ISSN 2330-717X

Time For The Center To Walk Its Kashmir Talk – OpEd

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Post abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcation of the erstwhile state of J&K into two Union Territories (UT), the center announced that this constitutional transformation had been done to pave the way for better administration, good governance and economic development of the region.

The Central Government also said Article 370 was the root cause of corruption in Jammu and Kashmir. Six months later, New Delhi seems less sure of its future steps.

Proactive measures to regain the trust of the people of Jammu and Kashmir through the office of the Lieutenant Governor in the newly carved Union Territory and at the level of the Union Government are not forthcoming. The absence of any outreach by New Delhi after August, 5, 2019, has created confusion and anxiety among the people.

People of Jammu and Kashmir are of the opinion that widespread and deep-rooted corruption by politicians and the bureaucracy under patronage of the politicians had restricted growth and development in the past. They are looking forward to some positive transformation, but this has remained distant dream for them. Effort made has only remained confined to certain quarters and is clearly not enough. As a result a clamor in Jammu and Kashmir for better governance is gaining momentum.

Unemployment is massive and it is the main cause of frustration and mental stress amongst the youth. There are 2,50,000 educated young women and men in Jammu and Kashmir who are bearing the brunt of lack of employment opportunity. Despite being qualified they are not able to find jobs which is pushing them and their families’ to the wall. The percentage of unemployed youth is increasing due the poor placement rate and lack of a dynamic policy.

Jammu and Kashmir, already facing turmoil over the decades due to militancy, now has serious concerns with respect to unemployment. The government must formulate policies which facilitate absorption of more and more youth in different categories of jobs so as to reduce their level of frustration. If gainful work is not forthcoming for the youth, the chances of their falling victim to drugs and the lure of militancy will increase.

Road and Power sectors are in a pathetic condition leading to severe problems in day to day life of the people. The majority of the roads in Kashmir are in shambles. They are full of pot holes, leading to bumpy rides and slow moving traffic. The links roads are practically non-existent.

Kashmir’s large power projects are under the management of the National Hydro Electric Power Corporation, the outages at this time of the year reinforce an old grievance that the Valley does not have control over its resources. Kashmir is facing a debilitating power crisis primarily due to lack of infrastructure which would enhance its power transmission capacity. The 21 state-owned projects have the capacity to generate 1,211.96 megawatts of power, while seven Central projects have capacity for 2,009 megawatts. The common perception is that, despite the changes, Power Development Department (PDD) is taking the hapless people in Kashmir for a ride.

Tourism is considered as bread and butter for Jammu and Kashmir being the primary source of income to large chunk of people. Huge losses incurred post abrogation of Article 370 and also temporary ban on internet has drastically affected this sector and several youth who were involved in this business are now jobless. Restoring internet in J&K on priority is the need of the hour.

The Governments proposal of setting up Medical and Engineering colleges in Jammu and Kashmir is a well thought plan for the development but it requires more time for commencement and will not impact the pressing requirement for employment. It is unlikely to be a catalyst for growth. Government can consider encouraging the private sector to boost employment generation.

‘Back to Village’, is an initiative launched by the state adminsitration under which officers are visiting Panchayats across the UT. The aim is to bridge the gap between the achievable and achieved goals in development and take governance to doorsteps of the rural and inaccessible areas. This would help in streamlining the developmental schemes and welfare initiatives of the government to maximize its impact and outreach towards people. It should be pursued with utmost seriousness.

Central team of ministers recently visited Kashmir to take a firsthand view of the environment and sensitise the people about the “positive impact” of abrogation of Article 370, and bifurcation of the state. They have spoken of “development initiatives taken by the government.” The public feels that the ground realities are different and do not support the centre’s justification that such initiatives will prove to be good for the future of Jammu and Kashmir.

The Union Government should primarily rise to the occasion and devise a mechanism where the announced schedule of development should be followed in letter and spirit. It should formulate a policy and roadmap where development should be the key driving factor for Jammu and Kashmir. If this is done, it will facilitate in winning trust and heart of the people.

It is only application on ground that will convince the people and not mere words.

The youth must also display a sense of responsibility and not bank only on the government to provide them jobs. With the situation is returning to normal, there are many other sectors like tourism, handicrafts, horticulture, service industry which have immense potential. If the youth takes to work with passion and strength to shape their future and strengthen the nation, the resolve of the nation to build a new dynamic Jammu & Kashmir will get strengthened.

Alarmists and pessimists are a part of every democratic society. While they should be given space, there is no need to get unduly influenced by their assumptions. If the policies are sound then positive results will follow.

The objective should be to usher a sense of positivity through firm action on ground in a manner that the mindset of the people undergoes a paradigm shift from its existing negative confines. This is what the people expect from their Government.

Farooq Wani

Farooq Wani

Farooq Wani is a Kashmir senior journalist, columnist and political commentator.

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