“Poverty is Time Consuming”

J&K’s paralytic life of economic humiliation



While browsing through a special edition of a lifestyle magazine, a quote stared at me with a familiarity of the sort that strikes you when you find words that puts certain realities into perspective. “Poverty is time consuming”. We live in a State whose basic operations and functions are financed by alms and doles. Tragically a State that has no dearth of diligent people and natural wealth-generating resources. The romanticism of political and social ideologies and the allure of rigidity have summarily tided over the fact that we are broke and have been so for a long time now. In the gimmicks of economists and in the stentorian rhetoric of politicians, we have become a passive derivative of both the lies that have been fed to us and those that we regurgitate within our own lives to speak of a pride that once was.
While Indian and Pakistani cities have transformed into booming centers of economic and infrastructural activity in the last two decades, the State of Jammu & Kashmir has suffered enormously at the hands of self-seeking politicians who have sold our stakes in our own future and tragically that of our children. While the political turmoil broke the limbs of our State throwing its economy out of gear, successive State governments inherited and passed on a systemic and structural camouflaged subservience that has transformed our very lives and dreams from those of progress to that of survival and sustenance.
 Most of our government schools are in shambles. Our hospitals are scary caricatures of a health system that has been deliberately neglected over the years. While a fringe minority amongst us can afford the hypocritical luxury of espousing foreign abodes for themselves and their children while rallying around the flags of political idealism, an overwhelming majority of our people live lives of deprivation, humiliation and suppression. Not much has changed since 1947 in J&K. In some ways, it now seems that the Dogra Maharajas were relatively more responsible than their “democratic” replacements. And that is a very painful statement to make.
Our poverty is time-consuming too. Perhaps not for most of us who claim to represent the pain and suffering of our people but certainly to those who are in pain. Our poverty as a State has delayed the dreams of our children. It has kept us lurching around in the 1950s. We live in a time-warp of a pre-liberalization India where a lone “fly-over” is perhaps the only tangible “achievement” of a government that promised the moon. Between our traditional political parties, the inheritance and passing on of duties and aspirations has become a never-ending circle of illusions. While our leaders speak valiantly about Change and introspection in rallies, one cannot help but remember how the same lines have been used on the same stages since 1947. Nothing has changed. We in ways more than one got left behind in the dark cellars of a colonial India.
It is very important to realize and acknowledge that a State as poor as ours, a system as financially deprived and dependent as ours cannot hold the promise of Change. In the light of the political sentiment, it wouldn’t be far-fetched to state that the resolution of our political issue has perhaps also been delayed due to our state of economic destitution. Our bargaining power in seeking institutional autonomy has considerably diminished post-1947. Our leverage to ask for our rights has lost steam in a high-stakes game that has enveloped the subcontinent for decades now. And there are enormous costs to bear. And the most incapacitating cost is the loss of pride we have in our identity. In a fast globalizing world where our children will inevitably grow and work around their counterparts from other parts of the country, that absence of pride threatens to be a torment for our next generation. And they have (not Delhi or Islamabad) but their own leaders to blame for that impending suffocation and humiliation.
Both India and Pakistan, as States do – will move on towards reconciliation, co-existence and inter-dependence for their best mutual interests. Neither India, nor Pakistan will shelve its own strategic and economic interests for Kashmir. And the sooner that reality dawns on us, the better. Our biggest suppresser today is our poverty. It has robbed us of a say in charting out our own future. It has robbed our society of normality and our children of opportunities. And it’s now time to wake-up, shake our conscience as a nation and fend for ourselves – both politically and economically. It’s time to look around.

(Junaid Azim Mattu is the Srinagar Head of J&K Peoples’ Conference. Views are personal.)   

Lastupdate on : Fri, 25 Jan 2013 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Fri, 25 Jan 2013 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sat, 26 Jan 2013 00:00:00 IST

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