The Rs 8000 crore budget announcement and the Rangarajan Panel report on J&K
“The government’s special support to Jammu and Kashmir is anchored in the Rs.28,000 crore Prime Minister’s Reconstruction Plan. In addition, for the current year, about Rs.8,000 crore has been provided for the state’s development needs,” Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said in his budget speech.
Although an impression is being created that an additional Rs 8,000 crore has been given to Jammu & Kashmir, there is still no clarity about the details of this allocation. Is it over and above the plan outlays for the state? Or, as what seems most likely, is it just a sum-total of outlays already budgeted for J&K under various Centrally Sponsored Schemes for development?
There is no point of such announcements in the budget unless complete details are also disseminated immediately. It is precisely this kind of subterfuge by Delhi that has historically led to cynicism on all sides: Kashmiris believe that the Union Government is insincere and dishonest in its commitment towards Kashmir, while many in India assume that Kashmir is being given a special treatment by being provided with an additional Rs 8,000 crore.
Before making such duplicitous announcements, Union Government would be well advised to come out with a detailed status-report on the much-touted Prime Minister’s Reconstruction Plan. A fair portion of Rs 1,200 crore allocated for 2010-11 remains unspent (Status Report as on 31 January 2011 pdf) and the deadline for the PMRP continues to be extended every year beyond its original proposed date of 2008.
Meanwhile, the panel headed by C Rangarajan has submitted its latest report to “formulate a jobs plan” and increase “employability in the state” of J&K. It recommends a five-year skill development plan entailing an annual expenditure of Rs 761 crore. Among its other recommendations are a Rs 1,200 crore scheme for increasing access to education, Rs 500 crore initiative for professional training of 40,000 educated youths and Rs 257 crore project for skill development of up to one lakh youth, besides programmes for revising agriculture, textile and handicrafts.
The Prime Minister has commented favourably on the proposals contained in the report. The Chief Minister also hopes that they will be implemented soon. But Mr Rangarajan has eearlier submitted two reports about reviving the economy of J&K to the same prime minister, which have been accepted but never implemented.
Dr Rangarajan was the head of an 11-member task force to frame a long-term plan for the integrated social and economic development of J&K, announced on March 29, 2005. It had a large mandate of identifying sources of finance – locally, nationally and globally – to fund the development of the state and the projects it suggests. After eight meetings, Dr Rangarajan’s panel submitted a detailed report (summary pdf) to the Prime Minister in November 2006. The report suggested a series of projects that were worth around Rs 8000 crore. Apart from a number of quick yielding projects (QYP), the panel suggested a Rs 200 crore asset reconstruction company (ARC), Rs 200 crore investment in ‘image enhancement on this side of the LoC’, a Rs 200 crore satellite business city on outskirts of Srinagar, and an investment of Rs 200 crore in a special industrial zone (SIZ) on SEZ pattern.
Dr Rangarajan was in the middle of this assignment when, in May 2006, he was tasked to head one of the five Working Groups set up after the Prime Minister’s Round Table Conference on J&K. The working group on the economic development was tasked to evolve a strategy that would ensure: balanced economic development and employment generation; and balanced regional and sub-regional development within J&K. Dr Rangarajan repackaged his earlier report as the Working Group Report (pdf here) and submitted it to the Third Round Table Conference on April 24, 2007 in Delhi. This time he suggested various projects worth Rs 7947 crore but did not change the focus of his prescription. This time he wanted Rs 1750 crore for rural roads besides reiterating his suggestions over Dulhasti power project, SIZ and ARC. It was believed that the report would eventually take the shape of PM’s Reconstruction Plan-II but nothing of that kind has happened so far.
When all his earlier recommendations continue to gather dust, little has changed now to suggest a different fate for Dr Rangarajan’s latest report. It is perhaps for these times that Churchill said: “Men occasionally stumble on the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened.”