J&K working on new policy to pilot growth

Tuesday, 23 December 2003, 08:00 Hrs
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NEW DELHI: A greater thrust on the immense potential of tourism, horticulture, handicrafts, agro-industries, biotechnology and IT is the strategy Jammu and Kashmir is adopting to steer the state towards high growth.

While the long-term roadmap is to be the Planning Commission's state development report prepared and released Monday, the state is preparing its own economic status report, according to Haseeb Draboo, economic advisor to the state government.

"In the last few months we have been able to reduce the non-plan expenditure by 50 percent and increased the provision for planned development. This should start yielding results in a year," Draboo told IANS in an interview.

"All these have not been factored into the Planning Commission report, which is more of a long-term plan and has not said anything new. We are relooking at the fiscal aspects and by February/March plan to come out with our own economic review," Draboo said.

The Planning Commission report highlights that decades of insurgency that has taken toll of thousands of lives has also impacted the economic development in the state, which has a very low share of four industries per 100,000 population compared to the national average of 13 units.

It is not just the industries but also on agriculture front that the state has slipped badly with net sown irrigated area just 313 hectares as against the national average of 55,143 hectares.

Despite abundant potential for hydropower generation, the per capita power consumption in the state is just 223.7 KW, while the national average is 349.1 KW, which measures poorly even among developing countries like China.

"We are soon coming out with a new industrial policy, relooking at the current policy and taking into account the substantial incentives offered by the central government to the state to promote industrial investment," said Jammu and Kashmir Resident Commissioner Suresh Kumar.

In May, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had announced a 61.65 billion package for promoting development and generating employment in the state.

Kumar is hopeful that the new thrust toward development of industry will pay off combined with good governance.

"We have already received investment proposals worth 170 million so far," said the official.

These are related mostly to power, horticulture, food processing and cement units.

"There are also signs of interest in hotel and tourism. So far this year we have received around 175,000 tourists," Dabroo said.

Draboo is optimistic that a year down the line more investment will start flowing in particularly in the crucial power sector once the investment climate improves.

Work is under way to provide better linkages by road to Kashmir with the construction of the north-south highway corridor that will provide an alternative to the existing link between the summer and winter capital of the state.

By August next year, a rail link from Udhampur in Jammu to Baramulla in Kashmir is targeted to be completed.

The state development report prepared after annual plan discussions with the state governments, highlights that while the population density in the state is a low 99 person/square kilometre as against the national average of 324, in terms of population growth over the 1991-2001 decade it has been higher.

Another area where Jammu and Kashmir has to pull up its act is on improving levels of literacy, which is a low 54.46 percent against the national average of 65.38 percent.

Source: IANS
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