Kashmir and Industry

The government’s own data shows the wide disparity between the Kashmir Valley and the Jammu region in terms of investment in industry, with just three districts of the latter receiving nearly 75 per cent of the state’s total under this head. Needless to say, the three districts also grab the lion’s share of the corresponding packages, subsidies and incentives announced by the state and the central governments from time to time. The irony is that even sons of the Kashmir soil also deem it prudent, and profitable, to invest outside the Valley.

There may be more than a grain of truth – from the investors’ point of view, that is – about Kashmir’s unpredictable ‘situation’ being a serious concern when committing large sums to Kashmir’s industrial development, but one wonders how the government itself manages to keep a straight face while advancing the ‘situation’ argument, particularly when it spares no expense and leaves no stone unturned in staging propaganda extravaganzas in the name of culture and the arts to showcase Kashmir’s ‘normalcy.’

This is not to cavil at the Zubin Mehta concert, or Sufi performances, or even the growing tourist inflow (fingers crossed, of course), but to ask why the government, both at the centre and the state, has no security qualms about money-spinners like telecom giants that have struck firm roots in Kashmir – perhaps firmer than anywhere else in India – but suddenly turns queasy at the very suggestion of investing in adding value to what nature has gifted Kashmir in abundance.

The next time any Delhi mandarin or acolyte or apologist scorns Kashmir’s cry of discrimination and enslavement, he or she should take the trouble to plot a graph of the fate of the Valley’s choicest and most exquisite produce,  raw material for silk and wool being just two examples. Granted that export figures for fruit are likely to be thrust into one’s face as rebuttal, but why should the sector suffer crippling disadvantages like lack of cold storage and processing that could not only make the trade less risky and vulnerable to tantrums of the highway, but also generate employment.

Certainly, being the highest consumer of pharmaceutical drugs in India is a distinction Kashmir could do well without, as it brings no credit to its people, or its medical fraternity, or its leaders and businessmen (the distinction having vanished long ago), but still pharmaceutical manufacture is an industry in its own right, and even after much abuse and degradation, the Valley has much to offer in terms of conducive climes.

One could go on building many such castles in the air – choicest mulberry, aromatic rice, fragrant apple (a la burgundy wines and France), and not to forget computer software – but must come swiftly down on terra firma due the “development’ of the indigenous dairy industry whose leader-businessmen owners hush up adverse food-safety reports and have not been properly called to account for failing to meet food-safety standards.