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Can Kashmir afford azadi?

Can Kashmir afford azadi?

Author: Shankkar Aiyar
Publication: India Today
Date: September 1, 2008
URL: http://indiatoday.digitaltoday.in/index.php?option=com_content&Itemid=1&task=view&id=13627&sectionid=23&issueid=68&latn=2

The stench of rotten politics is wafting down the Kashmir Valley but the nausea has gripped the whole nation. Defiance without logic is the reigning dialect and stridency bordering on lunacy the calling card.

Sloganeering has replaced dialogue, the Valley's leaders have been found to be duplicitous and the King called Singh has no new ideas. Typically of the UPA, everyone has someone to blame but nobody is responsible.

A decade of hard work has been reversed in hours in the quest for votes. It is as if time has stood still. Lone, Mirwaiz, Abdullah, Mufti are still the names that ring in the Valley but the face of the rebellion is the new generation. Tragically, even they choose to articulate in the old language of separatism. The failed state of Pakistan is yet deemed a "friend".

Last week Kashmiris mindlessly marched again calling for azadi. It was as if the arithmetic of economics didn't apply to Kashmir. As if someone will always pick up their bills.

In October 2002, India Today computed that in 12 years between 1990 and 2002, Jammu and Kashmir got Rs 35,571 crore in grants assistance. I revisited the numbers. Grants from the Centre doubled to touch Rs 38,156 crore in five years between 2003 and 2008. The extent of pampering is revealing.

In 2007-08 the state contributed a princely sum of Rs 533 crore as direct taxes to the Centre and received Rs 1,471 crore from the Central tax kitty and Rs 8,962 crore in grants. Its own revenue of Rs 2,299 crore will not cover the salary bill of Rs 4,389 crore.

Even without Jammu and Ladakh, azadi unsustainable. To sum up, of Rs 16,267 crore spent last year, two-thirds or 65 paise out of every rupee came from the Centre. This year the state will spend Rs 17,354 crore of which Rs 11,510 crore or Rs 11,510 per person will come from the Centre.

Compare this with the Rs 700 per capita that Uttar Pradesh gets. Worse, Uttar Pradesh will return 70 per cent of the grant while Jammu & Kashmir only 10 per cent.

You could ask where has all this money gone? But that is not the question separatists want to ask either the PDP or National Conference. That would mean looking first for the enemy within.

Azadi sounds more romantic and many across the border will revel in the rebellion. But those chanting and echoing slogans in the Valley need to wake up to one critical question: Can they afford the delusion of azadi?

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