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India needs economic solace, prosperity more than 'transient' excitement over Article 370

Top Kashmir politicians: Omar Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti
By Shantanu Basu*
The sordid saga of select politicians pillaging public funds and bankrolling their re-election and paying mercenaries to hold out terror and violence as an instrument of state policy for common citizens is the hallmark in Kashmir, North-East India, indeed behind nearly all insurgency (remember the mercenaries of Purnea that was made into a successful movie in Bombay?).
These mercenaries are also funded from overseas sources (not always palefaces, though), much of which is illegal (drug, arms, human trafficking, etc. called proceeds of crime). In simple terms, these mercenaries are a convenient conduit for foreign intervention in our domestic affairs.
There is no ideological backing of any of these groupings that alternate in running governments across India. There is ample evidence available to nail the likes of several politicians, only if our investigative agencies had the expertise to deal with financial documents.
The Kashmir Valley is one of these areas. None of the politicians presently under house arrest have any honest commitment to their home state. Each one has amassed giant financial assets, nearly all of its public funds siphoned off. In fact, the amount of siphoned public funds may account for a conservative 50% or more of grey cash and assets these politicians have collected.
When things get hot, these politicians change 'sides'. Such change, of course, comes for a giant price, a share of the booty. Yet these charlatans rise to be leaders of national eminence.
The British realized that Indian politicians were the 'chavanni' (four annas) type, with not much expectations; even a 2% commission would be enough for them to sell out their states. Wherever the British have gone, before leaving they created fault lines, e.g. the creation of Israel on legitimate Palestinian land. The same happened in Kashmir.
The debauch, Hari Singh, was hardly in any position to bargain when his lands were being overrun by Pak irregulars, and he would have probably died at their hands, unless he capitulated to India. So why the one-sided Instrument of Accession, that laid the foundation of a private zamindari in perpetuity, at the expense of all other Indian territories?
The Tibet issue is another outstanding example of a British-made fault line. Tibet was the buffer for India against China. Why was this delicate balance disturbed? The finger points to the British and their loyal Indian subject politicians in 1947-56, the formative years of the Indian Union.
Of course, there were many exceptions like Rafi Ahmed Kidwai who, against Nehru's opinion, ordered the arrest of Sheikh Abdullah in the early 1950s.
The current crop of Kashmiri politicians must be brought to book and most severely punished without any demur. Not just that, the account books of this state must be thoroughly scrutinized to find siphoning of public funds and their transfer within/outside India.
What was the role of the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) Bank in all this (today this bank faces huge frauds)? Why are no questions asked? For the uninitiated here are some stats, dated 2011-15, but enough to buttress my point:
  • J&K under Indian control (sq km) 1,06,567
  • Population (Census 2011) 12.50 million
  • No of districts 16
  • Total expenditure via State Budget Rs 1,55,785.36 crore
  • Average (avg) expenditure per sq. km @ 75% of total land area of state Rs 190-195 crore
  • Avg expenditure/district/annum for 16 districts Rs 1947 crore
  • Avg expenditure/head/annum of population Rs. 2.50 lakh
  • Total own revenue earned by state Rs. 55,821.66 crore
  • Avg own revenue earned by the state/head of population (incl. state’s share of central taxes) Rs 44,657
  • Total grants received by the state from the Government of India (GoI) Rs 73478 crore
  • Avg grants-in-aid/head of population received by J&K from GoI Rs 587824
  • Avg annual ratio between State’s own revenue and grants-in-aid from Govt. of India 1:1.31
And these are figures from the state's audited Annual Accounts, not ones that I created. The above figures do not include special grants (disaster relief), National Highway Authority of India (NHAI), Ministry of Defence (MoD), Central Public Works Department (CPWD) and other Central agency works funded directly by GoI.
With probably triple figure lakh crore rupees having been released by GoI, why is it that Kashmiri children have no access to good quality education, while all Kashmiris suffer from lack of access to health facilities, commercial-scale sports entertainment arenas, communication amenities, and much more?
Account books must be scrutinized to find Kashmir politicians siphoning public funds and transfer within/outside India
Unless exemplary action against a dozen or two prominent politicians is taken, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's 'naa kahoonga, naa khaane doonga' slogan will be consigned to the footnotes of history while corruption will eat away the remaining innards of our economy, leaving us eternally poor.
I must credit BJP-led governments for three major milestones, viz the convergence of telecom and I-T, the Golden Quadrilateral and, now, the revocation of Article 370, the balance being mostly footnotes in history.
Now that the Article 370 excitement is over, may I also request the PM to look for a better Finance Minister, constitute a bipartisan Economic Advisory Council, select far more competent officers for the economic ministries, stop chasing the ghost of tax evasion by small fry and concentrate on making GST a truly national tax, rationalize his ministries and bring in bipartisan professionals as junior ministers?
The country needs economic solace and prosperity far more than the transient excitement over Article 370.
Last, but not the least, GoI and its defense services in J&K must not only be fair to common people but also seen to be fair. They have rendered stellar service in preserving the integrity of our land but have frequently been accused of use of excessive force. The average Kashmiri aam aadmi is an Indian, and deserves compassion, not retaliatory brutality. If the latter were to happen too frequently after today, GoI would lose much of the goodwill it has garnered today.
Besides, that could mean the defense services remain on war alert (at giant daily cost), a contingency that GoI's tattered finances may not be able to sustain for more than a month or two.
BJP motormouths too need to be severely warned not to utter rubbish on this sensitive issues, that is their wont. It is a time for healing, not for settling past scores or sub-class trolling. Kashmir is an integral part of the Indian union, not a conquered territory, as our media would have us believe. Please tread cautiously, GoI. Thin ice is treacherous.
---
*Indian Audit and Accounts Service (1984), Ministry of Finance, Government of India. Source: Author's Facebook timeline

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