Ten priorities for the new Government

Greater Kashmir

Mixing the Green with Saffron gives us Brown; so what should this Brown government do to lend itself some color of credence

If we go by the noise in media and the statements from political big shots it has almost been decided that J&K is going to get a Brown government for next six years. Brown because that’s what comes out when you mix green with saffron. An ugly taste of colors though but this is the color we have to live with for the times to come. Here are ten of the biggest expectations that the new govt. in the state of Jammu & Kashmir will face during its 6 years of power. It is backed by an informal research based on inputs from more than 1000 state subjects.

1. Stability & Integration:

 

The trifurcated electoral patterns thrown up by the assembly elections of 2014 have indicated some serious and deep concerns. Kashmir voted for PDP, Jammu for BJP, and Ladakh for Congress, and the ideologies that people of these three sub regions voted for are in absolute contradiction with each other. This very nature of the new government is what will make it the most fragile. The stability of the new government will be like a tripod table, the legs of which have been manufactured by different craftsmen in silos. Integrating the three regions and sitting comfortably on such a tripod will surely be a challenge.

 

 

2. Post Flood Rehabilitation:

If there is anything which makes the new government exciting despite the contradicting mix of ideologies, it’s the anticipation of post-flood rehabilitation and relief. A majority of people, households, trade unions, entrepreneurs etc., are waiting with hopeful eyes. The new govt will have to focus very meticulously to make sure that flood affected people receive proper support. Rehabilitating 80,000 structures in Srinagar alone among 1.60 lakh total structures across J&K will be a challenge. Quantum, Speed and Distribution of relief will be a mammoth task and probably the first litmus paper test for the new Govt. 

 

 

3. Fiscal Crisis:

State exchequer is in a viral soup and that’s very much official. As per the latest revelations from the Governor of J&K, there is an unfunded gap of over Rs. 5000 crore in the overall resources of the state government. The reasons range from inability of J&K govt. to submit acceptable DPRs to untimely release of funds from the centre. Although, the new government has a star studded team of experienced level heads who can work some magic to get the state government out of this soup (subject to relevant distribution of portfolios); however, making 6 year old rusted finance machinery work on 24×7 basis will be a tough nut to crack.

 

 

4. Chronic Unemployment:

Compared to national average of 2.1%, J&K has a whopping unemployment rate of 4.9% with approximately 2.5 lac educated but unemployed youth. Social evils, crime, drug abuse, suicides, discontent and unrest all emanate from the curse of unemployment. On one side initiatives like Himayat and Udaan failed miserably and on the other chronic swollen salary bills has been a red zone in liabilities side of the budget. Given these facts accommodating 2.5 lac unemployed youth can be a serious challenge. The new govt. can borrow some cues from the moderately successful SKWEPY and reduce the hassles associated with an otherwise potentially effective scheme to shift focus of youth from Jobs seekers to Job creators.

 

5. Rotten Health Sector:

 

Doctor patient ratio, neo-natal mortality rate, spurious drugs, outdated medical infrastructure and many associated issues have defined our health sector in past few years. Against a recommended doctor patient ratio of 1:500, J&K has a compulsive ratio of 1: 1000. To add insult to the injuries we are being fed with spurious drugs. The scam was huge and more than 300,000 tablets of Maximiniz (625), Curecef-1000 and Pantopil were consumed by people of J&K during last few years. We were consuming lethal clay and chalk in the name of medicine. This has resulted in deaths and misery as more than 500 neonates died in a single year in a single hospital. Moreover, quality of pathology has always put a question mark on our experts and equipments.

 

The new government should first of all strengthen its substantial network of more than 400 primary health centers. This network if given proper human resource and technological support has the potential to soak a substantial amount of health care pressure in the state. Second and equally important is a clean drug industry in the state. However, taking to task those involved in playing with peoples’ lives will be a challenge in itself. 


6. Traffic & Public Transport:

 

Traffic jams has no longer remained a problem of Lal Chowk in summers. The problem has spread and engulfed cities, towns, highways and even mohallas. It seems nobody is able to figure out as to how to deal with this issue which is only getting bigger every passing day. Traffic mess reflects the administrative bankruptcy that the state is in. J&K topped the list with 63.5% of high accidental death prone areas on the basis of percentage share of deaths due to unnatural causes in road accidents and poisoning during 2013. More people were killed due to road accidents in the state than militancy related deaths. If this is not alarming than what else is?

