Requirement of tailor-made sectors for economic development of Kashmir

Kashmir valley has unique weather and climatic conditions as compared to rest of the country. There is a clear distribution in the amount of rainfall occurring in the North and South of the valley. It’s varying topography and terrain paves way for investment in tailor-made sectors rather than applying a general rule. Valley is hilly; people are usually involved in agriculture and allied fields. In addition, artisanship as an occupation is found mostly in the Union Territory. Due to industrial backwardness economic development is largely hampered. The assessment level of industrial development taken place in past two decades shows negligible growth. Albeit past few years green shoots of progress in some sectors are now visible. Infrastructure and economic development which play major role in expediting industrial growth are now being put on fast track with infusion of funds from the central government.

Government departments, financial institutions and agencies located in Union Territory have shown interest in capital investments in manufacturing sector. Unfortunately, due to lack of required power supply and availability of portable machinery, it is still a dream in remote localities. However, the nature-based industries if given significant priority can perform better till the time, basic environment for manufacturing sector is viable. Activities like floriculture, mushroom culture, sericulture are important commercial activities that have the potential to drive the economy of the UT. Mining, quarrying, construction activities and processing of minerals for industrial use are other economic activities which should be given impetus. People engaged with such activities also require proper training and skill development for such sectors to grow. Transport is another sector that requires special attention. Service sectors has contributed in the economy of J&K by 56 percent in the recent past. New roads and routes will ensure exploration of untapped tourist destinations. In past 4-6 years, with encouragement from Centre and Army’s coordinated efforts, new tourist locations have been explored. Banks providing loans for purchase of vehicles should have low interest rates so that transport sector becomes another pillar for driving the economy of the valley as it has great scope for self-employment. IT, agro-based industries and food processing units also have huge potential in a place where temperature is moderate. Kashmir known as paradise on earth for centuries can further develop in horticulture field as it generates revenue of more than 50 crore, with associated employment opportunities increasing day by day.

The environment and climate are quite favourable for a variety of flowers. The floriculture department has been promoting commercial flower growing, with good results and additional benefits for flower growers. Floriculture industry is one that has global potential and promising future developments. As a result of numerous new techniques and trends in floriculture, production of foliage plants, potted plants, garden plants, medicinal plants, and certain labor-intensive ornamental flower production have all undergone innovation. Compared to horticulture and agricultural cultivation, floriculture business requires less space.  It has vast scope and potential in valley. Earlier in 90’s average area of just about 80 Hectare was under flower cultivation in J&K however it has now spread over 350 Hectares producing annual revenue of more than 1350 lakhs.

Kashmiri youth possessing horticultural land are preferring self-employment over government jobs from last five years. They prefer apple growing businesses and its allied activities for earning their livelihood. On an average, each hectare of apple orchard generates around 400-man days per year. Horticulture is a source of employment to 43 lakh persons in valley, especially in South Kashmir. It annually contributes five thousand crores to GDP of the Union Territory. It is also one of the significant sectors of employment generation. In 2022, apple growers associated with fruit business in valley who endeavored to gain markets were endangered by Iranian apples. Their stakes in field and employment looked to be in danger. Understanding the pain of Kashmiris, government has now introduced partial ban on Iranian apples. Pertinently growth of horticulture sector can be attributed to various initiatives taken by government including establishment of fruit Mandis, latest technological support, research, introduction of new varieties, mechanisation etc. More mechanisation in this sector would mean modernisation of this huge contributor of GDP. Government needs to put in place crop-based adaptation strategies to integrate all available options to increase horticultural produce. Climate change and pollutants can alter interactions among plants and pollinators, diseases and weeds etc. Preparation for climate change is essential to identify gaps in information, prioritize researchable areas and formulate concrete policies for future growth.

Tourism has always been a significant contributor to Jammu and Kashmir’s economy. Currently it accounts for more than 8% of Union Territory’s GDP. J&K has numerous pilgrimage sites, such as the Vaishno Devi temple, Amarnath cave and the Charar-e-Sharif shrine, which attract millions of visitors every year. It is also home to several popular tourist destinations, including Bangus, Lolab, Gurez, Gulmarg, Sonamarg, Pahalgam etc. New tourist places are being explored by government in coordination with civilian population which is proving highly beneficial for generation of local economy. This industry provides employment to a large number of people in UT, including hotel staff, guides, and taxi drivers. It requires specific attention of center as well as UT administration to foster the infrastructural works around these tourist specific spots.

The stunning designs, pragmatic usability and high-quality craftsmanship of valley have garnered worldwide acclaim. Handicrafts crafted with handloom, carpet weaving and silk production are essential avenues of employment and income in the valley. UT has a rich tradition of handicrafts, including wood carving, papier-mache, shawl making, and embroidery. Around 69 Lakh craftsmen are associated with this sector, earning their livelihood. This industry requires promotion and support from government to host international events, exhibitions, expos and separate artisan bazaars both within and outside the UT.  Shawls, Namdas, Crewel, Chain Stitch, Wood Carving, Costume Jewellery, Kani Shawls all need to be promoted on an international scale. It is one of the important and unique sectors for generation of jobs and economy in valley of Kashmir.  Though demand for Kashmiri handicrafts is increasing day by day, it fails to cater to the growing demand. There is requirement for provisioning of efficient and comfortable machinery that would enable an artisan to perform better and meet the demands of the market.

Industrial sector in Jammu and Kashmir is relatively under developed, accounting for 26% of GDP. However, there is significant potential for industrial growth and development, particularly in areas of food processing, textiles and agro-based industries. The industrial landscape of J&K is dominated by MSME. Around 90% of MSME are operational in valley with 90% of industrial labor force. Industrial Sector is playing its dual role in economic development of Jammu and Kashmir and in generating employment opportunities for budding youth. A special package is required for development of industries in Kashmir on lines of North-east states. Continuous discussions and debates with industrialists and specialists is the need of the hour. Since valley of Kashmir lags behind in industrial development, it needs structured interventionist strategies in order to accelerate industrial development of the UT and boost investor confidence. A viable environment can help in promoting private investment.

Kashmir valley is an ideal destination for adventure lovers and thrill seekers who visit around the world to explore breath taking landscapes and views. Adventurers may indulge in camping, rafting, trekking, safari or paragliding. Adventure sports will give a new dimension to the valley of Kashmir. The lush green meadows, snow-capped majestic mountains, icy glaciers lure the adventure lovers to visit again and again. Mountains, hilly terrains and landscapes invites tourists to visit valley to experience all that Kashmir has to offer. Administration ought to give proper attention to the valley in order to develop it into a full-fledged adventure sponsoring destination.

Prosperity of Kashmir depends on sustainable growth of various sectors such as tourism, agriculture, handicrafts and forestry. Key to unlocking the potential of these sectors is through government support, infrastructure development, skill development, access to finance & technology and availability of markets for these sectors. Moreover, focus should be on promoting eco-friendly tourism practices, conserving natural resources, preserving local culture and heritage and ensuring equitable distribution of the benefits of economic development. With these measures Kashmir will become a shining example of economic and social development and earn the status of “Jewel in the crown of our nation”.                   

Ideas, Opinions and Views expressed in articles are Writer’s own and may not be in accord with those of The Morn

Leave a Reply