While religious sentiments are swaying the opinions of many on the Jammu & Kashmir divide, brought to the forefront in the wake of the Amarnath controversy(now settled), what has been overlooked nationally is the industrial and political discrimination against Jammu over the years. The land transfer issue was an opportune moment for the people of Jammu to speak up against the decades old discrimination, and they weren’t unjustified.
When the Amaranth Sangharsh Samiti was formed, it had a one-dimensional agenda : procuring the forestland near the Shrine area. What they had not foreseen was the discontent of the people of Jammu who would stage their grievances hoping to enlighten everyone of their plight nationally. Sadly, few are still aware of it. In fact, business men and common men alike bore the brunt of their protests and bandhs and not grudgingly too, to make their voices heard after years of silence. Their losses amount to Rs 10,000 crores according to the CCI estimates.
What we will debate here is not the special privileges of the Valley nor the hardships that they have been facing being in the heart of disturbed territory, but the discrimination that Jammu has faced, despite being the Winter Capital of the disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir. And Jammu has not been violence free either – it does have villages at the IB and LOC, not to mention the recent terrorist break-ins. Besides, major chunks of the Kashmiri Pandits displaced from the Valley in the 90s have made Jammu their home. Do they not have a right to equal opportunity?
The Gajendragadkar Commission submitted a report in 1968 to address the issues of discrimination in the field of politics, development, education and employment. Not only were the remedial measures not implemented, the discrimination continued over the years to assume greater proportions.
A few quick facts and figures will do the trick to bring to light the abject neglect. Jammu accounts for 70 per cent more area than Kashmir. Well, but naturally, we would expect, and rightly so, a proportional allocation of funds. However, this has not been so in any sector of state responsibility we study.
Politically speaking, Jammu accounts for 37 state assembly seats and 2 Lok Sabha seats as against 46 and 3 in Kashmir respectively. Also, all high profile visits to the State are made only to the Valley and Jammu has largely been ignored. Is this appeasement of a part of the state, a selection of a political darling?
Further, Jammu accounts for 70 per cent state revenue and only 30 per cent State expenditure. Who can intelligently refute this discrepancy?
Jammu industrialists pay up to 300 per cent more for Industrial Estates while the Valley enjoys subsidized rates. Besides, the fees for the Pollution Department have been increased 6 fold in Jammu.
It does not end here; the Valley enjoys 24 hours of electricity for industrial units, while Jammu receives just 8 hours of supply.
Also, the C. Rangarajan report for the development of the Jammu region has not been followed and the Rs 200 crore allocated by the Central Government for development of SIZ (Special Industrial Zone) has garnered disinterest on the part of the State authorities.
We all agree that Kashmir is Paradise on Earth and as an economy we should maximize its tourism value while preserving its natural beauty. However, this does not justify underdevelopment of potential tourist spots in the Jammu region, like Patnitop, Mansar and Surinsar Lake. Besides, in spite of huge investments the Dal Lake continues to be plagued by encroachment which is fast leading to its demise. Should this be accepted by the people of the State?
In the sectors such as power, irrigation, flood control, health, urban planning and roads, there exists ambiguity regarding the distribution of funds between Jammu and Kashmir which has inadvertently proved to Jammu’s disadvantage since it lagged in investment by the State, with Kashmir getting a disproportionately greater share of any expenditures incurred.
Jammu received 30 per cent of state funds for agriculture, 10 per cent for horticulture, 40 per cent for irrigation, 40 per cent for health facilities and a medical college, 30 per cent for urban planning and a 22 MW power project in Jammu as against 328 MW in the valley.
If this isn’t favoritism and discrimination I do not know what is. Just how can a sensible responsible citizen expect a major part of a state to go largely ignored since it competes for its affection with the most disputed and disturbed territory in India? And in this while eliciting differences, we have not once mentioned Ladakh which is another major part of the State. Doesn’t the picture become grimmer, now? I will leave you with that question.