Three years ago, abrogation of Article 370 changed the nomenclature of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The state was bifurcated into two Union Territories with Ladakh designated as a separate Union Territory.
The aim was to completely integrate Jammu and Kashmir with the Union of India. On the eve of 5th August 2019, the entire state was put under complete lockdown with an objective of avoiding any violent protests and resulting bloodshed which had marred the state from last three decades. With the passage of time as the new political reality dawned upon people and political leaders alike, the newly formed UT started limping back towards normalcy again.
The Centre raced towards providing the much promised change and development by announcing a slew of economic packages for growth and development. With the global outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, all activities came to the grinding halt as the whole country braved the complete shutdown which affected the overall economy of the country. This effectively put the much needed development and economic growth in Jammu and Kashmir on the back step. Since the effect of COVID-19 has largely veered off, it is important to put into perspective the overall change which the UT of Jammu and Kashmir has witnessed since abrogation of Article 370.
Current Security Scenario In The Valley:
One of the primary objectives of the Central government behind abrogating Article 370 was to root out the separatism from the Valley and end terrorism. To achieve this objective, all separatist leaders were arrested and jailed for preaching and practising separatism and pro-Pakistan ideology. Three years on, the government of India has succeeded in its policy of scuttling the separatist politics. With most of the Hurriyat Conference leaders rightly behind bars, the government’s hard line approach of dealing with separatist elements with iron hand has yielded positive results on the ground.
Kashmir has witnessed a near end to the hartal calls which frequented the Valley before the abrogation of Article 370. But the biggest takeaway is the complete end to the incident of stone-pelting which were a normal feature of daily life before 5th August 2019. Post 2019, the Valley hasn’t witnessed any organised anti-India street protests and stone-pelting incidents, bringing semblance of normalcy back into the life of common man.
The terror incidents post August 5th 2019 have also declined. Jammu and Kashmir saw the resurgence of terror activities since the last decade. Post the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, there was a sharp increase in the recruitment among the terror ranks and subsequently terror related incidents also increased. The most significant incident was the Pulwama attack in which a suicide bomber struck and killed 44 CRPF jawans.
From 16th April 2017 till August 4th 2019, there were 843 terrorist incidents reported in Jammu and Kashmir. The number of security forces and civilians killed during this period was 78 and 86, respectively. From 5th August 2019 till 22nd November 2021, the number of terrorist incidents fell to 496, claiming lives of 45 security personnel and 79 civilians, government data reveal. In the year 2021, number of terrorists eliminated stood at 189. This year till May, 62 terrorist incidents have been reported so far. The number of terrorists killed in the first six months stands at 100 while security forces have taken 24 causalities.
Another significant point to note is the sharp decline in the cross border infiltration. From 143 cross border net infiltration in 2018, the number has sharply reduced to 28 till the year 2021. This is owing to the fact that the anti infiltration grid has been kept extremely robust and the diplomatic efforts of GOI that kept Pakistan of FATF grey list ensured that a tight control could be maintained on the fight against terror. These measures have ensured that the graph of violence and terrorism dips towards the favour of GOI, while raising the graph towards the overall development and stability to Jammu and Kashmir.
The Economic Impact
One of the biggest challenges faced by the government of India was to restructure the ailing economic model of Jammu and Kashmir which was heavily dependent on government grants, subsidies and loans. With a near non-existent private sector, the employment generation for youth is the biggest challenge. Jammu and Kashmir is witnessing soaring unemployment rate which stands at nearly 25 per cent which is well above the national average of 7.6 per cent.
The three consecutive lockdowns post 5th August 2019 affected the economy of J&K to a great extent. J&K economy primarily based on horticulture and trade took a devastating hit as ancillary businesses crumpled and job losses soared. To stem the economic fall, the Central government announced a package of ₹1350 crores to revive the struggling economy, but the recovery has been rather slow.
This year, the tourism industry has boomed back in business with more than one crore tourists visiting Jammu and Kashmir till now. This has put the ancillary and trade based businesses and jobs back into the recovery mode. But to achieve full recovery and bring down the soaring unemployment rate, Jammu and Kashmir needs more than just a booming tourism industry.
The FDI’s received by the government of Jammu and Kashmir are a massive ₹56000 crores, but most of these projects are on long term planning and execution basis. Thus it creates a gap to address the immediate problem of providing employment. Hence to address this issue, the corporate industry needs more encouragement from GOI to invest and hire local talent. There is an urgent need to incentivise industrial and entrepreneurial projects by GOI. Transparent systems based only on merit for job seekers within the government institutions need to be prioritised.
Though on the overall developmental front, there has been an upward trend post abrogation of Article 370. The development of roads and other infrastructure is on rise. Four national highway projects are being completed by this year end. Power projects are being enhanced and the generation capacity is being increased. In next five years, 21 hydro projects with an aggregate capacity of 5186 MW are being developed. In medical sector, two new AIIMS, seven new medical colleges, two state cancer institutes and fifteen new nursing colleges are being added over the years. These initiatives will eventually lead Jammu and Kashmir to an economically stable and a developed Union Territory.
The Political Situation
The central government has taken a series of measures to bring grass root democracy into Jammu and Kashmir by setting up a multi tier democratic structure to bring in effective governance. Elections for Panchayats were held followed by BDC and then DDC elections. The move was to ensure a more robust governance system in place for better and transparent deliverance. It was followed by the delimitation exercise which was aimed to bring the parity for equal representation between the two regions of Jammu and Kashmir. The electoral reservations granted to SC/ST tribes breaks the glass ceiling as never before they had any real political representation and means of empowerment for their communities . Though most of the valley based political parties have cried foul by accusing that the delimitation exercise favours the ruling party BJP electorally majorly in Jammu region, the fact is that this exercise has given just representation to all the different communities residing in the state.
With the elections for the legislative assembly still pending, the day to day issues of common man aren’t being addressed properly. The grievances are increasing and the political vacuum on the ground is adding to the peoples woes. Since there is a gap between the elected representatives and the administration, the common man is the end sufferer. Unless the administrative officers don’t open up more towards the public and their elected representatives the gap between the government and the masses will keep widening resulting in general mistrust and slow deliverance of good governance.
Challenges Going Forward
The biggest challenge facing the government is the resurgence of terrorism. The radicalisation is on the rise and today’s youth is increasingly attracted towards the religious indoctrination and radicalism owing to multiple factors which range from stagnant economic aspects to rising drug abuse and the geo political changes happening around. Hybrid terrorism is the new threat emerging strongly. Though the security forces have largely been able to dismantle the organised structures of terror outfits, the hybrid structure is on the rise. Narcotics trade and drug abuse fuel the hybrid structure and the security agencies need to come down hard on the narco-terror module. As of today, the prosecution rate in NDPS Act is miniscule and unless strong deterrence from the state and judiciary in the form of strict punishments isn’t implemented the hybrid structure will keep operating.
The future of Jammu and Kashmir largely depends on its stable security scenario and on political robustness which ultimately will fuel the economic growth and development. Though the government has initiated the right policies and is working in the right direction but for it to sustain the momentum in the long run transparency, accountability, accessibility and zero tolerance towards terrorism and separatism is the key to catapult Jammu and Kashmir into the new era of development and stable peace.
(Raja Muneeb is a freelance columnist)
Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author’s own