Alms and Men

The government and the administrative machinery in Kashmir has developed a vastly superior alternative to New Delhi’s Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme – it requires no financial outlay, does not involve bureaucratic or political brainstorming, and carries no taint like that of urban-rural discrimination. Even though the policy represents a quantum leap in economic thinking, it is rooted in tradition, and can safely be termed as a logical extension of the basic philosophy of the progress and prosperity of Kashmir’s ruling classes. The government’s virtue of modesty has prevented it from giving the policy a formal name, or publicising it among the masses. Its firm belief in deeds and results speaking louder than words has been thoroughly vindicated by the leaps-and-bounds success of the initiative starkly visible on the streets of Srinagar and other urban centres in the valley, and the swift inroads it makes farther afield. As the icing on the cake, this masterpiece of policy and planning – which may be called the (Labourless) Income Guarantee Scheme – has been achieved with the simple and time-tested bureaucratic expedient of doing absolutely nothing.  These columns have a humble suggestion to make: the Lal Bahadur Shastri Academy for India’s budding top civil servants may henceforth include in its curriculum a case study of Kashmiri officialdom’s core expertise of twiddling thumbs.

The government may not have realized it yet, but its strategy has multi-dimensional ramifications, one of the most pronounced being far-reaching consequences in the National Integration Project. Without long-winded and expensive seminars and workshops featuring authorities on the subject, the Jammu and Kashmir government has achieved massive people-to-people contact across cultural, linguistic and ethnic barriers, rivalling similar ambitions of the European Union. And the economic spinoffs from J and K’s universal Income Guarantee Scheme are insured against collapse and reflect stability the World Bank could envy. Europe’s dreams of borderless existence has been truly realized for Kashmir where even the formidable Pir Panjal ranges have already been made irrelevant for the outside world in a unique experiment of labour-less livelihoods. It is a mystery why champions of Cross-LoC cooperation have not yet modelled their demands on the Jammu and Kashmir government’s signal contribution to inter-state cooperation. For, this northern region, most of which is nestled in the Himalayas, has come to the rescue of what used to be called the BIMARU entities before the Indian press discovered the financial advantages of being politically correct. In suo moto cognizance of the perpetually ailing condition of the BIMARU territory, J and K has decided to shoulder a chunk of its social and economic problems by playing host to its workless, landless and foodless multitudes.

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