While the rest of India witnessed strong social and economic development post-independence, Jammu and Kashmir, a bone of contention between India and Pakistan lagged in terms of economic growth, employment, gender equality, literacy and many other indices. This lack of progress can be attributed to prevailing law and order situation in erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir. During the past two years, there has been change in trend and Kashmir is marching on the path of development. Various development measures have been taken by the incumbent government to bring prosperity and restore the glory and beauty of Kashmir. The common folklore might be aware about only Aarif Khan (represented India at the winter Olympics in Beijing), Sadia Tariq (winner of gold medal in Moscow Wushu Championship) and Umran Malik (sensational pace bowler in IPL) as they made the headlines of national and regional media. Apart from them, there has been a structural and progressive changes taking place in Kashmir which is bringing back the Kashmiriat in Kashmir. This land of unimaginable beauty is steadily progressing towards normalcy and more importantly the people of Kashmir are welcoming these changes.
The routine interaction with locals of Lolab in Kupuwara district which is part of my job indicates that law and order situation has significantly improved and Kashmir is on course of development. The Kashmiri youths are moving away from the clutches of Pakistan and its proxies. While interaction with the families of houses located in remotest corner of Surigam, I found their wards are pursuing higher education. Some of them have even gone to abroad. The children of that locality are filled with aspirations and even elders are trying to engage themselves gainfully to contribute towards the prosperity of their family which shows Kashmir’s holistic development. Even though the schools of my area of responsibility lack basic education facilities, they are filled with inquisitive children. The war of narrative propagated by Pakistan and its proxies are on waning phase. The narrative of “Azadi” is being redefined as “Azadi” from poverty, violence, nepotism, religious extremism and corruption. In totality there has been an overall decline in terror activities. There is almost a 33 percent drop in infiltration in 2021, 90 percent decrease in ceasefire violation, 61 percent decline in terrorism related incidents and almost 80 percent fall in abductions by terrorists. The above stated figures are manifestation of Kashmir’s slow and steady march to progress.
Kashmir is also witnessing unprecedented development through various schemes of government. J & K is one of the first UT to implement Union Health Insurance coverage. Till end of October 2021, 76% of families in UT have at least one Ayushman Golden Card. More than 16.2 lakh and 38.4 lakh Golden card have been issued to the beneficiaries under AB-PMJAY and AB-PMJAY SEHAT respectively.
In the field of IT, several procedures have been framed such as providing “subsidy on rent” to the outside investors, building two large size IT parks-one each in Jammu and Srinagar. Premier educational institutes like IITs and IIMs are already functional. Similarly, in the medical field, two All India Institutes of Medical Science, seven new medical colleges, five new nursing colleges and a State Cancer Institute are planned.
J&K government has received proposal worth 150 billion rupees from around 40 companies from different sectors. In February 2020, central government approved 60 billion rupees for a multi-purpose irrigation cum power project in J& K’s Kathua district. six agreements with global investors were signed in EXPO 2020 Dubai for investments in real estate, infrastructure, tourism and healthcare.
To give a boost to saffron farming in Kashmir valley, a new Saffron Park has been started just for the sole purpose of processing and promoting the sale of saffron from Kashmir valley.
Infrastructure development in Jammu and Kashmir got a big push after the abrogation of article 370. The execution of new roads, tunnels and other basic infrastructure has gained momentum to ensure overall development of J&K. According to tourism department of Jammu and Kashmir, 700,000 tourists have visited the valley in the past four months- the highest in the last ten years and with Amarnath Yatra (pilgrimage) starting in June, the government expects the numbers to grow further. Some suggestions which will make the development measures adopted by government more sustainable and bring the Kashmir at par with mainland India are enumerated as under.
Kashmiri youth must be exposed to a course in critical thinking. Kashmiris by nature are scholars. Their natural skills in the softer aspects of life such as art, literature and emotions are very subtle and refined. Government should come up with schemes which will propel common Kashmiris to engage in such soft skills and further make it as source of employment.
The geographical location of state makes it ideal for developing players for winter sports. Although, government schemes like “Khelo India” are providing platforms but it has not penetrated in entire Kashmir and a lot of raw talent are remaining unexplored.
The Eco-tourism of valley still remains unexploited which should be promoted by government. In schools, the curriculum of Kashmiriyat and nationalism must be incorporated.
There is need to ensure that governance with accountability is provided with maximum focus on the people’s need and development of union territory. There will be shortcomings and issues in the short run but over the long horizon both UTs will be benefited from the changes made. It may take some time to catch up with the rest of India but they are on the way of road to progress.