When tomorrow dies
It is not about Kishenganga Project alone
ARJIMAND HUSSAIN TALIB
In response to last week’s column, a gentleman from New Delhi in an e-mail to me wrote that the arguments against Kishenganga Project were ‘lunacy.’ Tomorrow never dies, he wrote, adding that my views were ‘alarmist, anti-progress and reflective of trivial sentimentalism.’
He also wrote what we too commonly hear from India’s officials, media and intelligentsia – ‘J&K lives on Indian taxpayers’ money, so we have to take the bill.’ In other words, we must part with our water resources to be ‘fed’ constantly!
For the people of J&K, it is time for a pause. For an analysis of their circumstances. And, finally, for making a choice. One choice is living with the status quo, which leads to a likely disaster, one or two decades down the line. Another choice is to introspect, and ensuring we leave for our children what we had today. Let us analyse the two choices.
The status quo means J&K’s government system will remain impoverished. People will remain ever-dependent on the state – for jobs, for water, for electricity, for just almost everything.
We will produce people with plenty of degrees every year, yet we will have no institutions, no resources to make them resourceful. We will remain busy in a life-long struggle to ‘adjust’ and ‘absorb’ them, like liabilities, in work places, which will grow tighter. We will not be able to innovate. The dream of creating a knowledge-society – where people are assets, and create wealth by knowledge - may be lost.
Without decent electricity, we will continue to live a life of darkness. People will breed psychological distress. Aggression. Pessimism. Education of children will suffer. Dynamism of our work places and good work culture will remain mirages. We will produce little, and continue to romanticise our ad hoc life. Our public healthcare facilities will remain horribly inadequate. People will die of preventable deaths. Our other public services like roads, transportation, etc. will remain dismally poor. All this because we will have no real resources to make good governance and productive jobs-to-all possible.
Fragmentation of rural farms will make them increasingly unviable. The end result will be a convergence of rural and urban young educated classes into frenzy of survival struggle. That frenzy may take us anywhere. I mean anywhere.
Kishenganga Hydroelectric Project and the oil and gas drilling in Kashmir’s Karewas are symbolic of a larger disease which needs attention right today. The logic is simple: if we don’t have control over and own our precious natural resources we can’t feed our people. From a fairly self sufficient state in 1947, today J&K is able to cover barely 25 per cent of its total expenditure. J&K’s ratio of total expenditure to gross state domestic product (GSDP) hovers around 50 per cent. It is more than double the all-state average of 20.2 per cent in India.
And see the contrast. Uttar Pradesh’s chief minister, Mayawati, on the eve of her 53rd birthday, on Friday, launched social security schemes in her state costing Rs 7312 crore. All this money would come from U.P’s own resources. Can we remember, in our living memory, our state having launched any developmental or welfare scheme from its own money?
There are states in India today which pay their employees’ salaries from their own pocket. There are states which provide social services and develop infrastructure on their own. And J&K is today dependent on a ‘central financial package’ for building even a hospital!
Today J&K’s entire state plan as well as a substantial portion of its non-plan expenditure is virtually financed by the government of India.
During the last one year or so I have had the humble experience of understanding such situations in several countries in Asia and Africa. What frightens me is the rate of depletion of natural resources and the human competition to secure the control of the remaining resources almost everywhere. From China to Africa, the story is the same. J&K’s population growth and the rate of depletion of its natural resources are a cause of deep worry. Our competitiveness in this global struggle is bleak.
The trouble is that we are already economically, educationally and intellectually handicapped due to the closure of our natural land linkages with outside world. The resources that we have must sustain our future generations. As six major power projects on our rivers have landed in New Delhi’s hands we are left with very little to generate wealth.
Looking at all this foreseeing the future of a million unemployed youth a decade down the line is difficult. The total number of people who have registered themselves as ‘unemployed’ has already reached 5.5 lakh mark. As climate change is poised to wreck havoc with our food and fruit growing lands, what will happen to the rural economy? What about the urban youth who today are greatly distressed and disoriented?
From 26.29 per cent in 2007-08, the contribution of primary sector, mainly comprising agriculture and allied activities to the Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) has declined to 25.82 per cent in 2008-09. Likewise, the contribution of secondary sector mainly involving industries and allied manufacturing has come down from 27.20 per cent in 2007-08 to 25.82 per cent in 2008-09. That means our two main growth engines are declining, giving way to volatile services.
In the debate on J&K’s water resources, the issue of carbon credits is treated like a non-issue. Who owns and sells J&K’s carbon credits? The NHPC now regularly sells the carbon credits it earns from J&K’s power houses in the international market, earning crores of rupees. And how on this earth are our governments silent?
The movement for saving Niyamgiri hills in Orrisa from London-based multinational mining giant – Vedanta – won global support. NGOs and activists throughout India took up the Niyamgiri tribals’ cause as their own. Internationally, scores of NGOs lobbied. The Church of England intervened on behalf of the affected people. When it comes to Kashmir, and its genuine causes, the sad irony is that India’s NGOs and rights activists just disappear. We have no friends to save Gurez valley, the flora and fauna of the mountains or our Karewas. We have no friends to win rights over our resources. These are Kashmiris’ own struggles, which they must wage on their own. Otherwise tomorrow may just die for our children.
(Feedback at Arjimand@greaterkashmir.com)
Lastupdate on : Sat, 16 Jan 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sat, 16 Jan 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sun, 17 Jan 2010 00:00:00 IST
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