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Saturday, February 24, 2024

Economic situation worsening in IIOJK

Some Kashmiri leaders have invoked the region’s 1987 elections which were allegedly rigged and were considered a tipping point when the armed freedom movement in Kashmir took off.

On December 13 last year, India’s Minister of State for Home Affairs Nityanand Rai presented investment data for the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK).

The numbers spoke for themselves: investments have fallen by 55 percent over the past four years.

Read more: Ten people killed in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu Kashmir

According to an article published on the Al-Jazeera website, the declining investments and violence contradict two central arguments that have been at the heart of the Indian government’s rationale for the 2019 abrogation of the semi-autonomous status that the region previously enjoyed: that the move would help improve security and spur economic development.

In the past, federal governments in New Delhi have often blamed Jammu and Kashmir’s woes on local governments in power in the region. That’s no longer an excuse that works.

When the Hindu nationalist government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi eliminated Article 370 of the Indian Constitution — which gave Kashmir “special status” — it also carved out the territory of Ladakh from the region. Kashmir’s statehood was withdrawn, and it was made a union territory, directly controlled by New Delhi.

Jammu and Kashmir do not even have the disempowered legislature that other union territories have — the region has not had elections in seven years. Yet it should now increasingly be clear, if it was not previously, that sidelining democratic processes and principles, and steamrolling constitutional provisions, are not working in improving the region’s security or economic allure.

The abrogation of Article 370 allowed non-residents to buy and own land in Jammu and Kashmir for the first time. Critics of the region’s previous special status frequently cited restrictions on land ownership as a major reason why private sector industries were reluctant to set up businesses there.

However, data published by the Indian government’s Ministry of Home Affairs — and made public by Rai — calls a bluff on those claims. Total investment in 2021-22 in Jammu and Kashmir stood at $46m, down from $50.5m the previous year, and dramatically less than the $102.8m spent in 2017-18.

Read more: How India is an obstacle in Kashmiri freedom movement

While the COVID-19 pandemic no doubt affected Kashmir’s economy, the statistics suggest that was not the biggest factor in investments drying up. After all, the steepest fall in investments came the year that the Indian government ended Kashmir’s semi-autonomous status, before the pandemic, halving from $72.3m in 2018-19 to $36.3m in 2019-20.