The decision of the Government of India to abrogate Article 370 has been coming for some time, no matter how much the opposition parties find it sudden or ill-planned. It only takes a glance at
The decision of the Government of India to abrogate Article 370 has been coming for some time, no matter how much the opposition parties find it sudden or ill-planned. It only takes a glance at the ruling parties election manifesto to realize that and upon getting a second term, this action was bound to be on top of the to-do list. Prima facia, the decision has garnered widespread support (barring the opposition parties who deem it unconstitutional and illegal). Logic tells us that in an ideal world, no State or Union territories that are considered a part of one country should have special rights or status when compared to other states. Universal rules and constitution need to be applied for all and they must be accepted with humility, dignity, and grace by every citizen in that respective region. Freedom of movement and freedom of commerce are the fundamental rights of all citizens in a country.
And this change in law has now opened the door for potential success and growth of a state that for far too long, has been a victim of selfishness, hypocrisy, bad historical decisions and most importantly, callous attitude towards its people.
The intention of this discussion is not to deep dive into details of the legitimacy and veracities of this decision, but instead take this opportunity to step back and think about Jammu and Kashmir as a state and what should be the vision and responsibility of this and future central governments towards it, as we near the 75th year of India’s independence.
Jammu and Kashmir ranks at #22 in the country when it comes to GDP and its economy heavily depends on the following for supporting its population
To make Jammu and Kashmir a progressive state devoid of violence and extremism, the government needs to focus on establishing
- The education system for the ~53% population under the age of 24
- Large scale Industries and businesses for employment opportunities for ~38% population in the age group from 25-59
- Excellent infrastructure (Power, Roads, Water, Sanity) to enable an increase in tourism
- Focus on world-class healthcare for residents by virtue of enabling residents/doctors from other states to practice with freedom
- Safety for all citizens
Education for the predominant younger demographic is the first step towards restoring the state’s status as a place for intellectual development. We have had some noted personalities come from the Kashmir valley who have contributed immensely towards nation-building. Top educational institutes with modern techniques and infrastructure should be set up across the state. We need Jammu and Kashmir, like any other state in the country, to be represented proudly in every way of our lives and play a pivotal role in nation-building.
At the same time, providing ample employment opportunities to the people in the valley will not only foster a sense of growth and progress but also keep the younger demographics from either leaving the state on the lookout for newer opportunities or worst; becoming entangled in the toxic environment of political and extremist gamesmanship. This state has long been used for political gains, and it is high time we as a nation, show a vision to uplift it and invest in it wholeheartedly. Large business houses should be encouraged to invest in the manufacturing and service sectors, so much so that people from other states should be encouraged to look at Jammu and Kashmir for brighter opportunities. The bitter reality of today’s world is that economic stability brings social stability. And no other state deserves this more than Jammu and Kashmir.
Forever as I can remember, we have witnessed Bollywood films of the past shot at exotic locations in Kashmir which were on par with exotic locations in the western world. Remember the song “ Kitni Khoobsoorat yeh tasvir hai….yeh Kashmir hai” from the film “Bemisaal” ? it talks about the immense beauty of Kashmir in poetic words. This natural beauty along with its warm people is the perfect setting for the growth of Tourism as an Industry. Up until the 1990s (when the insurgency began to rise), tourism had played a pivotal role in Kashmir’s economy and to some extent still does. However, younger generations of India have been devoid the opportunity to visit and enjoy this god’s own country. To change this mindset and reality, it is critical for all to push for excellent infrastructure development in this state. Roads, Airport connectivity, Railways, high-speed internet, consistent cellular services, hospitality sector, etc. needs tremendous investment so the people from across the world can witness and enjoy natures beauty that awaits them in this glorious state.
Being a remote state with its own challenges, it is vital that the people of Jammu and Kashmir can enjoy an excellent healthcare system. As the saying goes, health is wealth, establishing top medical institutes and facilities for affordable Medicare should be the goal in the coming decade. Remember, this is one of the poorest states in India and it becomes even more critical when you have more than 85% of the population below the age of 59. Large conglomerates who actively invest and set up facilities in developed states need to take the initiative and invest in Jammu and Kashmir to enable excellent healthcare infrastructure. And the Government needs to support such initiatives with full force.
But finally, it is all about the people of Jammu and Kashmir. It’s the people who matter eventually, and if they are valued, made at home (not implying we don’t already), are shown a bright vision for their state and directed towards a path of development and prosperity, then this crown on India’s map has the potential to contribute significantly to the development and growth of India. Kashmiri’s deserve our best attention as fellow countrymen, and it is the responsibility of all Governments over the next decade to make sure this is achieved with maximum vigor and steely determination.