‘Pune model’ could be way forward for educational investments in J&K | Opinion
To restore normalcy in the region and promote investments, the work for a J&K Investors Summit to be held in the last week of November has already started and a number of corporate groups, educational institutions and others, have submitted letters of intent to the J&K governor Satya Pal Malik.
If there is a single biggest hurdle to successful investments in the newly created union territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh, it is trust deficit. Given the deeply traumatic history and political complications of this region, there is a complete lack of trust between the local population and potential investors from the rest of the country.
After the recent abrogation of the special status of J&K, the Narendra Modi government has been keen to restore normalcy in the region and promote investments. The ground work for a J&K Investors Summit to be held in the last week of November is already in full swing and a number of corporate groups, educational institutions and others, have already submitted letters of intent to the J&K governor Satya Pal Malik.
This newspaper has already reported that at least half a dozen letters of intent from educational institutes in Pune have already been submitted to the government. Many of these institutes, notably Vishwakarma University, a state university in Maharashtra, have come under the umbrella of the well-known social organisation ‘Sarhad’, to propose, what could well be called the ‘Pune Model’ for establishing new institutes of higher learning in J&K and Ladakh.
Sarhad, led by its young and dynamic 53-year-old president, Sanjay Nahar, has such eminent personalities as the former IPS officer Julio Ribeiro, scientist RA Mashelkar and the poet-lyricist Javed Akhtar on its advisory committee. Over the last three decades, Sarhad first focused to providing humanitarian assistance to the terrorism-affected in Punjab and later shifted its focus to J&K.
Wanting to create a strong, emotional bond based on trust between the people of J&K and the rest of the country, Sarhad paid special emphasis to rehabilitating women and children affected by terrorism and brought scores of children to Pune for their education. This organisation has its own school and college of Arts, Science and Commerce and presently has more than 150 Kashmiri boarding students.
Those rehabilitated include Joginder Singh who lost 15 members of his family to terrorist violence, and Sanzin Gorjay, son of Tashi Namgyal, the shepherd in Kargil who was the first to alert an Indian Army outpost about the presence of Pakistani soldiers.
There is thus a strong element of trust between Sarhad and literally, hundreds of Kashmiri students, their families and well-wishers within and outside J&K.
Building on this trust and the rich field experience in Kashmir for nearly three decades, the Sarhad proposal-- call it the Pune Model-- is far different from the investment proposals of other educational institutes and universities.
To begin with, Nahar has clarified that Sarhad is not asking for land, electricity, water and security as a pre-condition to investments. It does not want to be based in attractive tourist destinations of J&K, but is keen to work in the terror-affected regions of Pulwama, Anantnag, Budgam, and parts of Avantipura, in cooperation with the local people there. This is similar to the work initiated by social workers like the late Baba Amte, his son Prakash and wife Mandakini in the remotest, Maoist-affected districts of Chandrapur and Gadchiroli in Maharashtra.
While Sarhad and its associated educational institutes will bring in the investments and expertise in higher education which is much needed in J&K, it wants to partner with the local land owners and employ the local people, including retired teachers and education officers.
It is noteworthy that even now, entire families have come forward in Jammu and Kashmir to enter into such partnerships under the ‘Pune model’ which has proposed that Sarhad and associated institutes will provide infrastructure and train Kashmiri teachers to teach and run these institutes of higher learning.
This is an extremely sound proposal and should be considered seriously by the government.