Though Jammu and Kashmir will be a single administrative unit, a distinct approach to enhance the infrastructure, social protection, livelihood enhancement will be needed for its various parts.
By Aruna Sharma
The transformation of the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories is an opportunity that could benefit all the people. Kashmir has 54% of the population of the state with 15.7% of the area, while Jammu is home to 42.9% of the population with 25.9% of the area. The Ladakh region has 2.8% of J&K’s population with 58.4% of the total area. The government of India repealed the special status accorded to the state of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Indian constitution on August 5, 2019. The Parliament of India also passed the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act that divided the state into two Union territories – Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh. The new Union territories will come into existence on October 31, 2019.
The main challenge before the government is to make a difference in the life of each citizen of the state. Though Jammu and Kashmir will be a single administrative unit, a distinct approach to enhance the infrastructure, social protection, livelihood enhancement will be needed for its various parts. This distinct, but entwined four-stair approach for prosperity must be inclusive with no one left behind in the road to Samrudhi or prosperity. The four-step plan presented here will yield results in six months and will put in place systems that will continue to grow creating wealth, knowledge and better monitoring of each household.
The first step of the four-step approach is to ensure quality infrastructure. This includes access by road, a financial institution within 5km radius – with all financial products of saving, credit, deposits, financial literacy, access to water, sanitation, housing and healthcare.
The second step is social protection. The main elements are direct benefit transfer of entitlements, the common household database used by the departments so that one can have a horizontal linkage of all benefits, This can be done by using the SMAGRA model already executed in 8 states.
The third step is to enhance existing livelihood and create new livelihood opportunities. Kashmir is known for sericulture, cold water fisheries, woodwork, cricket bats, saffron, handicrafts, and horticulture produce. The need is to establish producer companies, allow them to expand and handhold them to enable storage, quality control, sorting and packaging. Besides tourism, Kashmir can also be a hub for school education.
Jammu with enhanced rail and road connectivity can be a business centre for wood grain work, mills, basmati rice trade, rice mills, carpets, electronic items and electric goods. These clean industries can give a boost to the region’s economy. It also has mineral deposits that need to be extracted by using environment-friendly techniques.
The Ladakh region’s economy is farm-based with agriculture and livestock activities. Enhanced irrigation facilities and horticulture will give a boost to the economy. The grasslands and fodder is another linked activity. The cash crop balance will raise the income levels of farmers by improving productivity.
The fourth step is the role of the community. The community should be given a role in peacekeeping, identifying the anti-social or foreign elements in their villages, ensuring girl education and preventing radicalisation. A mother will not tolerate her children being slapped by an outsider but will punish them herself without any remorse, and that is the strategy that will bring a long-lasting transformation of the valley. The first three steps will bring in added value to the households while the last step will ensure their active participation to bring in change and, this could be the real game-changer for Jammu and Kashmir.
(The author is Former Steel Secretary, India. The views expressed are the author’s own)