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In its first major initiative after the creation of the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, the government is holding two back-to-back regional conferences in Jammu that will see officials and delegates from 19 other states and the two UTs participating to highlight models of good governance practices.
A two-day conference on ‘Replication of Good Governance Practices in UTs of J&K and Ladakh’ will be held in Jammu on November 15 and 16, while another conference on ‘Jal Shakti and Disaster Management’ under the ‘Ek Bharat Shresht Bharat’ programme will be held on November 30 and December 1.
The second conference will see Tamil Nadu as the sister state of Jammu and Kashmir UT, with both sides discussing their rivers, Cauvery and Jhelum, and how to rejuvenate the water bodies.
Both the conferences are being organised at the behest of Jitendra Singh, Minister of State for Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, who is keen to quicken the pace of development in the region after it was carved into two UTs on October 31.
The first conference will see the participation of 200 officials from J&K and over 90 officials from other states. The second will have 350 participants, including officials from districts, collectors, members of the civil society, officials from the food and civil supplies departments and some members of flood-affected families.
The first conference on Good Governance Practices will have sessions on public policy and governance, capacity building and personnel administration. Participants will make presentations on digital governance, citizen centric governance, aspirational districts and PM awards initiatives.
Besides Jitendra Singh, others attending the conferences will include the new Lt Governor of Ladakh R.K. Mathur, the new Lt Governor of J&K G.C. Murmu and top officials in the Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances, and in the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions.
Other initiatives such as Government e-Marketplace (GeM), Unified Mobile Application for New-age Governance (UMANG), e-Vidhaan and e-Office will also be discussed.
States like Bihar and Gujarat will share their experiences of grievance redressal along with J&K.
The second conference on ‘Jal Shakti and Disaster Management’ will see sessions on the following themes — rejuvenation of rivers, Cauvery and Jhelum, reducing water consumption in agriculture, water warriors for water conservation, and management of floods.
Both sides will also discuss the 2014 floods in Srinagar and the rescue operation carried out by the National Disaster Response Force, and the 2015 Chennai floods, as well as emergency responses, forecasting and early warning.
Some noted conservation experts are being invited to the conference such as Anil Prakash Joshi, founder of the Dehradun-based Himalayan Environmental Studies and Conservation Organization, Sekhar Raghavan, Director, Rain Centre, Chennai, and Sonam Wangchuk, founding-director of the Students’ Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh.
Jitendra Singh said that the Central government aims to bring development and replicate good governance practices in the newly created UTs of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh.
J&K would make presentations on its excellence projects like Back to Village programme, panchayat polls, electrification of households, and girl child education.
Young district collectors from other states would make presentations on model case studies, or where they have done well in the Mission Indradhanush immunisation programme, or the National Rural Livelihood Mission, a poverty alleviation project, or in the Aspirational Districts programme.
“The two conferences are being convened to create a roadmap and environment for good governance, which would represent the first important events of the Government of India in these UTs.
“The objective is for highest focus on public policy and governance with special emphasis on digital governance, citizen centric governance, innovation and capacity building,” V. Srinivas, IAS, Additional Secretary in the Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances, told IANS.
“We hope these two conferences would enable a series of sustained efforts to create a transparent, accountable and citizen-friendly effective administration in the UTs of J&K and Ladakh. Following the conference, a Jammu Sankalp would be adopted, which would enable the creation of several models of excellence in citizen centric governance,” Srinivas added.
On August 5, the Central government abrogated the special status granted to Jammu and Kashmir and carved it into two UTs, saying that the move would help bring the benefits of good governance that the rest of India enjoyed to the region.
The special status had prevented several citizen-centric Central laws from taking effect in J&K. (IANS)
Jammu and Kashmir is likely to receive snowfall in the next two days, which could help bring pollution down in neighbouring states.
“The snowfall accompanied by winds will bring down the particulate matter in the air to great extend,” Sonam Lotus, Director of the J&K Meteorological Department, told IANS.
“The active western disturbance and its interaction with cyclone MAHA, currently located in East Central Arabian Sea, is likely to cause moderate to heavy snowfall and rain in plains of J&K, and Ladakh during November 6-8. The snowfall will peak in the night on November 7,” MET said in a statement.
Lotus said early snowfall in happening for the second year in succession in Kashmir. “It’s good for agriculture, but could damage standing crops,” he said.
The MET has alerted the J&K administration about the likely disruption in road transport, especially through passes, like Zojilla, and on the Srinagar-Jammu-Leh-Manali Highway and Mughal road, due to landslides, low temperature and heavy snowfall.
The Jammu-Srinagar National Highway is the main link between Kashmir and the rest of the country.
Last year, the highway remained blocked for several days, cutting Kashmir from rest of the country and causing shortage of essentials in the Valley. Normally, the government stocks up essential supplies ahead of the winter, especially for areas like Tangdhar, Gurez and Ladakh. Most of these areas remain disconnected due to heavy snowfall.
Last year also, Kashmir witnessed snowfall in November. Normally, snowfall begins after November on the upper reaches of Kashmir. The 40-day peak winter season called ‘Chila-e-Kalan’ begins from December 20. Snowfall during the period last longer and is a major source for drinking water in summers.
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The lack of adequate snowfall causes shortage of drinking water in Kashmir in some areas, especially those that are not connected to the drinking water system. (IANS)
Continuous lockdown in Jammu and Kashmir is having a big impact on apple farming in the Valley. With the harvesting season just round the corner, Kashmiri apple growers are a worried lot.
