T h e

K a s h m i r

T  e  l  e  g  r  a  p  h

Vol I Issue X

A Kashmir Bachao Andolan Publication

February 2003

I N S I D E


 

Spotlight 

Romeet K WATT

 

Comment     

Balraj Puri

 

Column     

Sunita Vakil                          

View Point      

Romeet K WATT

 

On Track     

Romeet K Watt 

                  

Opinion

Sushil Vakil

 

Analysis

Sawraj Singh

 

State Craft

Romeet K WATT

 

Perspective

T R Jawahar

 

Last Word

Sunita Vakil 

 

                            


 

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C O M M E N T

Removing Regional Imbalances in J&K

Balraj Puri


Removing imbalances 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 interests.

 

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 commission?

 

Second, what 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 matters.

 

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.

 

Although, this 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.

 

Over centralisation 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 revolve.

 

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 state exchequer.

 

While population, 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 arbitrary considerations.

 

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.

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