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Kashmir: Faulty Economics’ Talk

By Raouf Rasool

25 March, 2013

It has been quite a while now that New Delhi has been making very vocal assertions about bringing peace in Kashmir through economic progress and development. Although it is debatable whether the so-called ‘economic development’ alone could bring about peace to Valley, however, as of now, even on the economic front not much has been done to realize ‘the goal’. Although a lot of money has presumably been, and is being pumped in, but one wonders if this investment is going to yield the desired results. Owing to highly institutionalized corruption both at the political as well as at bureaucratic levels, not only is there a lot of pilferage of developmental funds, bulk of which actually come here as loans, the policies in place for execution of developmental plans too are faulty and disjointed. Despite India being home to some of the great brains in the world of economics, one wonders if at all any economic thinking is there behind the policies and programmes of the government here. Had it been so there would certainly have been some visible changes in the situation on the ground. But unfortunately nothing of the sort seems to be happening and this is easily discernible everywhere!

As the available evidence suggests, Jammu and Kashmir must figure very low on the Country Policy and Institutional Assessment (CPIA) average, a scale developed by the World Bank for quantifying countries’ policy through four major indicators -- economic management, structural (economic) policies, social inclusion and governance. None of these four areas is working satisfactorily here and it doesn’t require one to move beyond simple common sense to comprehend and attest this. Jammu and Kashmir is poorly managed economy with all the major lacunae rooted right into its very basic structures. If there is huge gap between the rich and the poor, powerful and the weak, it is primarily because of the structural problems in the system which has not been able to ensure equitable distribution of the resources of power and wealth. A very little minority of people – the political, economic and bureaucratic elite – have, over the years, evolved a mechanism which ensures that they remain the sole recipients of all benefits. A cursory look at the state’s who-is-who will easily substantiate this.

On the governance front too, the situation is far from being pleasing. Indeed this is why few years back a full-fledged Working Group was commissioned on the recommendations of the Prime Minister too look at the governance issue through the prism of State-Centre relations. Other Working Groups created by the PM also converged on the matters of governance. However, despite some very valuable recommendations put forth by these working groups, nothing has been implemented on the ground. Instead the way the New Delhi has dealt with these working groups have lend credence to the belief that Centre is only interested in buying time in Kashmir and it has no long- or short-term policy for seeing this state out of the political and economic mess.

Now looking at the major indicators, CPIA could not be satisfactory here; it will certainly be dangerously low. Right now it should have been somewhere near 2.4 to 3.00 -- 3.00 points is just the developing country average while 2.41 is the average starting point in the post-conflict situations. However, nobody seems to have bothered to do indexing of vital indicators of the state policy on this scale. Even if one could presume that state’s CPIA is between 2.4 and 3.0, the conclusion is that ‘much more is wrong with the state’s policy’. The ramifications of a still lower score, which is what it is likely to be here, is what people are braving day in and day out. Corruption is rampant, inefficiency galore, there is general lack of accountability and popular culture in terms of service to people too is in shambles. Capping it all is the fact that the gap between the rich and the poor, powerful and the weak, instead of shrinking is increasing with each passing day. May God bless this land and its people!

(Raouf Rasool is an editor with Kashmir Images)





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