Will Kashmiri politicians ever discuss fallouts of Article 35A?
New Delhi, Feb 26: Every Kashmir based political party talks about how important are the special rights given to Jammu and Kashmir, but they seldom discuss the 'fallouts' of those rights.
A day before the hearing of Article 35A in the Supreme Court, two prominent leaders of Kashmir have warned the Centre and the Supreme Court of dire consequences if the status quo is not maintained.
The petition challenging the Constitutional validity of Article 35A, which gives special rights to the permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), is listed for today for the hearing in the Supreme Court.
Jammu and Kashmir's former Chief Minister and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leader Mehbooba Mufti told reporters on Monday, "Don't play with fire; don't fiddle with Article-35A, else you will see what you haven't seen since 1947, if it's attacked then I don't know which flag people of J&K will be forced to pick up instead of the tricolour."
The Kashmiri leaders have even issued veiled threats to the Supreme Court to influence its decision.
Mufti told reporters that she hopes that before taking a decision on Article 35A, "the SC would think that Article 370 - whose part is Article 35A - is a bridge in our relation with the country and any unnecessary fiddling or tampering with it will undermine and nullify the very contract that legitimizes Jammu and Kashmir's accession to India."
The National Conference leader and another former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah too has warned that any tampering with the Article 35A will have serious implications in the state.
A Kashmir expert has told One India on the condition of anonymity that the special rights accorded to Jammu and Kashmir have actually benefitted Kashmiri politicians and bureaucrats, financially as well as politically, and not the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
"The modus-operandi of the Kashmiri politicians has been that when they are in Delhi then they use 'mood of the Kashmiris' to extort more funds from the Centre. More money means more kickbacks. And, back home they spread all sorts of imaginary stories about 'Delhi' to intimidate Kashmiris. When militancy was at the peak in the state then Kashmiris, especially rural, were made to believe that if they land in Delhi then they would be immediately put behind bars," said the expert.
He also said that the threats emanating from Kashmir are also a part of the age-old 'mood of the Kashmiris' tactic.
"The current unrest among Kashmiri politicians is also because they know that then President Rajendra Prasad had bypassed the Parliamentary route of creating laws to incorporate Article 35A into the Constitution. Hence, it's legally challenged and can be declared null and void, which means their golden days will be over," he asserted.
He also questioned: Why don't Kashmiri politicians get support from Jammu and Ladakh over their special rights rhetoric?
Fallout of Special Rights
Since Article 35A is applicable in Jammu and Kashmir, non-residents cannot buy or own immovable property in the state, settle permanently, or get state government jobs.
Due to this Special Right, big private industrial players like Tata, Reliance, and Adani groups cannot start industries in Jammu and Kashmir.
Its fallout has been best documented in the latest Jammu and Kashmir government's Economic Survey.
PER CAPITA INCOME
In the terms of per capita income, Jammu and Kashmir stands at 24th position in India. Even Naxalism affected state Chhattisgarh and insurgency hit state Nagaland is ahead than Jammu and Kashmir.
Jammu and Kashmir Economic Survey says, "The per capita income during 2017-18 at current prices is estimated at Rs. 86108 while per capita income during 2016-17 stood at Rs. 77918 at current Prices. The projected per capita income at current and constant 2011-12 prices for the year 2018-19 is roughly estimated at Rs. 94992 and Rs.69221 respectively."
On the other hand, Delhi's per capita income in 2018-19 was pegged at Rs 3,65,529, three times the national average of Rs 1,25,397.
How successive state governments have been successful in reducing the poverty in Jammu and Kashmir has also been outlined in the survey.
"In the state of J&K 67.44 % (1080174) rural households with monthly income of the highest earning member is less than Rs 5000 per month and 14.35 % (232753) households with monthly income of the highest earning member is between Rs 5000 per month and Rs 10,000 per month besides 18.02% (288670) households with monthly income of the highest earning member is higher than Rs. 10000 per month."
Talking about the unemployment in J&K, the survey says, "Currently youth unemployment is one of the major challenges faced by the state of Jammu & Kashmir. With the number of educated unemployed youth running in lakh, the need for employment creation through youth entrepreneurship is undeniable."
Unemployment is one of the major factors behind the militancy in Kashmir.
Around 70% of Jammu and Kashmir's population lives in the rural areas and is directly or indirectly dependent upon the agriculture for livelihood and employability.
Painting a grim picture, the survey says, "The contribution of Agriculture sector towards Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) has remained constant which is an indication of the onset of the declining trend of the sector."
Jammu and Kashmir has scenic beauty and is Kashmir is called 'Paradise on the Earth'. Tourism sector accounts for around 6.98% of the state's GDP. However, J&K is not among the top 10 domestic destinations in the country on the basis of number of tourist arrival.
Before the outbreak of armed militancy for Azadi (independence) in 1989, tourists from all over the world used to visit Kashmir that provided livelihood to the Kashmiris dependent on the sector.
Tourism has been hit very hard due to militancy. The number of tourists visiting Kashmir Valley has declined over the years.
As per the survey, "A total of 13,08,765 domestic/foreign tourists visited Kashmir Valley in 2012 and that number was reduced to 10,50, 480 by the end of October 2017.
On the other hand, Ladakh witnessed growth in tourism during the same period.
While 1,78, 750 domestic/foreign tourists visited Ladakh in 2012, the number grew to 2,59, 170 by the end of October 2017.
Another fallout of Special Status is visible in Jammu and Kashmir's industry sector.
The survey says that from 2008-09 and up to October 2017, a total of 3,22,26 small scale industry (SSI) units were registered in the state that generated 1.58 lakh jobs.
"While 880 SSIs were registered in 2014-15, the number declined to 627 in 2016-17," says the survey.
The scenario in the large and medium scale industry sector is very disheartening.
"The number of industrial units registered under large and medium sector up to October 2017 from 2008-09 stands at 103, which generated 23929 jobs," Jammu and Kashmir Economic Survey says.
According to it, not a single large and medium scale industry was set up in 2014-15. However, the highest number in this regard was recorded in 2015-16 when 14 large and medium scale industries were registered.
Jammu and Kashmir, particularly Kashmir Valley, is known for its handicrafts. However, the production and export of handicrafts goods is also declining.
Kashmiri carpets and shawls are in heavy demand all over the world.
While the export of carpets and shawls was Rs 717.75 crore and Rs 674.25 crore respectively in 2014-15, it fell to Rs 369.81 crore and 304.05 crore respectively in 2016-17.
The education sector is also one of the major causalities due to the disturbance and militancy in J&K.
As per the survey, "The Unified District Information System of Education (UDISE) is throwing startling revelations. The dropout rate has increased considerably from 6.93% and 5.36% in Primary & upper -primary during 2015-16 to 10.30% and 10.20% during 2016-17 in primary and upper primary level. The decrease has mainly been due to disturbing conditions prevailed during 2016-17."
What Kashmir and Kashmiris have gone through in the last three decades is well-known, and it is also becoming crystal clear that who wants Kashmir pot shall continue to boil.
Big questions are: will Kashmiri politicians ever discuss fallouts of Article 35A? Or, will they continue to do the politics that has only benefitted them?