Life expectancy at birth is higher in Jammu and Kashmir which is depicted as a terrorist-state by media as compared to Gujarat which is projected as a model state in India; percentage of the rural population living below the poverty line in Jammu and Kashmir is less than Gujarat, also the percentage of the immunised children living in Jammu and Kashmir is higher than Gujarat.
Based on official figures, these findings were brought to notice by Dreze, who on Wednesday along with hundreds of social-political activists and students protested against the decision to abrogate Article-370.
Contrary to the narrative propagated by the ruling party and mainstream media, Dreze believes that Article – 370 of the Constitution which grants special status to Jammu and Kashmir has in fact helped the state in reducing poverty. As a result, Jammu and Kashmir has performed better than Gujarat in many socio-economic indicators.
Speaking to NH, the Belgian-born Indian economist said, “There were radical land reforms in Kashmir in 1950s and those land reforms were made possible due to Article-370.”
“Because of Article-370, Jammu and Kashmir has its own constitution and this constitution allowed distribution of land which the Constitution of India would not have allowed. I think it played an important part in reducing poverty and in laying foundation of a relatively egalitarian economy in rural areas.”
When asked how revoking of the Article-370 and the bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir is going to affect peace, Dreze replied,“That is a great illusion…it is an illusion partly based on this myth that there are only a few separatists in Kashmir and other people just want peace.Of Course, everyone wants to live in peace but the movement for the freedom in Kashmir has a very broad, popular support. People are not going to accept easily what has been done in Kashmir. It is quite possible that there would be more violence.”
Rebutting media reports which claim that normalcy has returned in the state under the army rule, Dreze clearly expressed his apprehension: “How can you say situation is normal when you have deployed thousands of army personnel? Not only that you have blocked the internet and there is complete lock down. I think this is going to make thing worse. From their point of view, the alienation continues, the violence continues, the repression continues. It is only in the mind of Home Minister Amit Shah that the situation is normal”.
In addition to Article-370, attributing progress of Jammu and Kashmir “to some kind of social capital and social institutions through which people get help and education” Dreze questioned PM Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah’s claim that abrogation of the Article-370 will bring development in the state.
“It is not correct to say that Kashmir is a backward state therefore it was a must to remove Article-370. Of course, there are economic problems but living standards is actually quite good, nutrition is much better in Kashmir than Gujarat,” he asserted, adding what Modi government has done with Kashmir is “culmination of the attitude of the Indian government to not make any concession at any cost.”