Kashmir’s relation with India.

Now that our sky is limited how can we keep flying till we actually dream of a horizon! May be one way of doing it is to make our younger generation conscious about the importance of economy in the overall growth of a nation and also equip them with the knowledge of how to do it here and how to explore possibilities elsewhere. While we are here we can press for concrete things like making land available easily for industrial activity, reclaiming the land that is registered against someone who has not started any industrial activity from past some years, making it compulsory for government department to buy the products manufactured here, and also connecting the companies like IRCON, ERA, and other big construction companies that are working in Kashmir with the local industries. Beyond Kashmir our top industrial houses can collaborate with the industries in India and beyond. That way they can expand their markets significantly. If we cannot stretch the limits here we can step into open lands, at least.

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