IN recent times the only picture we have had of Kashmir (forget Jammu and Ladakh where peace prevails) is of youngsters throwing stones at security forces. What exactly is the economic situation prevailing in that unhappy valley? India Today (September 13) has sought to provide at least one side of the picture. Here are a few facts that should arouse attention all over India. No comparison is available about similar and allied conditions prevailing in other Indian states which leaves one clueless. But let that go. Yet the weekly states that Jammu & Kashmir is a state where “per capita expenditure, at Rs 9, 661, is thrice the national average of Rs 3,969 and higher than the Rs 8,637 of the troubled north eastern states.
Jammu & Kashmir employes 4.5 lakh officials when, according to the former Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, it needs less than half that number and still the complaint is that the unemployment rate is 4.21 per cent higher than the national figure of 3.09. No one has ever asked why the unemployed but well-educated young do not go out of the state to make a living, when the unemployed youngsters from Kerala, for instance, make a good living by serving abroad in places like Dubai, Abu Dhabi or Kuwait. The State Government generates only 25 per cent of its own expenditure internally. During 2008-09 the Centre-that is, Delhi-spent Rs 10,786 crore and the state could raise only Rs 3,420 crore. If, according to our stone-throwing champions India gives Jammu & Kashmir azadi, firstly the state will have to cut down the number of employees by half and go round begging, secondly, it will have to close down entire departments to save money thereby creating more unemployment.
Jammu & Kashmir has 23 Public Sector Undertakings of which only four make a profit. Should India give azadi to J&K it may be forced to close down 19 Public Sector Units adding still more to the unemployment figures. The state spends Rs 22,000 crore a year importing food and provisions, whereas its exports have declined to Rs 6,000 crore a year. Give azadi to our stone-throwers and they will have to starve. True, Jammu & Kashmir are heavily guarded, but if it means locating an army of seven lakh in the state it also means that there are seven lakh spenders, which is not realised.
The state budget for 2009-2010 had promised 23,000 more jobs than currently exists, an enormous burden on the state which, however, is borne by the Centre. How is all the money spent? Don’t ask. According to the Comptroller and Auditor General’s (CAG) report, Rs 71,088 crore expenditure between 1980 and 2008 has not been accounted for. Where did the money disappear? Don’t ask. According to a study by Transparency International and the Centre for Media Studies in 2005, J&K is the second most corrupt state in the country. Jammu & Kashmir Bank deposits have surged from Rs 23,484 crore in 2005 to Rs 37,237 crore in 2010. That tells it all.
Hindustan Times (September 12) published an exclusive HT-CVoter Survey of what people in Jammu, Ladakh, Valley and the rest of India thought, which is highly educative. Six questions were asked and the replies speak for themselves. Question 1: Should India give Kashmir control over everything except Defence, Foreign Affairs and Communications? Answer, percentage-wise: Yes Jammu (85), Ladakh (73), Valley (32) Rest of India (78). Question 2: Do you care about the violence in Kashmir? Answer Yes (Jammu (91), Ladakh (95), Valley (93), Rest of India (70). Question 3: Who is responsible for the current problems in the Kashmir Valley? Answer: People in Jammu: (India 24, Pakistan 28, Kashmiris 31); in Ladakh (India 17, Pakistan 34, Kashmiris 26, others 5); in Valley: (India 56, Pakistan 10, Kashmiris 2) in Rest of India (India 20, Pakistan 44, Kashmiris 8). Question 4. Should Indian forces use bullets against unarmed protestors who demand azaadi? Answer: Jammu ‘No” 69, Ladakh ‘No’ 85, Valley ‘No’ 96, Rest of India ‘No’ 85) Question 5: Should the state of J&K be broken up into Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh? Answer: ‘No’ Jammu 76, Ladakh 72, Valley 83, Rest of India 79.
When asked what according to him was the best solution for the Kashmir problem, 76 per cent of these interviewed in Jammu said they favoured “complete merger of entire J&K in India”, those in Ladakh numbered 70 per cent, those in Valley 15 per cent. The people in the Valley were almost totally opposed to merger with Pakistan (6 per cent); only 15 per cent were in favour of merger with India; some 66 per cent were for “complete freedom to entire J&K as a new country”.
Readers are free to come to their own conclusions. What is interesting is that the people of the Valley want “complete Independence”; one presumes that what they want is not just for the Valley Kashmiris but for all the people of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. But the people of Jammu and Ladakh don’t want total independence; they want merger with India. In other words, the people of the Valley do not speak for people of the other two parts, Jammu & Ladakh. But then the people of the Valley seem to think that Jammu and Ladakh cannot be separated from them. There lies a paradox.
One wonders whether the people of the Valley realise how vulnerable they will be if they get total azadi; where will they get the funds to survive from? Who will provide jobs for the young? Pakistan? China? The United States? Why should India support a free Kashmir? Or will Kashmir be a state where everyone want to pitch in for strategic purposes and they could include Pakistan, China, Russia and the United States as well? Would that be good for the Kashmiris themselves?
Chaos in the Valley would have a direct effect on India which cannot see the Valley in turmoil. Obviously the azaadis in Kashmir haven’t given much thought to the subject. As DNA (September 15) put it: If negotiations are to make hoadway once again, it will be necessary for political players at the Centre to be clear about the ground rules… It is time to stop handling Kashmir with kid gloves”. Under no circumstances can India grant the people of the Valley azaadi. But again one wonders whether anyone has taken the trouble to tell the Valley Kashmiris what is implied by azaadi. There are no quick fixes to the turmoil in Kashmir, the DNA argues. But who will explain that to the stone-throwers and their patrons behind-the-scene? How stupid can a people be?