The economics of it

Arshid Malik

“Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brain of the living.” ― Karl Marx, The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte K. That is the status of the Kashmir conflict; it has shrunk to a single lettered acronym of sorts. Like the an undercover agent in conspiracy movies, K is the subject of intrigue and debate yet its sometimes there and just when it is there it is nowhere, more like a moss-coloured butterfly which open its wings before it closes them. While actually Kashmir is “a dangling political dispute between India and Pakistan” but it has somehow gained its own peculiar characteristics and credence which render it controversially untenable and thus it bears likeness to an indulgent regurgitating phenomenon which envelopes all forms of existence and thereof mechanisms of sustenance of existence in Kashmir. This phenomenon has, seemingly, kept the psyche of the Kashmiri people captive to an extent that the “captivity” in itself sounds mythological. This “model” of “captivity” often eludes common observational parameters. The point at which this “model” turns frightening is when it encounters the economic situation in Kashmir. The very metamorphosis of the political debacle into an indulgent regurgitating phenomenon has led to the numbing of economic-sensitivities of the Kashmiri people, be it the street-hawker, the banker or the local policy intervener. As a result, the economy of Kashmir is found wobbling over a crooked path, with all probable chances of an eventual collapse. While the “overall situation” (to use the local political parlance) has witnessed a marked improvement, the morbid ground realities have not changed much. What the Valley gets as far as redress goes, arrives more in the shape of political rhetoric aimed at securing vote banks and the little that does take place in actuality is unplanned and without any futuristic involvements.

Kashmir has the capability of maintaining a balance of economic forces, given the potentials of all sectors that may eventually contribute to the overall development of the society are exploited fully. That is something which is just not happening. Though the tourist industry sector, which is the backbone of the economy of Kashmir, has witnessed a major improvement but it has not been improved to deliver the best. Innovation is the missing clue here. The agencies which are engaged in development of the sector are mainly government departments which confidently lack on surmising the potential of the tourism sector in Kashmir. For instance a pivotal point of Kashmiri tourism sector that is heritage-orientated is totally missing. Moreover, the development of existing infrastructure at major tourist spots in Kashmir by the administration is not doing getting is much ahead in the race as the rarity of the naturals of Kashmir is getting ignored, the rarity that is so blissfully virgin and unexplored. Apart from the rafting and all, we are not providing much to match the adrenaline rush of tourists. Lacing the streets of Srinagar city with oriental-style lampposts do not get us anywhere; neither do the half-hearted attempts at cleaning the water-bodies of Kashmir by installing far-too-vivid ventilation systems that seemingly attract awe when they send water gushing upwards and look like fountains. What we need here is a major change in attitude, at the people as well as the administrative level – a change that bespeaks a collective ideal of cohesive and intelligent agenda for progress and development.

Other sectors that have been potential contributors to the economy in Kashmir as for instance the handicrafts and the horticulture sectors are no better off and have received what I would call plastic implants. The implants include very minor incidences like setting up government-run sales counters which receive very little or no tourist footfall as the people running the show here are obscurely aware of what marketing is all about. By organizing buyer-seller meets and offering kiosks to local manufacturers in trade fairs organized across the globe at exorbitant rates we cannot ensure the survival, let alone the growth of these potential sectors. Recent recorded history of Kashmir tells us that the handicrafts and the horticulture sectors in Kashmir, which behold traditional moorings and significant sociological and eco-strategic value, were the hitherto support structures of the economy of the Valley.

Speaking of the hackneyed parlance of “improvement in the overall situation” this improvement has not poured down to the economy of Kashmir. The “improvement” is factually a handful of stats concerning the “actual number of militants active on the ground” in Kashmir and has the least to do with economy of the valley. So, if anyone from outside Kashmir is actuating ideation on the basis of such political rhetoric, he/she is least getting the picture.

Again, the catch-phrase here is innovation and diversification in the absence of which the economy of Kashmir would land in a rut very soon. Strategists and analysts have observed that states and countries so to say economies which are solely dependent on a closed-circuit economic base, often risk the danger of economic downfalls, more so in the case of those economies that are dependent on a limited set of resources. In the light of this observation, there is great need here in Kashmir to first understand, explore and most importantly define the indulgent regurgitating phenomenon that the conflict has turned into and then juxtapose the subsequent economy with it to arrive at all possible polices for a holistic development of a model economy for Kashmir by restructuring and reorienting the administrational façade of the Valley to suit the needs of this deeply wounded and scarred economy and eventuate a positive collective rationale among the citizenry.

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