Attending to the Present for The Future

Representational Photo

The world now talks of development in terms of inclusiveness, comprehensiveness, cohesiveness and ethicality. The demographic (read ethnicity and gender), geographic (climatic conditions, location-specific health and economic activities) and institutional (social norms – habits, taboos and relationships) have been well studied. But there is one aspect which draws less attention in these studies, and presumably because the significance of this is automatically care of by the process of development. I am talking of the generational issues to be addressed by any development transition being experienced in any social context.

There are three issues to be kept in mind. First, the generational issues have to be addressed by both the process of development and the outcome of development; the process would take care of the participatory aspect while the outcome aspect would take care of the distributional dimension of the benefits.   Second, the generational issues are to be addressed during the particular period relevant to the generation concerned; it cannot be done retrospectively. Third, attending to the issues of a particular generation necessarily involves attending to the anticipated needs and aspirations by the present for the future. The desire of every generation is that the next one should be enabled to experience life in a qualitatively and quantitatively superior way to the prevailing present; this is what is generally called intergenerational mobility. This is as emphasised inter alia recent (2021) document titled Realising Inclusivity of the Dag Hammarskjold Foundation asserts: “Peace and development approaches are more likely to be sustained in the long term when they are locally owned and led. Local and national stakeholders understand the conflict dynamics, as well as the cultural practices and customs, of their communities better than any external actors and must therefore take the lead in addressing root causes of conflict. Civil society can often serve as a bridge builder between communities and decision makers, ensuring that discussions address issues of importance for various levels and groups in society.”

Whereas the discussions relating to the intergenerational issues in other social contexts have been just one of the issues and generally as a by-product of the other debates concerning development, we cannot afford to be so in the case of the Kashmir region. In this case, we have the experience behind us of Seven Lost Decades which means that at least three generations have by and large missed the opportunity to work for their own happiness as well as create a foundation for happiness for the generations that would follow. Here I would like to hasten to add that opportunity is not a simple concept. The social inequality of income has a lot to do with the opportunity scenario in any society; has there been equality of opportunity or otherwise. In the case of the Kashmir experience, the opportunity itself has been derailed and suppressed; the question of equalization of opportunity never arose. The social consequences of this have been (a) the income inequality scenario got further beating; (b) the potential positive benefits of social sector interventions could not be harnessed; and (c) the comparative socio-economic scenario got weakened. This is a scenario much more generalized than the requirement for a Green Transition I have been emphasizing in the in the Kashmir context. The implications are huge if we superimpose the global direction and speed in technological advancement during the seven decades and the diversifying demands from the labour force.

To facilitate our discussion of the intergenerational and opportunity issues, let us just try to interpret what do we mean by an opportunity. The economists usually define an opportunity as the presence of an atmosphere to undertake an economic activity without suppression and violence. Further, “economic activity refers to private efforts by individuals or groups which make productive use of their abilities and resources, and thereby exploit gains from specialisation and trade. This includes economic activities of households, micro-entrepreneurs, owners of small and medium-sized businesses or members of other corporate or cooperative bodies. Private economic activity can, for instance, included engagement in subsistence farming, manufacturing or long-distance trade. In the context of low-income countries, economic activity…encompasses the largest part of their domestic private sector activity and represents areas with the greatest potential for employment creation and poverty alleviation.” While adopting this understanding, we are necessarily assuming the presence of pro-active governance and presence of social cohesion.

Now we have four understandings before us. First, there have been missed decades in the Kashmir region during which the generations of each period could not attend to their advancement needs. Second, this first atmosphere curtailed the scope for creation for intergenerational mobility. Third, consequent upon this the opportunity for engagement for enhanced well-being was lost for generations. In other words, scope for engagement in economic activity was curtailed. Fourth, all these have worsened the within and without income inequality scenario in the region.

While ameliorating the conditions as reflected in these lessons from the experiences of the last seven decades, we must underline the significance of the governance founded on cooperative federalism in the particular context of the Kashmir region. The government should invariably focus on how to enable and engage the present youths to enhance their technological skills and capability to engage in economic activities. This calls for attention to examine on what needs to be done in the Education Sector, reorient the process for participation in the various national schemes attending to generating income challenges. We have to see to it that for the youths the transition from (i) non-education to education, and (ii) education to the labour market are smoothened as much as possible. We already have a very successful Pradhanmantri Social Service Scheme (PMSS) as the model for framing and implementing a participatory scheme for youths. Now the challenge is for the generalisation of the principle and implementation of this scheme. While generalising the inclusiveness principles in the case of other economic participation schemes like those of the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, let us also remember attending to the gender dimension for deeper assurance of social cohesion and transformation.