In the eight months that he has been chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed has staked the legitimacy of his government on securing a generous financial package from the Centre. That is understandable, given that Kashmir endured devastating floods in September last year, which destroyed public and private infrastructure. Mr Sayeed has not had much joy on other political fronts too. His plans to facilitate dialogue with separatists were scuttled early as his coalition partner, the BJP, objected to his political initiatives and persisted with a firm line on not engaging them. Mr Sayeed has also had to endure the stoking of communal tensions in the state over the issue of cow slaughter.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has attempted to change the narrative by providing much-needed relief to J&K and the Sayeed government by announcing a Rs 80,000 crore package meant for economic reconstruction. In so doing, the PM has underlined that he sees mainstreaming of Kashmir in India’s development trajectory as the key to subsuming political questions. The five components of the package — viz. humanitarian relief, disaster management, social infrastructure, economic infrastructure and developmental spending — shows that policymakers seek a balance between short-term relief and long-term growth-generating capacity. Finance minister Haseeb Drabu has stated that Rs 60,000 crore is for new projects, besides the Rs 7,000 crore for ongoing projects and Rs 8,000 crore for humanitarian relief. The package — to be spent over the next five years — is in addition to the Rs 34,000 crore meant for upgrading the Jammu-Srinagar highway.
The focus should now be on effective implementation and ensuring that people of the state feel they are part of the development process, instead of it being a top-down exercise. Given the tensions between the regions of Jammu and Kashmir in particular, an equitable distribution of the largesse is also crucial.