After the abrogation of article 370 and 35A, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said: “A system which denied due rights to our brothers and sisters of Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh; a system which was a huge hurdle in their development has now been eradicated.” The Jammu and Kashmir is a region which long had an identity of terrorist activities and conflict-prone zone and where amid all kind of talks on human rights and freedom, some very basic needs of the development remained neglected.
Some of the facts which came into the light about the status of development in Jammu and Kashmir region during the parliamentary discussion and debate on J&K reorganization act 2019, they revealed the lack of awareness about the real issues which the people of this state were facing, from decades. The temporary, transient and special provisions called article 370 and 35A, had deprived more than 1.5 crore people of Jammu & Kashmir of the basic socio-economic and political rights which rest of the country holds.
Some groups regularly conduct seminars cum intense discussions on human rights, women empowerment, minority and child rights issues in vibrant democracies and India is one of their preferred topics. From more than seven decades, the children, women, safai karamchari (hygiene workers), scheduled caste, scheduled tribes, regional communities and minorities of Jammu and Kashmir were deprived off from their basic rights of life and livelihood, they were forced to live in the 18th century conditions but their voices could not succeed in catching the attention of such discussions.
Insurgency and terrorism thrive in the absence of necessities and development. Since the advent of militancy in Jammu and Kashmir in 1990, more than 41,000 people have lost their lives. Some compulsive critics are raising their voices about the temporary difficulties related to telephone and internet communication which currently the people of the region are facing. But a state where hundreds of thousands of natives called Kashmiri Pandits were forced to flee from their homes; where women, children, employees, tribal and regional communities (Gujjars, Bakarwals, Gaddis, Sippies or Balties) were deprived of their most basic socioeconomic and political rights for decades; where poverty and joblessness was in peak, inconvenience caused by some temporary communication restrictions and security arrangements should not be seen as an issue of relevance.
At a time when the rest of the states in India are involved in a healthy competition for EODB ranking, smart cities, foreign investment, and digital infrastructure, and the government is working with the different state governments to globalize the potential of each district of the country. Some of the most beautiful parts of India Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh can no longer remain a dry zone for the investment and industries. Earlier instead of spending on the development, the government was forced to spending on the security of the region but now that is going to change! In the coming days, Jammu and Kashmir is going to host its first-ever global investor’s summit and preparations for that have already begun.
Driving a development-focused vision in one of the most turbulent and sensitive regions of India is not an easy task but PM Modi who often says: “the solution to every problem lies in development” has crafted a development centric roadmap for J&K and Ladakh, in 2014 itself. In August 2014, he visited Ladakh to lay the foundation stone of some power and connectivity-related projects.
Five years back, in his speech in Ladakh, PM Modi shared his vision about the upcoming and underway projects of solar energy, connectivity (road, rail, air, telecom and electric grid), organic farming, Kesar (saffron) revolution, enhancing pashmina production through technology, making the world-class centers of spiritual/eco and adventure tourism, and developing export capabilities for all domestic products of the region. Some crucial infrastructure development projects which PM Modi initiated in 2014, completed in just four and a half years, which reflects the speed, scale, and sensitivity in the approach of the government.
Narendra Modi, who before becoming Prime Minister worked for many years in J&K and Ladakh for the organizational activities of his party, is well aware of the difficulties as well as strength of the region. In his recent address to the nation, highlighting the unique trade and export potential of this region, PM Modi has said: “whether it is the color of Kesar or flavor of Kahwa or sweetness of apple or juiciness of apricot whether Kashmiri shawls or artifacts; organic products of Ladakh or herbal medicine of Jammu and Kashmir, all these need to be publicized in the whole of world.” He also called upon the people associated with industry, export and, food processing sector to ensure that local products of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh reach the whole world.
Development is one of the least interesting topics of our times. In vibrant democracies like India and Israel often people are not prepared to seriously consider the questions on all-round development and the future direction of the country. Sometimes economic problems raise the concerns and at other times social or political issues claim the attention. To some groups and communities, the subject of development is itself is not comfortable as its vocabulary challenges their very relevance.
India’s development roadmap is based on the philosophy of ‘Integral Humanism’ which emphasize the integrated approach of Indian culture for the progress of Man, Society, and Nation. Focus on development brings speed in the system. The Indian government has set an unprecedented pace with the starting of the new term. In the last 75 days of the new government, some of those landmark initiatives have been launched which previous administrations could not deliver in decades. The first parliament session of the new government became one the most productive sessions in the history of the Indian parliament, with the passing of a record 36 bills in a single session, including some historic bills such as Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization 2019 act, National Investigation Agency (Amendment) Bill and Triple Talaq bill.
We often measure the political cost of the decisions of a country’s leadership but there is a cost of development too, and today, only a few leaders in the world are willing to pay that cost. In a democracy, it takes enormous courage to put a growth-centric, time-based goal before the people. India’s $5 trillion economy target (by 2024) is one such aim. Setting the target of becoming a $5 trillion economy in the next five years, at a time when the global economic trends are showing some disturbing patterns, is a courageous decision but as PM Modi often says: “if we don’t accomplish difficult tasks, how will the country moved ahead?”
When a leader commits a goal he owes the responsibility of many known/unknown actors of the system, who will play a role in achieving that goal. He makes commitments on behalf of the hundreds of hidden people and the processes, after knowing full well that if they will not deliver, the questions will be raised to the leader, not the system!
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has an identity of a pioneering reformer in India and abroad. The impact of his development centric approach and the policy reforms/initiatives which he introduced in the last 63 months is visible in the changing global status of India. When it comes to working with states, PM Modi plays the role of an enabler and facilitator. His cooperative federalism and team India spirit made some of the most complex state-wise policy reforms a success. Modi government has a balanced roadmap for the country’s growth where its national ambitions and regional aspirations have a special place and the development of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh region is crucial for both the dimensions.
An unusual culture of appeasement politics which developed during the long Congress and UPA (United Progressive Alliance, a coalition of left and center-left political parties) rule was not compatible with the aspirations of New India and PM Modi has put an end to it.
Critics of development and professional pessimists are a part of our democratic societies and they have their own space too but a country cannot afford to lead its future roadmap in accordance with their assumptions. India’s experience of the last five years tells that to match with the pace of the 21st-century world, development should be the key driving factor.
The youth of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh have passion and strength to shape their future, and New India’s resolve to build New Jammu & Kashmir and New Ladakh is now stronger than ever before.