Reports have emerged over the last month that the Centre is considering a Rs 70,000 crore financial package for Jammu and Kashmir, which will be used for roadways, education, health, renewable energy, urban renewal and tourism projects.
The package was expected to be announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to Jammu last month. There are indications he may do so later this month but there is also speculation that tensions between coalition partners, the PDP and the BJP, in the state are putting a pause on such plans.
This is not really a surprise. The PDP-BJP alliance was crafted out of electoral necessity by strategists who thought reconciling polarities of Hindu nationalism and ‘self-rule’ for J-K through the lure of shared power would paper over the cracks between the two respective regions of Jammu and Kashmir.
But regional distrust unfortunately runs deep and now a contest for the spoils has reportedly caused a stalemate. The Centre cannot let this prolong indefinitely and must seek to address these differences and sanction the assistance owing to J-K’s pressing needs.
It has been nearly a year since floods submerged 90% of Srinagar and devastated residential property and all forms of public infrastructure in the Valley, including schools, roads and hospitals. By the state government’s reckoning, the flooding, which began on September 7, ultimately damaged 261,361 structures in Kashmir, 21,485 of these completely.
Around 271 bridges were damaged, apart from 1,700 km of the roads network. Every heavy downpour has become a source of dread in the Valley, setting off widespread speculation about the havoc it will create. Flash floods in March revisited the horror, killing 44 people and damaging thousands of structures.
The reigning cliché in New Delhi is that politics should not be played on important issues. There’s little doubt that J-K has endured much on many counts, owing to the conflict and, most recently, the floods. If J-K is an integral part of India, then it ought to be extended all the courtesies accorded to states that are subject to natural calamities.
The delay not only imposes humanitarian costs but also yields adverse political outcomes. Chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed is already under intense pressure from his base for failing to show results after taking the unpopular decision of forming an alliance with the BJP — and senior PDP figures have begun to say that the coalition government will become untenable if the package does not materialise soon.
The Centre must not risk further exacerbation of relations between Jammu and Kashmir, not to speak of increasing alienation within the Valley. Time is of the essence.