You wish India should protect your borders, she should build roads in your area, she should supply you food grains, and Kashmir should get equal status as India. But Government of India should have only limited powers and Indian people should have no rights in Kashmir. To give consent to this proposal, would be a treacherous thing against the interests of India and I, as the Law Minister of India, will never do it
—Babasaheb Ambedkar to Sheikh Abdullah
Mr Rakesh Kumar Singh & Dr Vibhash Kumar
Article 370 of the Indian Constitution deals with the special status given to the state of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K). It provides a fairly high degree of autonomy to the state, enables the state to have its own constitution (unique in an Indian context), which permits the state to provide special privileges to its “permanent residents”. One such special privilege is that only a permanent resident can buy land in the state and citizens from other Indian states face restrictions.
A lot has been talked about Article 370 with the background of its history and constitution. The time is now ripe to perceive the impact of this “temporary provision” on the permanent damage which is being done to India, through the prism of economics and commerce.
In this era, it would not be incorrect to say “Prosperity follows peace”. Till now the different stakeholders have given more priority on maintaining peace and quoted Article 370 as a necessary bridge or tunnel between India and the state of J&K. The time has come to acknowledge some ground realities before advocating article 370. Some uncomfortable facts like J&K imports nearly 96 per cent of its total requirements of commodities, being power deficit after having ample resources like water, being industry deficit in spite of having employable youth and natural resources at its disposal; the question which lingers is that is this the fate of J&K which the people of J&K are now increasingly accepting as their fortune? In this background, the debate is whether the people of J&K are even aware of Article 370 directly causing huge poverty, economic backwardness and human miseries which could have been easily warded off.
Political parties and the separatists of J&K have always used this Article to defend the welfare of the State. On the contrary, they have never made its people aware of the current ground realities and its negative repercussions in its State economy. The state has the highest number of unemployed youths in India who are unable to find for
themselves good jobs. There is a definite dearth of industrial projects which could take the economy forward and provide employment to the youth of J&K. If the state, however, welcomes financial and industrial investment from outside, it would be definitely rewarded. Those advocating “Demographic dividend” should look nowhere but J&K, as it has vast number of ready to be employed youth population. The Article 370 in one way or the other hinders “Demographic dividend”. Indeed there are no two thoughts that owing to Article 370, there is an unambiguous restriction on the inflow of human capital. This restriction of human capital can be felt more with respect to professional institutions and occupations in the state of J&K. This restriction is also affecting the performance of various sectors viz., education sector, public sector undertakings, hospitality sector etc.
No outsider is allowed to buy the property in the State if one wishes. Owing to this, there is no sense of ownership in the mind of the entrepreneur or for that matter any large
Multi-National Company. This creates a road-block in attracting young talents across India. Article 370 could also be made a part responsible for the State not seeing the fruits of Industrialisation even after 70 years of Independence. As a matter of fact, power sector has not seen any medium or long term investment. Jammu & Kashmir has an electricity generation capability to the tune of 18000 MW, but the production capacity is very low because of low investment in this direction.
As far as tourism is concerned, the state of J&K is blessed with natural serene and breathtaking beauty. The potential of J&K as a tourism hotspot is not hidden from the world outside, and it would not be a misstatement to say that J&K has not been able to realise half of its potential as far as tourism is concerned. There could be more tourist destinations in J&K other than Pahalgam and Gulmarg, if the infrastructure bottlenecks created by Article 370 could be removed. A simple economic law says that the welfare of the general masses comes with the strong competition among the enterprises. This has been politically denied by the strong groups supporting few local strong business men. The fruits of price mechanism have not reached the general masses. Most surprisingly the State Government is stalling the centrally sponsored welfare schemes. As bestowed by Article 370, any law or act is not applicable in the land of J&K until passed by its state legislature. The State Government most of the time delays the welfare schemes meant for the welfare of general public. Planned expenditure is totally financed by the State Government and out of its non-plan expenditure the state is able to bear seventy three percent of expenditure. J&K receives nearly eleven times more central grants than the poorest state of India i.e., Bihar.
Economy is considered as one of the major building blocks of any state. So a great emphasis on it leads to the benefits of all the stakeholders in a larger way. In the case of J&K, the data pertaining to the state of the economy is very dismal. J&K is the State with the highest
fiscal deficit in the country. It contributes merely 0.76 per cent to the national income of the country. It is the highest grant receiving state of the country and has a debt GDP ratio of 60 per cent. One thing to keep in mind here is that debt GDP ratio shows the health of any economy. In terms of per capita income J&K ranks no. 21 in the country, this after so much of funding done by the Central Government. In short the whole scenario can be rightly summed by a single statement that J&K gets 10 per cent of the total central funds with only 1 per cent of its total population.
So the question which remains is ‘Is India doing justice by spending so much for the state of J&K out of the public money? Is India doing exactly what Babasaheb Ambedkar predicted some 70 years ago i.e., that even after protecting its borders when aggressors strike, providing relief when disasters strike, providing food grains when hunger strikes, building roads, dams, bridges, and hospitals when humanity calls for and also providing them finances when poverty strikes the people of India still have no right to visit and establish themselves in the mainland of J&K and the Government of India can only fight its lone battle with limited powers and unlimited Opposition?’
(Rakesh Kumar Singh is Assistant Professor at Ramanujan College; Dr Vibhash Kumar, Faculty in Ramanujan College)