By abolishing the restrictive special status for Jammu & Kashmir and integrating the region with the rest of India effectively, huge opportunities in multiple direction for growth are awaiting the residents of Jammu & Kashmir.
Certainly, residents of Jammu & Kashmir have suffered enormously during the last seventy years, as separatist forces and militants have gradually increased their influence over the area, disproportionate to their number , leaving vast majority of law abiding residents helpless and frustrated. A few thousand or even less militants and terrorists have brought havoc to the state by their acts of terrorism. In the process, joblessness has grown in Jammu & Kashmir , economic growth opportunities have been lost, leaving the youth frustrated and forcing them to turn towards rebel attitude.
With Government of India now effectively integrating Jammu & Kashmir with rest of India, it is well recognized by everyone all over India that promoting economic and job opportunities for residents in Jammu & Kashmir is a matter of utmost importance.
As a chemical engineer and project consultant with over forty years of exposure to economic and industrial growth scenario in the Indian and global context, I have applied my mind to identify the appropriate methods and options for promoting economic and job opportunities for residents of Jammu & Kashmir. Highlights of the views are further discussed.
It is reported in the media that an International Investor’s conference would be organised for promoting economic opportunities for Jammu & Kashmir in October,2019, when the Prime Minister would participate in the conference.
One hopes that such investors conference would be preceded by careful weighing of various options for Jammu and Kashmir and identifying appropriate projects in tune with the particular strength of Jammu & Kashmir and duly taking into account the historical background , ground realities and traditional expertise available with the residents.
There is no need to think on the beaten track for growth, by way of promoting massive industrialisation and any such thoughtless plans would become counter productive. Therefore, an extremely careful forward planning is necessary and blue print should be evolved and circulated to the participants before the proposed investors conference in October, 2019.
As one thinks about Jammu & Kashmir, the immediate impression that comes to one’s mind is the enormously beautiful landscape of the region with lakes and mountains of unparalleled beauty. In addition, the warm hearted and friendly attitude of residents with high level of receptivity to visitors is another great source of strength. Both these strong strengths should form the basic background for investment plans. Obviously, this implies that every conceived project scheme should be one hundred percent eco friendly with nil adverse impact on the prevailing unadulterated ecological standards of the region.
Obviously, industrialization in the traditional way should be totally avoided. Projects relating to chemical, pharmaceutical, steel, cement , paper , mining etc. should be totally eliminated, whatever may be the cost.
Promotion of tourism in big way would change the economic face of Jammu & Kashmir and the opportunities are plenty. In the past, the tourism potential has not been exploited even upto 10% , even in the best of times. Private investors from India and abroad should be asked to invest in this area by conceiving well laid plans.
One particular aspect that is very important for promoting tourism is the availability of well informed and well trained tourism guides, who can impress and satisfy the visitors who visit Jammu & Kashmir from all over the world. Government of India should immediately start several tourism schools in Jammu & Kashmir exclusively for the natives of the region, who would not only be taught about the enormously beautiful landscape of the region but also about the historical facts and greatness. Such tourism guides have to be trained to speak in multiple international languages and should also be taught about the nature and culture of different countries abroad , particularly the economically developed countries from where tourists are likely to come in large number.
There is need for atleast 10000 well trained guides in Jammu & Kashmir, who would undergo short term and long term courses, in multiple discipline to meet the immediate and long term needs. Government of India will have to invest atleast Rs.1000 crore in setting up many such tourism schools in different parts of Kashmir. Indian and International investors should be invited to join in the efforts.
Another important need for promoting tourism is the building up of economy hotels and not luxury hotels. These days, most of the international tourists do not belong to super rich class but hail from middle income group or even lower income group in some cases. Such hotels should be well spread all over Jammu & Kashmir in tune with the tourist spot attractions in various places , which are considerable in number. Indian and international investors should be invited to set up such economy hotel projects with attractive incentive programmes.
Jammu & Kashmir is famous for saffron and pine trees . Unfortunately, several areas of pine tree forests have been destroyed by felling the trees without adequate replantation efforts. Pine tree is the raw material for the protection of turpentine etc. While pine tree should be cultivated in a big way in the region, pine tree based derivative projects can be set up in nearby states to protect the eco friendly nature of the region.
Dedicated saffron development board should be created / strengthened with incentive programmes and saffron have excellent export potentials.
Another area of great potential is the promotion of software sector. Youth in Jammu & Kashmir are as intelligent and capable as anyone else in India and they have been denied the opportunities in the software period due to past disturbances. Software industry in Jammu & Kashmir can employ several thousands of youth. Special software raining schools should be started in Jammu & Kashmir exclusively for the residents of the region. In this effort, several leading software companies in India can participate and exploit the opportunities for mutual benefits.
A few other eco friendly opportunities can be readily thought of and it should be possible to conceive and discuss such plans in the international investors conference , proposed in October, 2019.
In recent years, several such international investor’s conferences have taken place in different states all over India and most of such conferences have not resulted even 30% of the investments proposed. The main reason was the poor advanced planning and choice of projects being left to the investors , many of whom have announced their projects without clear understanding of the ground situation and clarity on the government policies . This mistake should not happen in the case of proposed investors conference in Jammu & Kashmir.
It is the duty of Government of India and people of India to compensate the residents of Jammu & Kashmir for all that they have lost during the last seventy years due to motivated unrest. Government of India has now created right condition to achieve big leap forward of Kashmir region and it is necessary to ensure that the benefits of planned growth reach the residents as efficiently and as quickly as possible.
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