Statehood for Jammu Is it a chimeric vision?

Col Satish Singh Lalotra
“The strengthening of our statehood is at times deliberately interpreted as authoritarianism” -Vladimir Putin.

The statehood strengthening as espoused by the Russian president Vladimir Putin speaks volumes about the importance about it during times of yore and is relevant even today. Nation states have gone to war from times immemorial in their quest for claiming their rightful place in the comity of nations over the aspect of their identity /statehood. The concept of modern state is the product of complex historical processes that gave birth to a novel form of institutionalization of political power characterized by the existence of a single and legally regulated structure of political sovereignty that has undergone profound transformation due to globalization processes which in turn has radically altered the environment in which nation states operate. Coming back to the Indian subcontinent and its past legacy of struggles for statehood in various regions, it is worth mentioning that Telangana was the first state way back in 1946 which spearheaded the movement for a separate state from the feudal set up of princely Hyderabad in the form of “Telangana Rebellion”. Be that as it may ,still there are large regions in India which cry for attention in so far as their balanced development /regional imbalance is concerned due to want of a separate statehood.
Top of this list of regions with skewed development is the Dogra land of Jammu,which for 73 years in a row has always played a second fiddle to the leadership foisted upon it and short shrifted by the national leadership in matters of economy and political equanimity /empowerment despite possessing best of land resources, a talented manpower pool etc.What is the way out for Jammu to get out of this quagmire and how can it reclaim its past glory ,eminence and place of pride in the comity of states of the Indian union? Well the question so intrepid demands an equally intrepid answer . To be fair to the people of Jammu ,the answer lies with them albeit in a very introspective manner. Just to take the readers of this article to the essentials of a statehood ,it is pertinent to mention that as per the Montevideo convention of 1933 the rights and duties as well as the essentials of a statehood are basically four (4) in number viz.. a permanent population, definite territory , organizational power, and lastly the ability to enter into relations with the neighbouring states.The region of Jammu is in possession of first two essentials i.e a permanent population and a definite defined territory .
I have to tried to put forward certain postulations over here to make statehood of Jammu a reality provided they are followed in totality.All the postulations were already existing on ground ,but the need was and is even today to pick up these cues and turn these postulations into concrete reality . Taking the first essential for the formation of a separate state for Jammu is the permanent population. As per the latest data available from authorized sources , Jammu division’s population is approximately 53.5 lakhs and counting on an upward spiral.Though a notch below than Kashmir province’s population of 69 lakhs as per last census, the density of population in Jammu province is 530 people per sqkm which outstrips that of Kashmir’s 430 people per sqkm. Accordingly this calls for a relative up gradation of infra resources, in terms of health ,education and related things. Has it happened over the years since independence? It has not kept pace with the changing dynamics of increased population explosion as also the enhanced aspirations to the utter dismay of Jammuites. As per the report of CMIE/Center for monitoring of Indian economy, J&K despite receiving 10% of tax payers money for 1% of the entire population of India in the last 73 years of independence ,has had a fragile economy to say the least. The Finance Commission of India which is the apex body /agency deciding how funds are supposed to be regulated has always funded J&K more than other special category state.As an example during the 5th year plan of 1957-58 to 1961-62 J&K received the highest per capita grant -in- aid of Rs 41.7/ – which was almost 7 times the average of all the states which stood at Rs 6-.
Coming back to the Montevideo convention of 1933, which lays stress on indigenous population as the first tool of statehood ,it would stand to justification that the Dogra population which for ages has been found to be under punching in demanding their piece of action either from the center or various state dispensations needs to change track. The Dogras are too much of a hidebound community and nationalistic in their approach to rock the boat for their own convenience . This tendency of Dogras to become the proverbial “sacrificial goat” at the altar of others has to be shed sooner or later.
Focusing on the second facet of statehood viz Territory ,it would be a real surprise to know that the territorial expanse of Jammu province is much larger than that of Kashmir division . With a territorial spread of approximately 26293 square km , it outstrips that of Kashmir area of 15948 square km by an amount of 10345 square km which is colossal. The territorial expanse of Jammu province includes the Blue sapphires /Paddar mines at Kishtwar which outshines even the diamonds as also considered one of the best in the world. On 19th of May 2004 when a single sapphire from Paddar mines was sold for a whopping 1.5 Million dollars at Geneva the world sat and took note of Jammu’s potential. It is believed that revenue to the tune of 6,000 to 10,000 crores could be generated that would ease the problem of unemployment of the province. But the further mining /exploration of these sapphire mines have been mired in bureaucratic wrangling between the J&KML (J&K Mineral limited) and some outside agencies which doesn’t portend well for the Jammu province and its people.
