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, July 13, 2009

Revitalizing Kashmir's Economy

Shakeel-ur-Rehman has an interesting idea

(Syed Shakeel-ul-Rehman, 32, was born in Qazipora, Tangmarg. He did his schooling at the Government Middle School in Katipora and at the Government Higher Secondary School in Chandilora, both in the Tangmarg Tehsil. He graduated in Social Work from the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), being the first Kashmiri student to graduate with that major. He subsequently did his post graduate diploma in Journalism and Mass Communication from the same University. He has taken specialized courses in computer hardware and software technology. He worked as a columnist and correspondent for the Greater Kashmir daily newspaper until 2005 and is currently the Opinion Editor of the Kashmir Images daily newspaper. He also anchors Doordharshan Kendra Srinagar's live phone-in show called, "Hello DD" since April 2005. Mr. Shakeel-ur-Rehman holds the distinction of having interviewed prominent personalities in all major fields and walks of life, probably more than any other Kashmiri journalist.)

Ideal Industries

Kashmir is industrially starved. This makes private investment on large scale crucial for the state. It is no secret that when it comes to investment, the Valley is unlikely to get big investments in industrial sector given its agro-climatic conditions.

This makes it imperative on our part to focus on small and medium scale industries. And it is this sector which the state should promote.

As far as small scale industrial sector is concerned, the state had not long ago a monopoly in the sector. But due to lack of governmental support coupled with the prevalent situation in the state, this sector suffered enormously. Such is the condition of those associated with the sector that hardly anyone else would like to venture into the field.

But since small scale industries are suited for Kashmir and the state has requisite manpower acquainted with the trade practices, it would be really good if the government took the sector seriously and the captains of Indian industry too did their bit by investing in this sector where chances of growth are huge.

As a matter of fact, the small scale enterprises have to date contributed substantially to the growth of the state economy. The small scale enterprises can be grouped into three categories viz; cottage industries, agro based industries and small scale industries. Cottage industries and agro-based industries being agriculture based have a huge scope in the state.

Although these segments of industry generate foreign exchange through exports, help preserve the ancient and traditional skills of the rural artisans and prevent their migration to the urban areas, they suffer from various problems like non-availability of credit and finance, difficulties in marketing their products, in procuring raw materials etc.

In the context of Kashmir cottage and agro-based industries are important. This is because they are broadly associated with the processing of agricultural produce. Being agriculture based they generate part time and whole time occupations in rural and semi urban areas.

Cottage industries and agro-based industries work independently while the small scale industries are technically and economically dependent on the large scale sector. This limits the scope of the latter in Kashmir. But if the Indian industry majors come forward chances of growth in the small scale sector would zoom.

In a place like Kashmir where the incidents of unemployment, underemployment, and seasonal employment are high and where capital cannot be mobilized on a massive scale to industrialize rapidly, SSI’s would generate large employment opportunities.

The plus point with this type of industry is that it can be established in any part of the state and can create work for the unemployed, more work for the underemployed and supplementary work for the seasonally employed in the rural sector.

Although there is enough scope for the small scale industries in the state, these have been bogged down by myriad problems, the foremost being the non-availability of credit and finance, both long term and short term. Besides, the material resources are small and the industries suffer from instability of profits which deter banks from giving loans. But if the government and industry majors come forward things would doubtless take a better turn.

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