Reviving the Lost Legacy: Rebuilding the Domestic Economies of Kashmir

by Abdul Rehman

Kashmir, known for its picturesque landscapes, has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. While security concerns have garnered the most attention, the dismal state of the domestic economies of Kashmir has largely gone unnoticed. The region has been renowned for centuries for its rich cultural heritage, skilled artisans, and agricultural prowess. It was once a major hub of economic activity and a significant contributor to the Indian economy. However, the domestic economies of Kashmir have experienced a steady decline over the years. According to Fayyaz Ahmed and Effat Yasmin, in their article titled “Impact of turmoil on the handicraft sector of Jammu and Kashmir: An economic analysis,” Kashmir’s cottage industry is well-known for its handicrafts, such as shawls, namdhas, wooden art-ware, papier-mache, and crewel embroidery. These products have been in demand both in India, Pakistan, and abroad and have served as a significant source of income for the region. In the past, the British, Mughals, and other rulers of India recognized the quality of Kashmir’s crafts and even established special departments to promote and export them. However, the ongoing conflict in the region has impeded the cottage industry’s growth and led to a decline in its contribution to the GDP of IIOJK and Azad Kashmir. Kashmir has historically been an agrarian society, with agriculture playing a pivotal role in the economy. The region’s economy was largely dependent on the cultivation of crops, such as rice, wheat, and maize. The domestic consumption of grains was mostly met domestically, and the region was self-sufficient in fulfilling its food requirements. Additionally, the dairy needs of Kashmir were also met domestically, with the region’s cattle population serving as a significant contributor. Both men and women worked in the fields and around the cattle, with both genders sharing the workload. Women in Kashmir were actively involved in agriculture and animal husbandry, and their contribution was essential to the success of the region’s agrarian economy. The traditional methods of farming in Kashmir were labor-intensive, with plowing, sowing, and harvesting being done manually. Farmers in Kashmir practiced mixed farming, growing multiple crops in a single field and rotating crops to maintain soil fertility. The agrarian economy was a source of income for a significant portion of the population, with many families relying on agriculture as their primary livelihood. The cultivation of saffron, walnut, and almond trees was also a vital part of the economy. The decline of the domestic economies of Kashmir can be attributed to several factors. Firstly, there has been a lack of investment in the region. The government has primarily focused on addressing security issues, with little being done to boost the economy. This lack of investment has led to the closure of several small-scale businesses and industries, resulting in widespread unemployment and poverty. Secondly, the exodus of skilled workers and artisans has contributed significantly to the decline of domestic economies. Many skilled workers and artisans have left the region due to the security situation and the lack of economic opportunities, leading to a loss of traditional skills and knowledge that were once the backbone of the Kashmiri economy. Additionally, the agricultural sector, which was once a significant contributor to the economy, has also suffered due to the lack of investment and modernization. The majority of farmers in the region are small-scale farmers who do not have access to modern farming techniques or technologies. As a result, their yields are low, and they struggle to make a living. It is imperative that the government and other stakeholders focus on revitalizing the domestic economies of Kashmir. The region has enormous potential for growth, given its skilled workforce, rich cultural heritage, and fertile land. Investment in the region’s infrastructure, modernization of the agricultural sector, and promotion oftourism can go a long way in reviving the domestic economies of Kashmir. In conclusion, the decline of the domestic economies of Kashmir is a matter of great concern. It is high time that the government and other stakeholders take proactive measures to address the economic issues faced by the region. Revitalizing the domestic economies of Kashmir will not only lead the state towards self-sufficiency but also contribute to the overall growth and development of the country. It is time to reclaim the lost legacy of Kashmir’s domestic economy.

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