As for the hydroelectric power potential of Jammu province the more said about is less. The Chenab valley hydroelectric project itself would generate so much of power that it would be sufficient for the entire Jammu province power requirement put together. But every year J&K has to go to the center with an apologetic face to borrow power for its requirements from domestic to industrial usage etc due to myriad reasons ranging from transmission and distribution losses to outright pillage /theft with impunity. Coupled with this is the fact of lack of technological up gradation in power sector . Though Jammu region falls in the typical sub-tropical climatic zone having a mix of tropical and temperate weather conditions with seasonal and perennial rivers flowing across in abundance ,but most of the river waters during the monsoons flows across to Pakistan in a matter of few hours taking along with it the precious top soil to the detriment of the local ecology. This could have been stopped in an efficient manner had the Kandi watershed area development programme/ KWADP been implemented more vigorously by the powers that be for the last so many decades .
Projects like flood control, small scale irrigation,flood protection work ,check dams etc forming part of Kandi watershed area development and being of utmost necessity in Jammu province have always been short shrifted at the altar of more glamorous projects in Kashmir region . This practice can be reversed if Jammu comes into being as a separate entity with dedicated manpower ,funds /resources etc allocated for the above activities abinitio . Closely connected with the territorial ambitions of statehood of Jammu is the lack of a proper industrial base which has not developed for decades except for certain pockets viz Bari Brahamna industrial area ,Birpur industrial complex and the gateway of union territory i.e Kathua. Ailing the entire industrial environment in Jammu province has been host of factors which range from poor infrastructure , erratic power supply, poor road connectivity, lack of a dedicated entrepreneurship culture, to capital formation etc.
With a growing count of industrial units to the tune of 3125 , and contributing to half of Himachal Pradesh’s revenue as also employing roughly half of Himachal ”s workforce ,Baddi which is the gateway to Himachal Pradesh from Punjab is a shining example as also showing a mirror to its contemporary competitors to pull up their socks and do some serious rethinking about their industrial policy. Kathua as opposed to the above is/was a dismal second in the industrial policy priority of the successive dispensations of erstwhile state. Half of industrial units in Kathua region are lying sick or on the verge of closure die to a supine and lackadaisical attitude on the part of previous Dtate Governments. Coming to the second last requirement of a successful statehood, i.e Organized power ,the less said about it the better. Jammu province has been perpetually lacking in a massed based leadership which had the capability of carrying its population on the basis of its convictions . Barring a few like Pandit Prem Nath Dogra, Balraj Madhok and Girdhari Lal Dogra not much ice has been broken in this regard. Even the above mentioned leaders failed to seize the fleeting opportunity presented to them in the form of “Praja Parishad’ agitation in the early 1950s for a separate statehood for Jammu. Launched as “Ek Vidhan, Ek Nishan, Ek Pradhan movement against Sheikh Abdullah’s National conference for a separate entity within the union of India ,these stalwarts should have taken advantage of the concurrent agitation going on in the country for formation of states on linguistic basis when the states reorganization movement started and the bill was presented in 1953 for the same.
As far as the last facet for attaining statehood is concerned i.e ability of the newly formed state to enter into a meaningful relation with its neighbouring states, there remains lot of ground to be covered.A meaningful interaction with its neighbouring states can only be affected if the people’s representatives are elected to interact according to the population they represent. With the present status of delimitation exercise set forth by the Modi government yet to pick up traction under the chairmanship of justice Desai,it is yet to be seen how the increased population in various districts of Jammu province since the last census of 2011 are given their due via their elected leaders . The very fact that the leaders of Jammu province couldn’t stop the freeze set upon the delimitation till 2026 and the last delimitation done way back in 1995-96, it would be herculean task for the political dispensation of Jammu to reverse these trends . The above can only be done in a meaningful manner if Jammu province comes into being as a separate entity and due regard given to its increased population and aspirations. Notwithstanding the above the biggest hurdle albeit challenge facing the people of Jammu towards a status of Jammu statehood would be , to do a self introspection and cleanse the system thoroughly from the inside to include its local administration, parochial attitude and giving a rightful due to meritocracy rather than backdoor entry to various appointments which compromise the very system they feed upon. Since no new method or task is all that easy to attain ,it is all the more incumbent that all the stake holders in the formation of a separate Jammu statehood remind themselves of the fact that no amount of Gajendragadkar, Sikri , or Wazir commissions formed in the past as also in the future by the center will assuage their feelings . The regional imbalance will have to be looked not from the prism of Kashmir or center’s point of view but from the affected party’s point of viewi.e Jammu since keeping one’s eyes and ears nearer to the ground makes the rumblings hear loud and clear else the statehood for Jammu will remain a chimeric vision.