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Economic CBMs: the structural faults and the lack of a future for Kashmiri Pandits PDF Print E-mail
Written by Rashneek Kher   
Sunday, 24 June 2012 00:00

[Delivered at the Global Kashmiri Pandit Diaspora Meeting to discuss the Government of India's Kashmir Interlocuter Report, 2012]:

The word economic CBM occurs in the executive summary of the report right at the beginning and no matter how hard you try it doesn’t show up ever again. There are some 20 odd pages in the report which are devoted to the economic situation (in CHAPTER 4: Economic  and  Social Components of the New Compact) of the state of Jammu and Kashmir and what is wrong with it, with some naive and some excessively open-ended recommendations. The report looks at various central schemes that run in the state and how they are being implemented. Then there are recommendations of the group of interlocutors about what should be done to improve the economic health of the State more with the motive of addressing the social milieu of the state and less with the real improvement of the economy of the State.

 

 

 

 

Since none of the members of the committee is an economist or having some kind of understanding of the way any economy works, the recommendations are vague. The report draws overtly or covertly from the recommendations and findings of the Rangarajan Committee Reports, one of which was for economic development of the state and the other for the creation of employment and employability of the youth of the State. One must say that both committees under the Chairmanship of C.Rangarajan, who is a noted economist have done exceptional work and though there is no mention of how Pandit Youth could be employed, the reports could be termed as extremely informative and prescriptive at the same time.

Therefore while we sift through the readings and recommendations of the report of the Group, we will also look at the recommendations of the Rangarajan Committee especially with reference to creating a conducive environment for promotion of the State as a destination for Investment and Enterprise.

I also tried to look at the report’s recommendations from the prism of being a Pandit but there is nothing to be seen in the report. In a sense one can say that the report has looked at the State more from a national perspective rather than the narrow prism of what is there for us in the report but since “alienation and victimhood” of the valley seem to be the mainstay or the alibi for the report I wasn’t either expecting a “special package” or some kind of an “incentive” for the Pandits.

Having said that let us look at what the report delves in and that brings us to the first part of our paper:

 

Flagship Schemes and their Implementation

The report looks at 16 schemes which are largely funded by central government. These schemes range from MNREGA, Indira Awas Yojana,Swarnjayanti Gram Rozgar Yojana to Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana etc.In all these schemes the report finds that the funds alloted by the Central Government have not been completely utilised by the State Government which means the implementation of the schemes is faulty. This also means that the employment which the schemes could have generated has remained less than optimal. One of the telling findings is that even the social services have never been completely implemented in the year they were sought to be implemented. Even the guaranteed entitlements for grant of pensions to widows, old and physically challenged persons have not been extended to all the eligible beneficiary groups.

The second part of our report, and here I must say that I am following a slightly different pattern than that of the Interlocutors Report, deals with how much dependant the State of Jammu and Kashmir is on the centre.

Financial Dependence:

According to the interlocutors the State is disadvantaged because of its topography, by its being ravaged by war and also by militancy. The report also tells us that two thirds of the State’s Expenses are met by Central Grants.It also tells us that the credit-deposit ratio for the State– at about 47 per cent --is one of the lowest in the country, which indicates that the investment environment in the region is not conducive for business and commercial activities. Hard saved money by people in the banks has flowed elsewhere due to both inadequate economic and investment activities.What it does not say and what is amply evident from the Ranagarajan Committee report members of which are the who’s who of the Corporate and Economic World in India..For my readers I would like to quote from that report pp 3,4 Report of the Task Force on Development of Jammu and Kashmir,Nov2006

 

(iv) Conducive climate for private investment

1.13 No matter how successful the fiscal adjustment, public resources will be limited.

The Government should use its scarce resources in areas where it alone can operate

such as in providing public goods and merit goods and leave the rest of the economic

space to the private sector. For the private sector to respond to this initiative by stepping

up investment, the state needs to create a policy and physical environment conducive

to private sector development. This will be the route to sustainable development of the

state.

1.14 Even as the India growth story is the global toast, much of the positive benefits

of this are bypassing J&K. The most important reason is the negative investor perception about the security situation in the state. Second, competition among states for attracting

both domestic and foreign investment is very fierce and J&K is handicapped in joining

this competition because of its poor infrastructure situation and remoteness from

markets. The third reason is the land ownership issue which prohibits non-state subjects

from owing property in the state.                                          

 

From the extract which I listed above it is very clear that unless J&K allows land ownership and allows non state subjects to own properties in the State the economic condition of the State will remain precarious.

Suggestions

After analysing and understanding the economic scenario the Report suggests remedies. This is where it becomes apparent that the members of the committee are complete novices when it comes to economics. They have told us what we already know. They talk about how the state should make the PPP Model work, how there is a need to create special economic zones, again ask for packages from Centre on similar lines as being given to NE states little realising that there are no hurdles in the north east for land acquisition, and it finally comes-give a boost to handicrafts. There are suggestions like making Srinagar International Airport truly international and opening up a whole lot of roads and ensuring that Udhampur-Qazigund Railway Line is up and running .It is in these suggestions where the group says about improving horticulture and food processing industry. Here the broad contours of what should be done have been borrowed from the Report of the Task Force on Development of Jammu and Kashmir, Nov2006.

