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Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 11, New Delhi February 29, 2020

J&K could have been a Model of Development for Rest of India

Sunday 1 March 2020

by Sandeep Pandey and Rajendran Narayanan

After being detained illegally at their respective residences for six months now the Public Safety Act has been invoked against Omar Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti and even Shah Faesal, in order to continue their detention. Omar Abdullah has been accused for his capacity to influence people to the extent that they came out to vote in large numbers even during the peak of militancy and poll boycotts, which has been so far considered an asset from the Government of India’s perspective. The ability of the Bharatiya Janata Party Government to turn an argument on its head is assuming a ludicrous dimension. A politician is considered successful only if s(he) can influence voters. Narendra Modi would be considered the most guilty today if this were a criterion to judge a politician’s nuisance value. Mehbooba Mufti has been described as a scheming person known for dangerous and insidious machinations and usurping nature. She has also been accused of making provocative statements that lead to incitement of violence and having invoked religion to create a divide. Most BJP and RSS leaders would be guilty of exactly the same charges as success of their politics is based on spreading hatred towards Muslims and encouraging violence against Muslims, Dalits and anybody who is critical of their ideology.

Earlier when Dr Farooq Abdullah, Omar and Mehbooba were detained in August, the reason given by Amit Shah was that the three families have looted Jammu and Kashmir, as if there had been no other corrupt Chief Ministers in the country. Several former Chief Ministers have gone to jail in the past and some are presently in jail for indulging in corruption. At least no corruption charges have been brought against the above mentioned two J&K families; yet, let alone having proved them. Omar Abdullah has seved as a Union Minister of state in the Atal Behari Vajpayee’s government and the Bharatiya Janata Party was in alliance not until long ago with Mehbooba Mufti’s party. How have these J&K leaders suddenly become pariahs?

If the J&K leaders were the villains that the government would now like us to believe then we should expect a sorry state of affairs from the point of view of governance in J&K. During the protests after abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A from J&K, famous economist Jean Dreze was seen standing at Jantar Mantar with a placard which pointed out that some of the human development indices of J&K are even better than those of Gujarat. The sordid state of homelessness, slum dwelling and inhuman living conditions that rest of India has become immune to, is visibly absent in J&K. Land reforms was initiated by Sheikh Abdullah, the first executive head of J&K after its accession to India, to ensure that every family had a minimum of 12.5 acres of land. The basic necessities of food, clothing and housing are taken care of. Nobody lives in kuchcha houses or slums. There are no starvation deaths in J&K, neither do farmers commit suicide. In the J&K Bank, the government stood as guarantor. The daily wage rate is among the highest in India, so much so that J&K was known as the Dubai of India.

According to data from the last decade, the poverty rate in J&K of 9.4 per cent was the lowest among all Indian States. The proportion of population falling in India’s lowest wealth quintile 1.2 per cent was least after Kerala which had only one per cent population in this category. Life expectancy for males at 69.2 years was the second best after Kerala and for females at 71.1 years was fifth best after Kerala, Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra and Punjab. At 68.1 per cent, the female population, aged 15-19 years who had completed eight years of schooling, is behind only to Kerala, Himachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra. At 85.7 per cent female and 89.7 per cent male children, aged 6-14 years, who were then enrolled in school, J&K was only behind Kerala, Himachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Uttarakhand. Estimated ratio of female to male death rate in age-group 1-4 years 0.58 was the least in the country. At 25.6 per cent, J&K was the second best in the country after Kerala in terms of proportion of children below the age of five years who are undernourished on the criterion of weight for age. Proportion of children, aged 12-23 months, who are fully immunised, 66.7 per cent, in J&K ranks fourth in the country. In proportion of villages with government health facility, J&K with 62.2 per cent villages was behind only Kerala and Odisha. In proportion of households with electricity J&K with 93.2 per cent households was behind only Himachal Pradesh and Punjab. In proportion of households with toilets J&K is within the top eleven States. The rural male average daily wage rate for casual labourers aged 15-59 years is second highest in the country after Kerala and the corresponding female wage rate is the highest in the country. For the urban area male wage rate for J&K is the fifth highest and the corresponding female wage rate is the second highest in the country. After Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, J&K has the least suicide rate in the country.

Considering that J&K has been a troubled State with no stable and strong government with widespread people’s support, the sitution regarding human development indices, general well-being of the people and physical infrastructure compares quite favourably with some of the best States in India. Obviously this did not happen in vacuum. The leaders of the State must have pursued pro-people policies which have maintained J&K’s position among the most well-doing States. This exposes the lie propagated by BJP leaders led by the Prime Minister and Home Minister themselves that J&K was a backward State and its so-called inegration with India by its 5th August, 2019 decisions will now open new opportunities for its development. The fact of the matter is that the rest of India needs to learn from J&K how it has implemented land reforms and how it has been able to tackle poverty.

Sandeep is with Socialist Party (India) and Rajendran teaches at Azmi Premji Univeristy. The data used in the article is taken from the book An Uncertain Glory: India and its Contradictions by Jean Dreze and Amartya Sen.

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