Regional Imbalances in J&K
in the development of the three regions of the
state is not only one of the principal objectives of the present
government, which its every minister reiterates every now and then,
but also its compulsion. For the coalition partners represent
different regions. Their unity depends upon balancing regional
All the sixteen PDP
members of the assembly, which leads the government, for instance,
belong to the Kashmir valley while fifteen out of twenty members of
the Congress and all the four members of the Panthers Party belong
to Jammu. None of them has any presence in Ladakh, which is
represented by independents.
To ensure that
development in the three regions is not only equitable but also
appears to be so, the Coordinating Committee of the coalition
partners in the government has announced the appointment of a high
powered autonomous State Finance Commission.
Deputy Chief Minister
Mangat Ram Sharma announced that Commission would be headed by a
sitting Supreme Court judge, which would ensure equal development of
the three regions and would suggest the ways to remove past
imbalances. This announcement raises more questions than it answers.
First, is it possible
or desirable to insist one equal regional development in all fields?
The priorities may vary from region to region. And who is to decide
such priorities? Representatives of the people or an expert
expertise a judge can have on financial and developmental matters?
Will not an economist, or better still a political economist be far
more qualified? Third, what are the parameters to determine backlog
of development? Fourth, and more important, it is not only the level
of development that people aspire for. It is the urge for
empowerment and authority to decide pattern of development that
If despite generous
central aid, the people of Kashmir have remained alienated, mere
development may not satisfy the regional aspirations. More powers
for Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council for Leh and a similar
Council for Kargil district along with cabinet status for the
ministers of the two districts in the state government, for the
first time, may be considered as a realization of the basic
aspirations of the people.
decision too, was taken more under political compulsions rather than
a part of well-considered policy. For the threat of resignation by
the Chairman of the LAHDC and the then minister of state Rigizim
Zora and the crucial support of the Ladakh representatives in the
assembly forced the government to make the concessions it made.
of power has always been the bane of the politics of the state. In
that sense devolution of power to Leh and Kargil districts should be
welcome. But its fuller implications need to be studied. Firstly,
there is no provision in the Ladakh proposal for the empowerment of
the region; except for a coordination committee between two
autonomous districts without any power. A weakened regional identity
of Ladakh may undermine relations between Buddhist majority Leh and
Muslim majority Kargil and thus the secular character of the region.
Secondly, there is
found to be emulative demand for similar status in districts of
Jammu. Without recognition of regional identity of Jammu, the
cementing secularising bond between its three Muslim majority
districts and three Hindu majority districts will become very
tenuous. It may pose a threat to the unity and secular identity of
Jammu and hence of the state.
Weakening of regional
identities is no answer to the regional aspirations, which asserted
in the last elections. For they will be replaced by communal
identities, which pose a greater threat to the peace and harmony of
the state. Nor will that resolve the issue of equitable development
for which the Finance Commission has been proposed.
If the state
government insists on centralising all powers regarding development
pattern and financial allocations at all levels, it must work out
parameters for determining the level of development and its backlog.
Per capita income or the gross domestic products of a region or a
district are too outmoded measures of development. It has already
been replaced by what is called quality of life index evolved by the
United Nations Development Programme.
However, there need
not be a uniform of indicators to measure that index. Based on the
basic concept of the UNDP, I had worked out a formula for measuring
the level of development and backwardness of any region and
district, which is relevant for J&K state; in my report as head
of the Regional Autonomy Committee. It also takes into the account
the major issues on which political controversies in the state
Briefly, I have taken
the following indicators for determining the share of a region or a
district: 1) population; 2) area; 3) road mileage in proportion to
area; 4) share in government jobs as percentage of population in the
relevant age group; 5) average annual admission to the technical
institutions as percentage of population in the relevant age group;
6) female literacy; 7) infant mortality; 8) contribution to the
area, and item (8) will be positive criteria, the rest will be
negative. The relevant data of all these factors could be fed into a
computer, which would indicate the share of a region or a district.
This will, of course, eliminate any scope for subjective and
This formula may not
be the last word on the subject. But it can be a basis of a
discussion for evolving an objective and equitable formula for
allocation of the state funds and takes it out of political
pressures and controversies. Once the basis of funds allocation has
been decided, any commission or agency can work it out without
giving rise to a cause of grievance.