India Inc To Kashmir: Forget Past, Make Up For Lost Time

India Inc To Kashmir: Forget Past, Make Up For Lost Time

5 October 2012
Times of India
Randeep Singh Nandal

Srinagar: Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi, India Inc honchos Ratan Tata, Kumaramangalam Birla, Deepak Parekh, Rajiv Bajaj, Ashok Reddy and CM Omar Abdullah, all in one frame. As a line-up it doesn't get better. But talking to the great and good of Srinagar, India Inc did some plain speaking. For Kashmir to progress, it needs to forget the past and move in sync with the rest of the country. 'I often hear about the difficulties faced by Kashmiris, except there are parts of the country where people face even greater problems than in Kashmir. This is your state and you need to forget the past and try and make up for the time lost,' said one CEO. This sentiment set the tone. There were no big announcements of investment. India Inc came, saw, and promised a helping hand. 'We can come in with training, skill development, but local businessmen must take the lead and work on the ground,' said another prospective business partner. The caution displayed by the CEOs reflects the fallout of three years of unrest: in 2008, '09 and '10. 'The problem isn't physical security. It's that in a 2010-like situation, you just can't work. Your entire investment is in the line and, in today's global economy, even a day's delay can lead to massive losses,' said a businessman. Physical security, though, isn't easy. Even as Rahul led his delegation to meet Kashmir University students, it was a heavy police presence that stopped hecklers from disrupting the event - a fact that no CEO would have missed. Even much-lionised schemes like Udan and Himayat designed by the Centre to tap into private sector resources to train Kashmiri youth haven't been runaway successes. From lack of adequate placements to the fact that many don't quite see the point of taking talented people out of Kashmir, there are concerns galore. 'There are some six lakh unemployed youths in J&K. What difference does taking 100 of them to Mumbai or Bangalore and giving them jobs, do to improve the situation in Kashmir? What we need are factories in the state,' said a politician. For now, as the government hopes for peace to continue, the message from India Inc is clear: for them to invest, Kashmir will have to turn over a new leaf for it to reap the dividend. Basil Arjamand, a 4th semester student of business, said like him, many others would be enthused by Ratan Tata's offer to take bright students from the university for internship in his business ventures. 'Ratan Tata even offered to give scholarship to Kashmiri students who wish to go for higher studies outside the state,' Basil said. It's not unusual for students here to face monetary problems in pursuing higher education. In that sense, Arjamand was voicing a concern that affects many youths in J&K.