Where Is Task Force For Kashmir? Ask Stakeholders25 December 2010
Srinagar: With Government of India deciding to examine the development requirements of Jammu and Ladakh regions, voices are growing stronger from different quarters in Kashmir against the New Delhi’s move to overlook the Valley, which has seen little growth in the past two decades. On September 25 this year, the cabinet committee on security headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced setting up of two task forces-one each for Jammu and Ladakh-to identify development needs of the two regions and suggest measures to address them. The committees are likely to submit their recommendations next month. The ‘cry’ over the GoI’s ‘surprising decision’, wherein Kashmir has been ignored, has come at a time when some leaked reports from State Finance Commission, which was constituted to provide a blueprint for equitable development of the three regions, has clearly highlighted that the Valley was as backward in different sectors as any other region. The development scenario is even worse in some pivotal sectors in the province if statistics are any indication. “I am surprised why Kashmir has been left out,” remarked noted economist, Prof Nissar Ali. “Kashmir has a very poor infrastructure in terms of road connectivity and flyovers besides other infrastructural needs,” said Prof Ali who was a member of the SFC. Some statistics in different sectors explain the reason behind growing anger among Valleyites. In Agriculture, average size of land holding is less than 0.4 hectares compared to Jammu where the figures are more than 0.7 hectares of land. “There is a grave crisis in Kashmir as far as agriculture produce and dependence on the sector is concerned. The area acts as bedrock for development. However with Kashmir having limited options in the sector, people are pushed to explore new options which are limited. It ultimately results in unemployment,” said an official in the Planning Department. Because of feasibility, various industries including textile, steel, pharmacy, consumer goods have come up in Jammu. “Due to lack of planning and investment in industrial sector by the state government, Kashmir has lagged behind. It has grown as a market for Jammu-based industries, GoI should not ignore Valley’s development requirements” the official said. The two decade long political turmoil in the Valley has severely hit the construction sector, said president Federation Chamber of Industries Kashmir, Shakeel Qalander. “Be it construction of roads, bridges or flyovers, the Valley has always figured at the bottom. Even the urban growth has been limited. Shouldn’t Government of India pump money for infrastructure development in the province?” he asked. “We are not against the development in any region but the scenario is altogether different in Jammu.” The SFC report which was recently submitted to the state government has highlighted that while a particular region was lagging behind in one sector another region was behind in terms of development in other sectors. The Commission has reportedly highlighted that among the highly developed districts, Jammu tops the list. And in the service sector valley’s share in the Gazetted services has fallen to 37 percent. The backbone of the Kashmir economy was tourism, said Prof Ali. “However, the valley is not receiving even 25 percent of the tourists compared to the influx prior to 90’s. This major source of income for the Valley has shrunken. But reverse has happened in Jammu. Pilgrimage tourism in the region has increased from 35 lakhs to 90 lakhs,” said a senior official in the Tourism Department. Of the state’s total population, Kashmir represents 54 percent while Jammu region has 43 percent and Ladakh approximately 2.17 percent. Qalander said the per capita income in Jammu has grown to Rs 786 while as the figures have fallen to Rs 670 in Kashmir. However the statistics are more than Rs 6000 in Ladakh due to low density of population, he said. “The Per capita expenditure in Jammu is Rs 250 more than Kashmir. Despite these facts the valley was ignored time and again when it comes to giving impetus to development,” said the FCIK president.