(Photo: PTI)
(Photo: PTI)

Opinion | J&K politics failed to address state’s economic crisis

Today, political parties come to power in J&K because the people have no choice

The entire electoral process in Jammu and Kashmir—I have observed over the last few decades—has allowed people who nurture anti-India sentiments to reach the corridors of power. In 1996, Farooq Abdullah came to power and underground militants who went by the code names Bilal Lodi and Firdaus Baba reached the legislature. People who reached the power corridors raised anti-India sentiments in Kashmir and that is something that New Delhi must not encourage at all.

Having worked with various political parties in the state over the last five decades, it can be said that the deceit has been more internal than external, with the parties continuously raising the matter of Article 370 and 35(A). This means that within the state, parties have only continuously repeated that one issue of Article 370 or Article 35 (A), calling for an abrogation of the former and they still continue to raise the very same issues. Externally, New Delhi cannot really be blamed for the state of affairs.

The present leadership in the state has nothing to sell to the public. There is mass unemployment and underemployment, and not a single party has been able to overcome the state’s economic problems. Mufti Mohammad Sayeed had taken some decisions in public interest, but they could not be realized either. If we are able to remove the issue of unemployment in the state, 95% of Kashmir’s problems will be over.

Power, being the fundamental infrastructure, remains a serious bottleneck for the state’s progress. Domestic and local investors have been unable to invest due to the lack of power. While 55 new tourism destinations have been identified, they are yet to take off due to the scarcity of power. The MSME sector is in a bad shape, no FDI has trickled down to the state and the state does not have any special economic zone.

Chronic economic problems—primarily, unemployment and underemployment—have killed the economy. The state’s economy is completely dependent, wherein the state now imports 96% of goods and exports, have gone down. Fresh fruit and handicraft form the bulk of whatever little is exported, amounting to 7,000-8,000 crore, while the requisite amount is roughly 40,000-50,000 crore. So, financially, the state has been reduced to complete dependence, with the strategy of exporting surpluses not being pursued at all.

The dependency syndrome breeds a lack of sense of belonging and discontent. The state economy’s paralysis has bred unemployment and frustration. There are no investment opportunities as a result of which small industries do not come up. These issues should have been addressed by the state leadership and both the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the National Conference (NC) have been total failures in this regard, because of which the people are now confronted with this state of affairs.

Today, political parties come to power in Jammu and Kashmir because the people have no choice. They are not happy with either the PDP or the NC. The bottom line—political parties have lost ground with the youth. Unless you have full people’s participation, you cannot test democracy. In Jammu and Kashmir, it is an election by default.

Nisar Ali is the former dean of Faculty of Social Sciences at Kashmir University and a member of the J&K finance commission.

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