By Nitya Chakraborty
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the nation on Thursday night about the thinking of his Government on the future of J&K following the scrapping of Article 370 and 35A to bring the erstwhile border state and now union territory fully under the purview of the Indian Constitution and the Indian laws. The thrust of the address was that in the new era in J&K after his government’s historic decision on August 5, the development will flow at breakneck speed which was not possible in the last seventy years due to the prevalence of Article 370 and Article 35A.
Prime Minister has projected a vision of a new Kashmir without Kashmiris. He went into the wrongs done in the past and talked about the glorious future but was silent on the present when the border territory is under lockdown for the last four days and most of the prominent J&K leaders who abided by the Indian constitution and fought the separatists to keep the Indian national flag flying, are under arrest. The millions of moderates who want to live in Kashmir as a part of India and are at loggerheads with the separatists, are feeling let down and they are not sure what is there in store for people like them in the coming days.PM has forgotten what is happening now and has projected a Naya Kashmir.
Leaving apart the violation of the Indian Constitution which has taken place, the Prime Minister has mentioned about how Article 370 and Article 35A have dampened the development without mentioning any data. The Indian Government’s own data is there and that shows how in many human development categories, J&K is well above national average and it has one of the lowest percentage of the population below the poverty line. In J &K, as regards absolute level of poverty, households living below the poverty line is only 10 per cent against the all India average of 22 per cent.
In fact, the J& K has acted as a model for land reforms implementation as one of the earliest states. These land reforms along with a massive debt write off implemented over two decades from 1951 to 1973, transformed the lives of the rural masses and freed them from indebtedness. Perhaps Prime Minister does not know that the income inequality coefficient for rural households in J&K is 0.221 making it as one of the most egalitarian state economies of India. All these took place when Article 370 and Article 35 were applicable to the state. The other states of India including Gujarat could not achieve this distinction. This was the real development when inequality was at the minimum with little indebtedness.
As the renowned economist and former finance minister of J&K Dr. Haseeb Drabu has mentioned in his recent article, the level of empowerment is evident from the fact that more than 25 per cent of the households earnings in J&K are from own cultivation whereas in Gujarat it is only 16 per cent. Life expectancy at birth in J&K is 73 while this is 68 at national level. As the official data show the people in J&K are much better off compared to the other states. The economy built under Article 370 has provided a base for self employment. The people have land and other income generating assets. The development could have been more faster if there were central investments. But that did not take place and certainly Article 370 has no role in that.
Prime Minister in his address has appealed to those who are associated with technology, administration or private sector to give priority in their policies and their decisions as to how to disseminate technology in J&K. He said when digital communication will be strengthened there and BPO centres and common service centres increase in number, there will be enhanced opportunity of earning livelihood. These initiatives have nothing to do with the presence or absence of special status. Any government centre or state or its agencies can launch these projects. Where is the question of Article 370 standing as a hindrance coming?
As the investment figures show, in J& K, only three central public sector enterprises are operational with a total investment of only Rs. 165 crore employing only 21 persons. What prevented the CPSEs from setting up units in J&K? No private investment will come unless the Government makes big investments on its own. Both Modi government and the earlier UPA government did not invest in J& K. How can they expect the private sector to come and invest? It had nothing to do with Article 370.In fact, both Article 370 and Article 35A are no hindrance to private and foreign investment. In J& K, land is available at concessional rate for the outsiders including foreigners for building industries, like any other state. The foreign companies are reluctant to invest as internationally, J&K is known as a disputed territory among the investors. Further, the political situation in the state was rarely stable.
Now Prime Minister is saying at the concluding part of his address to the nation that this decision of scrapping Article 370 and 35A will help in economic development of J&K and Ladakh along with the entire country.” When peace and prosperity prevails in this important part of the globe, the efforts of peace in the .entire world will be naturally strengthened”.
Sorry Mr. Prime Minister.“Peace and Prosperity” that’s a long haul after the dialogue process in J&K has been given complete good bye.