Economics has historically been associated with money and quantity. As such, even though a pragmatic science, as it has evolved, economic gurus have always had a knack for prioritizing material needs of humankind over the equally pressing emotional and psychological needs. Ironically talking of the factors motivating economic growth, which usually entails the use of elaborate equations and complex graphs, the entire exercise is relegated to suggesting means of sustaining economic progress with public welfare as an end in itself. However, in this exercise no or very little heed is paid to the intricate interdependence of various human needs and related causal factors which then become major stumbling blocks in the way of securing the general welfare of the population. Understandably then, most of what is written about economic problems and development fails to strike a humanistic chord.
It is here in this uncanny world of hard-fact and thick-skinned economic terms, theories, concepts and policies that economists like Amartya Sen come in with a new brand of softer, gentler, humane and wise economics emphasizing the importance of social by placing the well-being of humans at center-stage of economic policy so that it is seen as both the goal and the means for development, not simply a side-effect. By linking the economic progress and development with the political freedoms enjoyed by the people, this brand of economics suggests that political freedoms are and truly so, subservient to the economic well-being of the population. Indeed the very concept that freedom promotes development is a pleasant depart from the conventional wisdom that prioritizes economic growth over political enfranchisement.
Development should be seen as a process of expanding freedoms. “If freedom is what development advances, then there is a major argument for concentrating on that overarching objective, rather than on some particular means, or some chosen list of instruments”. To achieve development, therefore requires the removal of poverty, tyranny, lack of economic opportunities, social deprivation, neglect of public services, and the machinery of repression. Unfortunately even when the freedom has been much-publicized slogan in Kashmir during the past couple of decades, not even those selling their political merchandize in its wraps have ever bothered to talk about poverty, social and economic opportunities or the issues of public services and utilities. Instead everything has been made secondary to the politics so much so that even the economic hardships of the day-to-day life fail to evoke a stir anywhere. Unfortunately here again, both separatists as well as mainstream politicians cut a very sorry figure as neither has displayed any understanding of and sincerity toward peoples welfare. Understandably, freedom has been relegated to a hollow slogan meant for political rhetoric only.
When mainstream political leaders talk about freedom, with it they mean their own political and economic enfranchisement and that of their kith and kin. They have never ever been concerned about the political or economic freedom of the common masses, perhaps for the sheer fear of their own freedoms getting curbed in case of ordinary mortals enjoying the spirit of freedom. Similarly when separatists talk of freedom, they end up confining the word within a very narrow ambit of political meaning. Their minds have been programmed to look at freedom like that. And, they are yet to evolve with the courage and acumen to think about widening their mental horizons so as to be able to look at freedom beyond the pair of quotes their mindsets have been bracketed into. Obviously in such a situation, poor freedom remains a highly abused term – much like the people of Kashmir who have been abused with it and its subjective meanings.