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.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Battling Anarchy With Economic Dole

Which came first - anarchy or autocracy? Javid would rather focus on the latter. But his point about economic dole is right on the mark

(Dr. Javid Iqbal, 64, was born in Srinagar. He attended the D.A.V. School, Srinagar, and graduated in Medicine from the Government Medical College (GMC). His professional service in medicine includes work in the Middle East for three decades. During his days at the GMC, he captained the cricket team. He enjoys writing and staying close to his children in far away lands.)

Economic Doles are not the penance for Kashmiri ills

The caption is one from Sajad Lone’s tele-bytes, the ones we get to hear from him often in the troubled times we are living in. Out of his rich vocabulary laced with gifted oratorical skills, Sajad manages to dole out quotable quotes (a la Zulfikar Ali Bhutto) with one of which yours very own has chosen to decorate his ‘Talking Point’ with.

The one in focus, he recited in his lyrical rhythm on NDTV, the day Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh thought it appropriate to address Kashmiri concerns, only after approximately 50 lives had been lost in lethal methods of crowd control, withstanding the fact that there are non-lethal methods practised worldwide, even in India barring Kashmir.

‘Desirables getting drowned in undesirables’ Sajad’s quotable quote springs from the Indian Prime Minister’s linkage of addressing the desired political question with the undesirable-the economic dole! Doling out economic packages has become an Indian staple, a staple that Kashmiris cannot digest anymore. And for sound reasons, the packages are paraded out as largesse, which hurts the self respect of ‘Aam Admi’ in Kashmir. Forget the miniscule minority, who pocket a large slice of it, which is not accounted for, as some form of infrastructure is needed to exhibit a viable administration. Corruption might be a worldwide phenomenon, however in Kashmir it is the only industry that thrives, particularly in post militancy uncertain scenario. Many believe with some justification that sustaining uncertainty might be the balm for their ailing souls, an ailment borne of greed! Otherwise Kashmir is a consumerist society, some allege deliberately worked out to make it dependent on so called largesse, doled out with much fanfare! As it stands, often these packages remain on paper, circulating in the complex web of bureaucracy, until the time wasted in paper work brings the inflationary tendency to fore, making it economically unfeasible-the cost factor multiplies. Let us examine a few recent packages to support our contention.

In March 29, 2005 ‘Task Force on Development of Jammu and Kashmir’ was announced which was headed by C Rangarajan and included Dr Haseeb Drabu-economist, Sunil Mittal–Bharti Telecom chief, Sunil Kant Munjal–MD Hero Cycles Ltd, Moosa Raza–a former chief secretary to the state, SHH Rehman–former home commissioner JK, Analjit Singh–founder chairman Max India Ltd, Dr GC Srivastava–a former IAS officer, TN Thakur–expert in power reforms, Dr D Subbarao–former RBI governor and Sanjay Mitra-then Joint Secretary in Prime Minister’s Office. The recommendations of the so called ‘Task Force’ which met eight times between April 2005 and October 2006 and submitted its 61-page report to the Prime Minister in November 2006 included-transfer of 390 MW Dulhasti Hydel Power Project from NHPC to J&K, transfer of 1020 MW Bursar Storage Scheme from NHPC to J&K for execution in the state sector, tying up long-term capacities in IPP projects in power sector, particularly based on coal and gas and providing intense road and telecom connectivity in J&K.

Public skepticism on non-implementation may be justified, as acting on those recommendations could have had far reaching consequences. A look at these recommendations and why they got shelved is not difficult to make out. They could have formed the basis of self sustaining J&K economy. The transfer of power projects from the central pool to the state meets the demands of natural justice. It is J&K’s natural resource- water, which provides for it and forms its single most essential ingredient. If central funds finance the project and on that plea control is exercised over it, even a person with an elementary sense of economics could make out that money for projects with such huge potential could be raised from anywhere and the loan easily serviced, without conceding total control over the product. It violates not only economic sense but moral sense too. It is not difficult to visualize why Kashmiris see the rat every time an economic package is doled out, with the fanfare of largesse. Moreover Kashmiris are now mature enough to count their chicken!

