Hidebound Heresy

Formulaic notions of industrial development, nurtured mainly by the state’s imported bureaucracy under the watch of a visionless political leadership, has done Kashmir in on several fronts, leading to high and avoidable levels of unemployment, loss of earning potential, and an almost unbridgeable gap between imports and exports. Commonsense measures that could have made the state less shaky economically have been studiedly avoided, to the benefit of players outside.

According to a news report around the last Eid-ul-Azha, an estimated 3 lakh hides pile up in the Valley from sacrificial animals during the two or three days of the festival. Further, because of the region’s high consumption of mutton, its annual production of raw hides usually crosses the 50 lakh mark. And all of this is virtually thrown out of the state because no government has been interested in tapping into its potential of bettering the lot of the local economy. Kashmir’s loss is the gain of states like Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh where it is processed, and exported as finished leather for what goes for Kashmir’s leather industry.

Trade bodies claim that tanneries and other processing facilities, if established in Jammu and Kashmir, and geared to export finished leather products, the industry could turn into a billion dollar sector in annual terms, and make substantial contribution in employment generation.

An obvious course, one would say, for any sensible government to take. But Kashmir’s rulers, being a class apart, see sense only in taking deep cuts from enriching mafias and cabals, even if their own state remains in perpetual want.

The state also produces about 8000 metric tons of wool annually, but not even one per cent of it is processed here, either for local consumption or export.

The Kashmir story, therefore, is to sell raw material at throwaway prices, and pay exorbitant billions in purchasing finished products. No jobs, no revenue…only a mountain of debt and an increasingly consumerist society-

a society that does not benefit from the cash it finds itself flush with. For every hundred rupees deposited in banks in Kashmir, only Rs 40 are invested or advanced as credit here. The rest fuels infrastructure and economic development beyond Lakhanpur. A fair deal and just desserts.