This June, Jammu and Kashmir experienced a record-breaking influx of foreign tourists for the first time in decades. Seeing large tourist footfall, the region’s tourist department has decided to take proactive measures for tourism promotion, including visual tours, airline promotions, and other online marketing tools. It has also decided to ensure its presence is felt internationally as an important tourist destination, targeting markets in Dubai, Southeast Asia and North America.
The flourishing tourism is not a new thing for the valley, however, the last time it faced such an influx of international tourists is too distant a memory to remember. Since 1980s, the national as well as international tourism in Kashmir has faced a setback. However, over the last two years, the picture has changed for the better, hopefully for good.
Indeed, the choice of Kashmir as the site for G20 Working Meeting on tourism in May this year, was obvious and yet symbolic. The beauty of Kashmir which renders it the title ‘Paradise on Earth’ makes it an obvious choice for the tourism summit. However, it also had a symbolic value in two ways: One, it replenished the valley’s image as a major tourist destination for the world. Second, it sent a strong signal internationally that despite its tumultuous and acerbic past, Kashmir has been progressively achieving a state of peace and normalcy.
However, it is not only in tourism that Kashmir has been performing well. The valley has recently experienced a surge in startups. More than 400 startups have been registered with the government of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) and StartUp India across sectors including horticulture, food and crafts, and e-commerce. Websites like startupkashmir.org and startupjk.com provide a comprehensive ecosystem, attracting investors and providing training to its youth. In terms of poverty eradication as well, Kashmir seems to be faring quite well. As per the recently released Multi-dimensional Poverty Index, Kashmir’s headcount ratio has fallen from 12.56% in 2015-16 to 4.8% in 2019-21. This implies that more than one million people exited multi-dimensional poverty in J&K by 2019-21. As a multi-dimensional measure, a reduction in poor indicates the fact that over the period between 2016 and 2021, the region has experienced progress over three main socio-economic indicators healthy, education, and standard of living. In this period, J&K has witnessed a drastic fall in the proportion of the population deprived over various indicators pertaining to nutrition, school attendance, sanitation, years of schooling, maternal mortality, and housing, to mention a few.
The strengthening of these socio-economic indicators has been accompanied by infrastructural developments in the region. Mega projects in the valley are transforming the landscape, ensuring economic growth and seamless connectivity for greater social and geographical assimilation of the region connectivity projects3&4. Recently completed T5 tunnel by NHAI, Delhi Amritsar Katra Expressway, Anji Khad Cable Bridge, Kiru Hydro Electric Project are examples of few of the upcoming mega infrastructural projects that will transform the region.
With the New Industrial Policy, 2021-30 for J&K, more than 66,000 crores of investments have been promised by December 2022. With the peace restored, business opportunities are booming as investors are developing confidence in the law-and-order situation of the region. It has also been attracting FDI, most notable being the Emaar group from Dubai, undertaking projects to build commercial spaces in the valley. At the Center, Indian Union Government announced the New Central Sector Scheme for Industrial Development of the Union Territory of J&K. It provides incentives to investor under four categories: capital investment incentive, capital interest subvention, GST-linked incentive and working capital interest subvention.
The steady economic growth witnessed by J&K over last couple of years has brought in the era of what is popularly called Naya (New) Jammu and Kashmir in India. J&K is moving fast and marching ahead. With better socio-economic indicators, emerging peace, and reduced deprivation, the living standards in the valley are improving. This is accompanied by the concerted efforts to strengthen the economy by both J&K government and the Indian Union Government. Boosting tourism, enhancing the ease of doing business, attracting investments, and germinating a startup culture, along with multi-modal infrastructure projects, envisage the beginning of the building of an economically stable and progressive J&K. With the removal of roadblocks and improving economic development, the dream of emerging Jammu and Kashmir is in coherence with emerging India.