And now the latest-old wine in new bottles, yet another ‘expert group’ announced by the Prime Minister, headed by the same famed economist, who headed the 2006 group-former RBI governor Dr C Rangarajan, presently the chairman of the prime minister’s Economic Advisory Council. Its members include experts on public and private sector employment like founder Chairman of IT giant Infosys NR Naryanmurthy, Tarun Das-former director general of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), P Nanda Kumar of the Wipro InfoTech and Shakeel Qalandar–president Federation Chamber of Industries Kashmir (FCIK). Qalandar, as per some media reports has expressed surprise over his name figuring in the panel. According to him, the reports say, he was neither consulted nor was his consent sought for inclusion in the expert group. This seems to be a gap in communication, the proposal of his inclusion in the elite group of experts might have come from state government without sounding him? One more name is to be proposed by the state government to complete the recommendatory panel.

In the face of non-implementation of the recommendations by a group headed by the same man who headed the earlier group, the skeptics may not be wholly wrong in asking-how the latest initiative on employment generation in Jammu and Kashmir by the Prime Minister is going to work? This has to be accepted that somewhere, somehow, someone has been guilty of gross neglect. Basically the official inertia builds up counting on public memory being short, it however needs to be remembered that it is not as short as higher echelons of power structure make it out to be! And there is that local dole based on state government’s December 5, 2009 employment package called Sher-e-Kashmir Employment and Welfare Policy for the Youth (SKEWPY), which is yet to have any impact on the ground. How could one say that public ire on these often doled non-implemented schemes is not justified?

In the face of the argument put forth, wouldn’t you give to Kashmiris, if they make it that economic doles are not the penance for their ills? They make it out loud and clear, night and day, with a regularity now, the sustainability of which defies the imagination of most ardent watchers, observers and analysts of Kashmir scene? It is indeed an experience, though I have lived through a parallel one. I was in Iran during revolution of late seventies. Day in and day out Iranians would get on streets in hundreds of thousands chanting ‘Marg Bur Shah’ [Death to Shah]. They were battling an autocracy. I had a measure of it, as I treated many with lethal fire arm injuries, saluting all the while, the courage of the young Iranians, who braved bullets. They were battling an autocracy. Here a battle is on with what is called ‘world’s largest democracy’ hence the onus is very much on India to live up to its democratic credentials and provide what the Indian Home Minister P. Chidambaram calls ‘a unique solution’ for a ‘unique problem’! Has the Prime Minister in his address to all party delegation [wonder if you may call it that sans PDP and separatists] gone far enough to provide a democratic solution, being the chief political executive of much prided of ‘world’s largest democracy’?

From the reaction of Delhi’s electronic and print media, with some calling PM’s initiative-too late if not too little to some calling it conceding too much, while as in Kashmir it got branded as nothing substantial, it might be said that strictly within the Indian political parameters, his espousal of dialogue and willingness to take up the demand of autonomy is the maximum, he could have said. It could be denied only by those not versed with real-politick. That it does not fall within even the minimum that Kashmiris demand falls in a different realm. The Prime Minister might be justified in attempting to go to limits of what Indian polity allows him, so are the Kashmiris, who have never seen the much projected fair face of Indian democracy. The utter systemic failure being seen in Kashmir should make Delhi start questioning policies, pursued so far, if it is to live up to its democratic image. In Kashmir of today, it has very few takers. It raises questions, loads of them-is there anywhere, anyhow, by any measure a way out? A way out of differing perceptions has to be found out, where even a remote chance gets explored and worked upon on the path of conflict resolution, if Kashmir is to come out of the nightmarish experience. The onus is on the state, not on groups and individuals, however important or popular they might be-the state might have to deliver much more than, it seems willing to do and provide a ‘unique solution to a ‘unique problem’ taking utmost care that ‘desirables don’t get drowned in undesirables’!

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