It is fashionable for bleeding heart liberals (BHL) to offer unsubstantiated arguments on behalf of the militants of Kashmir Valley. Lumpen liberals like that one book wonder Arundhati Roy (who proudly proclaimed in the US two years ago that she had seceded from India since India was not a democracy) need not bother us here. But when other BHLs talk about hurt aspirations of the people of Kashmir, we need to sit back and wonder what is happening.
Why are Kashmiris hurt? According to the BHLs, the first reason is that polls were often rigged in J&K (not just in K). This argument is specious because in that case the first candidate to secede from India should be Bihar where polls have been rigged from time immemorial. Or Bengal, for that matter. Jyoti Basu could not have lost his Baranagar seat but for rigging by Siddhartha Shankar Ray’s Juba Congress boys. Now, in every poll, the CPM repays that compliment.
The Dalits of western UP can tell horror stories of rigging by Jats till the arrival of AN Seshan and the BSP in that order. But none of these states want to secede from India. The stone-throwers of Kashmir should realise that even though some polls may have been rigged, our general elections are different from those in Pakistan where the generals get always “elected”.
The second grievance is the socio-economic condition of Kashmiris. The government of India has recently constituted yet another committee to suggest ways to improve the state’s economy and employment. However, J&K is near the top in almost all economic parameters. Consider:
The per capita net state domestic product at factor cost (at 1999-2000 prices) was Rs17,590 for J&K in 2007-08, which is higher than that of the Bimaru states (Bihar, UP, MP, etc). It also figures in the top quarter of Indian states (CSO figures). The state received more money from the Centre than anyone else.
In 2008-09, out of a total revenue of Rs19,362 crore, more than 70% came as grant from the Centre. All the Central assistance came as grant, and not loan (state budget documents & RBI), unlike other states.
On the other hand, the urban property tax generated by the state in 2008-2009 was — hold your breath — a measly Rs1 lakh (state budget documents). Despite such poor tax collections, the state is not at the bottom in terms of development indicators.
Among the 1.6 million households in the state, 37% are covered by banking services, 65% have radios or transistors and 41 % possess TV sets — one of the highest in the country. Per capita consumption of electricity, at 759 kwh (2006-2007), is much higher than in UP, MP, Rajasthan, Bihar and West Bengal (Rajya Sabha Question No 2908, April 21, 2008). Some 81% of households get electricity (rural 75 % and urban 98%) and only 15% are dependent on kerosene. This level of electricity usage is highest among states.
Kashmir’s per capita availability of milk (2005-2006), at 353gm per day, is much higher than most of the states with an all-India average of 241gm a day. The per capita spending on health (at Rs363) is much higher than most states, with Tamil Nadu at Rs170, Andhra at Rs146, UP at Rs83 and West Bengal at Rs206 and a national average of Rs167.
The percentage of children under age three who are undernourished on Anthropometric Indices (stunted, wasted or underweight) is lower for J&K than many other states: 28 for stunted (too short for age), 15 for wasted (too thin for height) and 29.4 for underweight (too thin for age) against the national averages of 38, 19 and 46 respectively.
It goes on. Any socio-economic indicator one looks at one finds that the state is in the top quartile or among the top 10 percentile. If Jammu feels neglected, it could only be because the people there don’t know how to blackmail the country. They are foolish enough to carry the national flag in their agitations!
The Valley is imitating Pakistan on two counts. Pakistan begs globally by threatening to self-destruct even while the elites of Pakistan send their children to study abroad and the poor Abduls and Kasabs are made to die for the cause. The same hypocrisy is practiced in the Valley by its leaders.
The stone-throwing youngsters shouting azadi on the streets of Kashmir should ask themselves whether they would like to be a part of India that is democratic and becoming a world power or want to be ruled by the ISI of Pakistan. If it is the later, the road to Muzzafarabad can be opened for those willing to leave their land of honey and milk! As far as India is concerned, it should hold an all-India referendum about the timing to scrap Article 370. That is the only referendum we should think of.
Source : DNA
Author : R Vaidyanathan