There is some talk of the ecology of the state to be preserved and also how polluted the Dal Lake is. The magical realism of Rushdie isn’t missing either when the report tells us that once the lake’s water had healing properties. It says a little bit about the mineral resources of the state and where they are. Here also it says that the State lacks the technical knowhow and the resources to exploit these resources. Strangely it also says that Security Forces should vacate the public and private properties it has occupied upon the onset of militancy .I quote from the report ,” The presence of Forces in residential areas is indeed a major irritant among the local communities. It is urgent therefore to get early vacation of such properties by the Security Forces and Armed forces to enable the people to enjoy freedom of movement in business and residential areas and to utilize the buildings for carrying out various socio-economic activities.”.What is this got to do with economics is beyond me?

 

There are two other suggestions which I will deal separately because they need separate attention. These are suggestions regarding Power and Water Resources and Implementation of Job Plan, both of which have its roots in the two aforementioned reports of the Rangarajan Committee.

 

The Report of the Task Force on Development of Jammu and Kashmir, Nov 2006 has very effectively diagnosed the ills of the State not just with respect to what is wrong with the Power and Water Resources but everything else as well, yet strangely the only recommendation of the report that “needs” to be accepted is about Power and in that too the recommendation that NHPC should vacate its projects in the state and hand them over to the State Government. There is no denying the fact that the Group does recommend this though it also says that J&K has the highest T&D losses, twice more than national average. The metering at its best is 30-40% it says and also power is subsidized to the rate of more than Rs 2 kWh for the end consumer. Not much has changed in power sector since we were forced to leave. So while people can enjoy the benefits of electricity without paying for it the NHPC projects have become a huge political issue.

The Interlocutor report parrots the recommendations but doesn’t say a word about how revenue can be generated with such poor metering and terrible T&D losses.So much for the independent nature of the report.

 

Let us now look at what the Interlocutors report says about the employment, I quote from the point 29 of the chapter on Economic Reforms

 

The youth of Jammu and Kashmir is neither able to secure jobs in the turmoil-torn economy nor are they able to move to job markets in the rest of the country, which is highly competitive. Empowerment is the key to success. The frustration of youth on account of unemployment, lack of mobility and alleged human rights violations has led them to express their anger through processions and demonstrations, including stone pelting.

What can be farther from truth but all of the above in italics? I have been a student of AMU while I studied alongside hundreds if not thousands of Kashmiri Muslims. Most of these young men are now Vice Presidents and Regional Heads in Indian and Multinational Companies across the World and not just India which welcomes talent with open arms impervious to its caste , creed or religion.

Also it is noteworthy that the Rangarajan Committee report clearly mentions that the ratio of unemployed to the total labour force is less in J&K when compared to the national average. So by the logic of Padgaonkar and Co a whole lot of Indians should be taking to stone pelting.

 

Table2. Labour Force, Work Force and Unemployed (UPSS2)

million

Jammu and Kashmir

All India

55th Round

(1999-00)

61st Round

(2004-05)

55th Round

(1999-00)

61st Round

(2004-05)

Labour Force

4.01

4.37

403.15

470.14

Work Force

3.94

4.27

394.17

458.99

Unemployed

0.07

0.1

8.98

11.15

Ratio of unem­ployed

to labour force

1.7%

2.3%

2.2%

2.4%

               

 

The Social Component which is the concluding part of this Chapter is again old wine in old bottles. They have again borrowed from the Rangarajan Committee report and while all of it is not so bad or irrelevant for J&K but then it is generic that we could diagnose any developing or for that matter any state with the same set of prescriptions if it wasn’t for this lie that the Interlocutors reinforce through this quote

 

Students have complained that they are not easily able to access rented accommodation outside the State. They are allegedly discriminated against. As a result, they are unable to either pursue their studies in institutions outside the State or secure and retain jobs in the private sector.

 

The report in the social component has briefly touched upon Education Sector Reforms ,Health Care Facilities, Role of Panchayats and Civil Society.You might be wondering if all this is so irrelevant why I am talking about this. This is because the last section of this report we find a few paragraphs with the title Women.It is here right at the fag end of this section that the word Pandit appears.I will read it out for you to find meaning since I could find no relevance or meaning no matter how much I tried to broaden the context in which it was placed.

There was a focused discussion of the problems of migrant women, especially Kashmiri Pandits. A valuable suggestion was that women can provide a bridge for Kashmiri Pandits to reconcile with their co-citizens in the Valley, and we would recommend funding for such an initiative to be taken by a respected NGO, preferably based in Jammu and Kashmir.

 

Whatever that means.....

 

Conclusions

 

The report as I have said right at the beginning offers nothing in terms of providing economic impetus to the State of Jammu and Kashmir leave alone Kashmiri Pandits.

 

What it however does is that it reinforces the stereotypes that Kashmiri Muslims are alienated, have taken to stone pelting because of lack of employment and do not get accommodation or avenues outside Jammu and Kashmir.

 

What it fails to say is that the scope of the government in any economic activity will be limited unless it creates a conducive environment for business and as I have already mentioned on the basis of the Rangarajan Report that unless they follow examples of states like Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh where, topography and terrain are similar to our state. Both these states have made land laws liberal and allowed outsiders to not just own land and property but even sign leases for over 90 years so that business houses could feel confident of their ROI.

 

Possibly the Interlocutors did not have the mandate to go beyond their masters voice or direction on any of the issues so to have expected them to make path breaking announcements on how Pandit expertise in the field of medicine,IT and new managerial practices could be used to were far beyond the paradigm in which they were supposed to work.

 

I conclude my speech thus, that I am not disappointed for I expected nothing out of this report because it was a central plot for fighting and buying time.It is yet another report which will bite dust in the high ceiling store room of the private annexe of the Minister of Home.

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 22 August 2012 20:41
 

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