Friday, May 25, 2012

The Only Way Out of the Kashmir mess

Reading the comments given by the interlocutors on how to deal with the issue of Jammu and Kashmir (sometimes it feels like a cottage industry enterprise of a handful of people), I am forced to question the 'breakthrough' Dileep Padgaonkar, Radha Kumar and M M Ansari really achieved by churning out lassi from the yakhni (yoghurt) that was all over in the first place. Many mistakes have been committed, but the biggest mistake is being committed right now by the Indian media by not discussing the report of the interlocutors threadbare.

Keeping the state united in my opinion is not an option now. The regions of Ladakh and Jammu are financially supporting the Kashmir valley, but there is a lot of anger and hatred in these areas for the Kashmiri separatist sentiment, which goes beyond the religious divide. Go to places like Bhadervah in Doda, and you realize just how fed up the Muslims there are of the incessant calls for bandh issued by the Hurriyat, and the unrelenting hatred they have for the 'Kashmiris who kept fooling us for the past three decades'. Similarly, Ladakhis too are not happy with the arrangement amongst them and the Kashmiris, when there are three Central universities in Srinagar, but there are not even diploma colleges in Leh. They feel cheated and outrightly discriminated within the state.

The only way out, and people hate to even consider it because it is a polarizing solution, is to divide the state into three regions along these natural divides. Jammu and Kashmir as it stands today (in any case divided) was never one contiguous cultural region to begin with. A break up of the same will make them prosper better. The manner in which the economies are run can be addressed properly. Moreover, Article 370 needs to be revoked permanently (and 371 as well before you hang around my neck) and all land reform laws need to be applied with immediate effect in the Valley, as the real reasons of the 'strife' are economic, and people have been taken for a ride by mainstream and separatist politicians of the Valley alike.

For those suspecting me of communalism, one should remember that Jammu and Ladakh have significant Muslim population, and so there is no divide along religious lines. What about the Kashmiri Pandits then? The Pandits will have to be given a place in Kashmir, a Union Territory similar to what Chandigarh which shares capital with Punjab and Haryana), and yes I am affirming that I agree with Panun Kashmir's idea. But that should be kept the last option, after efforts to bring back the Pandits and other Hindus of the Valley (Dogras, Punjabis etc.) and the Sikhs and fully re-integrate them fail. (Wish I can be proved wrong, but I think the Union Territory will be created eventually).

Will there be bloodshed? No. It is a mutually acceptable idea. The people of these three regions in any case do not think of a pan J&K identity in spite of sixty years of attempts to push one down their brains, and so we might as well stop trying to do so. Will this help reduce the problem? Yes, because the other regions suffer due to the 'Kashmiri separatist sentiment', and that holds back their economic potential. Will this solve Kashmir issue? Yes, because land reforms will show the people just how they are being fooled and toyed with by people. Its not an option.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Its the Economy, Stupid!

No, I am not merely recalling Bill Clinton's unofficial slogan for his presidential re-election bid of 1996. This is what I want to tell a host of mandarins (elected and unelected ones, ruling and opposing ones) sitting in South and North Block who have decided to bury their heads like ostriches into the sand. If I do not see the hunter, he is not there. Similarly, they can wish all that they want to, but any complaints about the more than 7 rupee hike in petrol prices is just a signal of the financial mess that we have created for ourselves right now, thanks to myopic work done by the ruling dispensation. Add to that the oversell of Manmohan Singh, Kaushik Basu and Montek Singh Ahluwalia. three 'progressive' economists who just seem to be warming chairs, and outsiders fail to understand where we went so horribly wrong.
If one wants to put the economy on track, we need economic reforms. That does not stand only for FDI in retail (which by the way does NOT need Parliament's approval - it can be brought out as a notification, and Mamata Bannerjee can cry herslef hoarse about Monmon Shing, but she will not pull out of the government). What about divesting stake of PSUs and selling off stake in those where it is already in a minority? (case in point - Maruti Suzuki, BALCO)  Piyush Goyal's argument in Rajya Sabha was bang on when he said that the low hanging fruit that need to be gathered first. What about inviting FDI in such sectors as aviation and perhaps selling off Air India? (since it does not manage to find a way to run the airline professionally) Nope, and here again is a case of political bluffs that scare people in their trousers.
Petrol hike will not save the oil companies (another sector where the government is hell bent on bleeding itself). It is a much needed diesel hike that will save them, for diesel consumption is far higher in India.What is really needed instead is to hike diesel prices and raise standards for fuel efficiency in the trucks while modernizing railways by making it the source of transporting goods. What stops the government from enforcing better efficiency standards in the heavy moving vehicles? That will help prevent the skew in balance. Moreover it is time that we all realize that public transportation is the way to go. 
It is high time people got some sense. If the economy does not survive, this country won't either. After all, its all about the economy stupid.

The Economic Slowdown Needs Immediate Address

The Buck Stops With the Duo (Courtesy: Bloombergquint) The fracas in Maharashtra notwithstanding, things are at a critical juncture ...