The twin districts of Shopian and Kulgam in south Kashmir are the major apple growing centres where people are anxious and not sure as to what lies in store.
Ghulam Mohammad looks at the apples in his orchard with a sense of uncertainty. The apples will ripe in a week’s time, but his labour force is gone after the mass exodus of non-Kashmiris from the Valley following government advisory. He says he is staring at a massive loss this year.
“It looks very unlikely that we will be able to meet our target under the prevailing conditions. I am not a stone pelter… What is my fault, why am I made to suffer,” asked Muzaffar Ahmad, an apple grower in Anantnag in south Kashmir, voicing similar concerns.
The impact of the shutdown is growing by the day, leaving the apple growers worried.
The people in Hallmolla area of Anantnag, famous for manufacturing cricket bats, echoed
similar sentiments. The bat makers say there are no takers for the willows at the moment.
“Our business is totally dependent on tourists and yatris. With almost zero visitors in Kashmir now, our business has plunged to almost zero. Our labourers have gone, while untimely rains have made things worse for us,” said Gul Javed, a bat manufacturer. (IANS)
Integration of Jammu & Kashmir to Indian Mainland Brings Uniformity to Economic Policies of Both Regions
The special status of Jammu & Kashmir has been revoked and the state has been bifurcated into two Union Territories. Those are the facts. Much has been discussed and debated over these decisions. But it is time to consider its future implications now. Altering the long-held governance structure was just the beginning to resolving the long-standing Kashmir problem. The real uphill task remains. How do these steps result in the development of Jammu & Kashmir and bring it closer to achieving peace and stability? That is the crux of the matter; the end goal.
A key enabler of these outcomes can be the achievement of higher economic growth and development of the region. The integration of Jammu & Kashmir to the Indian mainland brings uniformity to the economic policies of both regions. All laws applicable to other Indian states will now be applicable to it. This puts the region on a level playing field and allows faster percolation of decision making at the Centre down to the most granular level.
Earlier, laws passed by the Indian Parliament had to be separately ratified by the state legislature in Jammu & Kashmir, which caused immense delays in implementation and the region suffered as a result. For instance, a week after other states joined the GST network, the government of Jammu and Kashmir had to pass its own resolution to integrate itself into the national tax framework. And this was a law in which the former state had an interest in clearing. The gestation periods are much longer for other acts. As the Prime Minister pointed out, the Right to Education Act was still not applicable to Kashmiri students. Such limitations had impeded the decision-making process and prevented effective economic development.
The economic limitations were further exacerbated by Article 35A, which prevented non-residents from buying land in the region and availing facilities provided by the state government. When businesses could not acquire the most basic assets for setting up an enterprise, economic activity was bound to be muted. The very nature of legislation curbed economic development and, thus, eliminated all avenues of growth and prosperity that could have benefitted the Kashmiris themselves.
The extent of economic inefficiency that has existed until now with respect to Jammu & Kashmir can be realised from the fact that the region was the largest recipient of central funds until now with little to show for it. An analysis by the Institute for Competitiveness shows that between 2005-06 till 2018-19, Jammu & Kashmir received around 10.5 per cent of the central grants-in-aid, which was the highest among all states. The second-highest share of these central grants were received by the state of Uttar Pradesh at around 9 per cent. That these allocations are grossly disproportionate can be seen in the light of their population shares where Jammu & Kashmir is home to 1 per cent of India’s population while Uttar Pradesh is the country’s most populous state accounting for over 16 per cent of its population.
Not only has Jammu & Kashmir been the recipient of the highest share of central grants but is also heavily dependent on them as its own revenue-generating capacity has been fairly limited. In fact, more than half of the state’s revenue, or 53 per cent to be precise, are derived from the central grants-in-aid. If central taxes are taken into consideration, this share shoots above 70 percent.
Thus, its own capacity of generating revenue accounted for less than 30 per cent of its total revenue receipts. This is yet another reflection of the lack of economic exuberance within the region, which has stymied its government’s revenue-generating capacity through both tax and non-tax sources. Moreover, these funds have also not been managed well. Jammu & Kashmir has had a history of improper financial management with the ratio of gross fiscal deficit to the state’s GDP at an average of 5 per cent over the last four years against a national average of 3 per cent for the same period.
There have, however, been recent discussions that the former state was already quite advanced on certain social parameters. Life expectancy, for instance, is the third highest among all Indian states at 73.5. But, if a broader measure is considered like the Human Development Index, the ranking of Jammu & Kashmir has slipped two places from 9 to 11 between 1990 and 2017 with a current score of 0.68 that is quite close to the national average of 0.64. Thus, its performance has not been exceptional even on the social outcomes.
It must be admitted that there is no surety that after coming under central control Jammu & Kashmir will perform better economically. But the opening up of the local economy to outside actors will be akin to India’s liberalisation moment of 1991 when it opened up its economy and integrated with the outside world. As the legal impediments to free movement of people and access to assets like land have been removed, the economic focus of the state can now be broadened beyond tourism and agriculture. Industrialisation can slowly expand its prominence in the local economy. Thus, the elimination of the special status and more centrality of governance should beget higher availability of economic opportunities and wider avenues of growth for the people for Kashmir who have been long denied of the same.
(Amit Kapoor is chair, Institute for Competitiveness. He can be contacted at email@example.com and tweets @kautiliya. Chirag Yadav, senior researcher, Institute for Competitiveness, has contributed to the article. Their recent book, The Age of Awakening, is now on stands.) (IANS)