“Of the Rs 80,000 crore PM’s package, Rs 19,000 crore have already been released for Jammu and Kashmir.” This was the assertion when last time people were told about it. So the ordinary people here were bombarded with huge financial figures. A standard catch-line accompanying these whooping sums they were told that the money is and will be used for their betterment, progress and development. Although there is nothing unique about such pronouncements, however, what is new is the increased resonance of financial matters in the popular domain. With governments ever-busy in complimenting and praising each-other — state eulogizing centre’s “generosity” and latter showering admiration on the former for its vigour and “reformative measures”, common people are certainly hard-pressed to comprehend if there is actually anything worth praise in whatever the governments have done here thus far. Indeed there can’t be a bigger challenge to an ordinary Kashmiri’s imagination and creativity than finding and locating the areas where these visibly mammoth sums have been invested to bring about any “betterment in the life situations of common people”.
Money has been, and is no doubt being invested, but its benefits are confined to a limited coterie of people who plan, sanction and execute various projects, more on the paper and less on the ground. For a place which is continuously refusing to budge from being one of the most corrupt states, no amount of politically loaded financial rhetoric is going to bring about any change unless and until something is done to stop the pilferage of public funds. This obviously needs a massive political will, which won’t be there unless the top echelons of politics and administration itself are willing to be corruption-free.
Talking peace through economic development is OK and it makes a lot of sense, at least in theory. Developmental economists say that political freedoms without concomitant economic freedoms are meaningless. Certainly one could cite countless examples to substantiate the point, biggest, for instance, being the Maoists’ challenge within India. Although tribal people, at least on the paper, enjoy all political freedoms as guaranteed by the Indian Constitution to any other citizen of the country, but still they are up in arms against the state. Why? The major reason being state’s failure in ensuring other freedoms — that go beyond the political realm — to its tribal and poor populations. While the country has been progressing, the fruits of this progress have not reached all, and certainly not to the poor. Instead the windfall of power and wealth has remained confined only to a minuscule minority of the ‘bold and the beautiful’ – corporate giants, big businesses and political and bureaucratic elite.
In a country of almost billion-and-a-half people, the gap between the rich and the poor, elite and ordinary is increasing with each passing day. Constitutionally speaking, the President of India has same rights as an ordinary tribal from Kalahandi in Orrisa or some remote tribal hamlet in Chattisgarh has, but practically speaking, they are certainly not the equals. Economic freedoms enjoyed by the rich empower them to cherish and benefit from the political freedoms. Take away economic freedoms, as is the case with the poor, political freedoms become meaningless and situation rife and inviting for conflict.
If Jammu and Kashmir has been facing trouble, there must be and certainly reasons for it that go beyond the politics. Although no one is or could discount the political reasons for the constant turmoil here, but looking at the trouble here purely as a manifestation of politics only is fraught with dangers of overlooking other causal factors including those related to the economics. This is an area that needs some attention and not just political speeches which boast of huge financial figures only.