 

In addition to building wide roads and flyovers there is an immediate need to uplift our flawed public transport system. The concept of BRT and stop to stop bus service will definitely reduce the burden on private transport. Less private transport means less traffic and smooth movement. Moreover, there should be a policy on rehabilitation of hawkers who occupy 30-50% of the road area creating artificial congestion and traffic mess. 

 

7. Education Sector:

 

We saw some of the biggest scams in this sector, ranging from corrupt bureaucrats to scandalous education ministers. On execution side the student-teacher ratio of colleges in JK is 31 students per teacher which is far worse than all India average of 15:1. Jammu & Kashmir lags behind other states in higher education sector with a ranking of 19. There is an urgent need to regulate fee structure and donation policy of profit minting schools, institutes and coaching centers. 

 

Moreover, the role of skill imparting institutes like Polytechnics and ITIs has been overlooked and underutilized. This is primarily the reason for J&K poor industrial growth-the lack of skilled human resource. The sector eagerly awaits a major overhaul is systems, people and processes.

(Box There is an urgent need to regulate fee structure and donation policy of profit minting schools, institutes and coaching centers.) 

8. Urban Planning:

 

Srinagar, a 2000 year old city is fast transforming into an obese person gaining weight unplanned at wrong places. This unplanned growth has made us all pay a heavy price last September in the form of valuable life and hard earned assets.

 

Unprecedented urbanization has led to development of unplanned colonies on agricultural land, flood channels, wet lands and even water bodies. Hokersar is reduced to one third of its original size, Haigam wetland reduced to almost half its original size and many of the 500 wetlands in and around Srinagar city recorded in the 1990s have completely perished.

 

Dal Lake and Nageen Lake have been squeezed from around 36 square kilometers to around 12.5 square kilometers. More than 2 lac Kanals of agricultural land in Kashmir has been converted for residential and commercial use over the past few years.

 

As per a report in Hindustan Times large scale construction has engulfed water basins near Pantha Chowk and Lasjan, horticulture land at Bagh-e-Mehtab to Wanabal, paddy fields in the Budgam area, horticulture land in Gulabagh and paddy fields in Parimpora up to Wannabal. Moreover, forest area at foothills in Harwan and Khrew have turned into big colonies. Devising a solution for soaking the pressure of urbanization without abusing the agricultural & forest land won’t be an easy job at all.

 

 

9. Water Resources & Power:

A long pending exploitative arrangement between India and Pakistan which puts the state of Jammu & Kashmir at an annual loss of Rs. 6,500 Crore needs to be revisited and renegotiated. The IWMI (Tata Water Policy Programme) report on Indus Water Treaty which has come up with this estimate also suggests, "One way to compensate J&K for the losses could be a favorable sharing ratio for power generated from centrally funded projects in the state." 

 

PDP in particular has been raising a lot of voice for renegotiation of water resources during its 6 year stint in opposition, because of which very high hopes are riding on PDP vis-à-vis renegotiation of water resources of J&K. Moreover, there has been a repeated gross violation of law over the years which need to be addressed and addressed very transparently.

 

One such example is the MoU signed in 1975 which says the J&K government is entitled to 50 per cent of the power generated from the Salal project and will also get 50 per cent of the profits acquired by NHPC by selling its share of power. The issue of water resources in my opinion is the most difficult and most critical issues to resolve. It is the core issue on which stands the economic freedom of Jammu & Kashmir.

 

10. De-CRPFication: 

There are around 65 battalions (65,000 personnel) CRPF deployed in the Valley. The new government should make efforts in strengthening the state police and gradually reducing the .number of CRPF battalions in the valley.

 

It is a matter of fact that besides occupying prime places like stadiums, cinemas, hotels, post offices, telephone exchanges, government offices, abandoned houses and many tourist locations presence of CRPF creates very unpleasant and depressive scenes of barbed wires and ugly bunkers. And then we wonder why International Tourism doesn’t pick up. 



 ejaz.ayoub@gmail.com