SOPORE: A way forward

Sopore town has had been faced with some intractable impediments and, as per the ground realities, doesn’t seem to have got its due particularly on the developmental front for multiple reasons. The steadfastness displayed by the people of the town to sail through but remains exemplary.

It would, however, be unfair to forget the contribution of some families towards the economic aspects of the town, and its surroundings, as a whole, particularly during times of scarce resources. Interestingly most of them either were without any formal educational background or had undergone only lower levels of formal education. However, their wisdom and enterprising characteristics offset these handicaps besides their achievements continue to remain inspiring. They used to be major employers, particularly for underprivileged, in absence of job opportunities. Good number of children of their employees as a result made a mark in different fields subsequently.

On the contrary the contribution of individual professionals/senior government functionaries, if any, seems to pale before that of the former. This is axiomatic for the reasons that either these individuals migrated from the town due to multiple commitments, and preferences,s purred during last three decades, or are/were constrained by the limited mandate/official templates. Moreover, their contributions, if any, do not necessarily get widely percolated. Also the majority of people in our part of world are not fortunate enough to be part of this folk. The routine yearly entry of students in professional institutions or to senior administrative positions may seem reassuring, as for as individual achievements are concerned, but evidently has a limited/negligible scope of assistance to the general economic upliftment.

Under these circumstances ‘business’ seems to be the major viable economic support with its extended & wider impact. One of the major features of the economic development of a country, or a smaller area, is its potential to produce/manufacture products(GDP) attracting demand from outside (inward remittances), besides catering to local needs (retaining resources). Conversely the preponderance, however, appears to be on “trade” instead for genuine “business activities”. People mostly get attracted to the former by resorting to mushrooming of shops concurrently getting themselves trapped into comfortable zones with limited scope of manoeuvring. This deprives the area from long term investment, local produce, industrial activities etc. as emphasised above in the para.

The overall effective economic development of the town, therefore, will continue to remain unattainable unless the specific viable, all inclusive, economic activities are identified and pursued accordingly. With not so encouraging experience about government initiatives, role of civil society becomes imperative.

However, a dispassionate prior analysis of strengths and weaknesses becomes unavoidable to forestall things from going haywire consequently.

Sopore town, like other areas, has some inherent advantages and disadvantages. The challenge, therefore, is to further the advantages & concurrently minimize the effect on disadvantages besides efforts to overcome.

The disadvantages to the town are mainly :

Distance from the capital, Srinagar.

No must-visit historical/cultural places.

Optional transit stop for the adjacent areas/districts.

The advantages are mainly:

Abundant availability of Apple and Fish, besides the involvement of substantial area, and significant number of people in & around the commercial activities generated by the two.

Potential of “Medical Tourism” as good number of reputed medicos belong to the town besides presence of robust entrepreneurs. But this asks for the dovetailing of the two.

The advantage of large quantity produce of fruit, however, gets diluted by the reported quality issues as compared to South Kashmir. This necessitates setting up of complementary fruit concentrate/ juice plants etc.

Proximity to revered Baba Shukurdin shrine & famous Wular

Contiguity of river Jhelum, passing through the town, combined with Wular lake, can turn the town into a fulcrum particularly for river transportation projects (though ambitious).

The area in & around the town, full of orchards/vegetable gardens & paddy fields, offers a favourable field for pesticide/fertiliser factories, concomitantly minimising the outflow of money.

The existing ‘Fruit Mandi’ needs augmentation & institutionalisation under one roof with state-of-art technological support. Transactions by bona-fide members deserve to be reinforced & encouraged. Identifying of brands qualifying for exports with special focus on its grooming & quality. For facilitation of states to promote their exports and tourism and attract more overseas investments and expertise, policy of Facilitation Of International Linkage Of States stands envisaged.

For fostering fisheries Jehlum, Wullar, the tributaries of Zaingeer canal & the contiguous catchment areas are required to get integrated. For longer shelf-life, year round availability, leverage over market, cold storages for both these business activities, stationed as well as mobile, will be a boost. Availability of fish-drying factories will not only supplement the venture but will be a buffer against loss on account of unsold catch.

Roping in of the concerned professional / technical quarters, both from the government as well as private sector, will act as a stimulant. Memorandum Of Understanding (MoU) can be had with the corresponding technical institutions. Seeking the formal industry status for these both ventures will help in proper regulation of the activities.

In the prevailing scenario the elected associations / forums in coordination with the concerned stakeholders are expected to take a lead in pursuing the developmental endeavours. Seeking cooperation & guidance of retired/active professionals/functionaries will be a boon. Constituting of a specific/dedicated coordination body/ committee, consisting of representatives from all concerned quarters,also seems an option.Economic stability/independence,being the fountainhead of all other welfares, is not an overstatement.