Beyond  Article 370: A Way Forward

On August 5, 2019, the special status of the State of Jammu and Kashmir was revoked, reshaping its relationship with the Indian Constitution and the country. Article 370 had granted the state unique autonomy within India, but its retention led to disarray, separatism and economic challenges.

Economically, Article 370 hindered growth. Lack of structured tax schemes deterred business operations, leading to a two percent lower growth rate than the national average. High poverty rates and poor economic conditions persisted due to underutilized land, low literacy and gender disparity.  The Jammu and Kashmir (Reorganisation) Bill and the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act 2019 transitioned governance and territory status. The transition, although marked by curfews and restricted movement, aimed to provide equal opportunities and rights. Despite turbulence, abrogation facilitated growth. Jammu and Kashmir availed itself of progressive laws, enhancing education, healthcare, and infrastructure.

In the past four years multiple economic, socio economic and other indicators give credence to the decision. As per the Economic Survey 2022-2023, Jammu and Kashmir’s Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) is likely to double in the next five years with an emphasis on industries, agriculture, tourism among others. Further the GSDP is expected to record a growth of 15% which is the same as the national average. It is also pertinent to mention that recent years have shown that the economy of J&K grew faster than the national average.

It was ranked first among UTs for its e-office uptake and renewable energy development among others. The road network has been extended to all habitations with populations of over 250 persons as per 2001 census. Major projects such as Smart City, the Srinagar Metrolite project have also been undertaken. The New Industrial Policy introduced in 2021 has seen an anticipated investment of over 64,000 crore and on ground investment of over 2200 crores which is the highest ever compared to any other previous year. It further led to creation of over 10000 jobs.  In March this year, the state saw its first foreign investment of over 60 million dollars by the Emaar Group.

In terms of the security situation prevailing in J&K, the data shows perceptible improvement in the security situation. There has been a considerable decrease in terrorist activities with the year 2022 being the most peaceful year in the last four years. The most important marker being a 92% decrease in stone pelting incidents down from 5050 to a mere 445 recorded incidents. Further there has been an 11% decrease in civilians killed in violence. Finally, whereas the terrorist recruitment numbers have been consistently coming down, the number of arrests terrorists/terrorist suspects have increased showcasing the efficiency of the counter terrorism operations by the security forces.

In the political landscape for the first time in history, a duly elected 3-tier Panchayati Raj system was established. Elections for District Development Councils were held in 2020 and as of today more that 34,000 elected members are present in urban local bodies. A Delimitation Commission headed by a retired Supreme Court judge was established in 2020. The report added 6 assembly seats to Jammu and 1 seat to Kashmir bringing the total to 43 and 47 respectively.  The aim of the Government remains a fair and free election to ensure a democratically elected government at the helm of affairs which will be undertaken after incorporating views of all the stakeholders. Further the hosting of G-20 Tourism Working Group meeting at Srinagar was a monumental event which signaled a shift towards economic and political prosperity in the region.

Lastly, the education sector has made giant strides post abrogation of Article 370. The year 2022 saw the largest increase in education capacity since independence with addition of 25000 new seats in 50 new colleges. Further there has been a substantial decrease in dropout rates in primary and upper primary levels. The New Education Policy has been implemented ensuring standardisation of education across the board. The efforts of the Government have been further supplemented by the Indian Army who have operated Army Goodwill Schools in the region to ensure quality education and implementation of Jammu Kashmir Special Scholarship Scheme (JKSS) to provide scholarship to meritorious students.

The abrogation of Article 370 was a watershed moment in the history of India. The same has shown to be a welcome step towards overall development of Jammu and Kashmir and integration with the mainland. While it remains a subject of ongoing debates in certain sections of the society, it is pertinent that the focus remains on ensuring greater benefits to the populace of J&K.

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

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