Surveys by international and domestic experts speak of Jammu and Kashmir as being blessed with an abundance of mineral wealth. Abundance, in fact, seems to have been the Creator’s sole intention when He laid out this not-too-long-ago garden, this not-too-long-ago Paradise on Earth – forests, rivers, lakes, mountains, meadows, fertile lands. This was on the surface. Beneath, the state has wealth like coal, gypsum, granite and sapphire.
What was required of the state’s wise men was to harness this wealth judiciously without the rapaciousness of the extractive model of economy that has become a blight for the planet and its people. How Jammu and Kashmir’s leaders, towering or otherwise, have fared on this front is self-evident in the condition of its lakes and rivers, the plunder of its forests and water resources, and the abuse of agricultural lands.
Having had to grapple with “complex political questions” for over six decades, leaderships here have understandably had little time to play the real leadership role – of evaluating the ways of the world, and their actual impact on the human condition, the signs of which had already surfaced in the two world wars which were almost coincident with the birth of what is now called the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
The world today has come a long way in rethinking the idea of what are being aggressively sold as progress and development by politicians in this part of the globe. In the first flush of independence, the subcontinent may have been trapped into the then prevailing notions, and was, therefore, heedless of circumspection and caution voiced by many about copying models without critical scrutiny and suitable moderation. But now, evidence has mounted that the region did not have to commit mistakes others were ruing even then.
For what is left of the state’s potential for balanced and moderate lives, its leaders would have to revisit policies and not accelerate depredations that have turned into cause for conflict, strife and misery in many parts of the world.
That nature’s gifts, above and below the ground, have to used to the benefit of man is without question. But has it to be done with the greed and gluttony that empowers and enriches a few and leaves the many at their mercy? Does living life mean merely consumption without thought and responsibility for its consequences? Why should economics be defined in terms of human “needs” being limitless? And why should progress mean creating more “needs?”
Can Kashmir’s leaders take this call when making extravagant promises of progress and development?