Monday, 20 January 2014

Our Knowledge Economy

Given our acknowledged bottlenecks like limited investment in the power sector, no counter-guarantees from the government of India for major projects that require investment and generate wealth and jobs, limited potential for attracting international investment in the foreseeable future and our landlocked mountainous terrain not ideal for heavy industrialization, the inclement weather for five months and the fact that if India didn’t make here an economic zone after the advent of the WTO regime, what can we do in a globalized world? Will tourism, fruit industry and the dying crafts industry give us enough leverage in future? Given the failure of agriculture in being competitive, and a huge pressure on already shrinking land resources, what could be the way out? I suggest we can try knowledge economy.
We may note that knowledge-based economy is present in all sectors of economy, generates wealth fundamentally through ideas more than manual labour/capital, requires primarily the software of human brain and skills learnt through its use, is characterized by growing ICT use by well educated/skilled workers, consists of innovative organizations and calls for the growing share of GDP for education, especially higher education and development of skills.
Kashmir, traditionally believed to have better genes for creative innovative work or soft skills, may already have a competitive edge in this regard. It is well known that Kashmiri students have excelled elsewhere in many fields. The Jewish race, to which some scholars connect us, is also known to have dominated the world primarily through what we can call the knowledge-based industry.
In the postmodern information age, knowledge is a commodity that can pull us out of poverty and dependence. Once upon a time, traffic flowed to Kashmir and Kashmir acted as an international centre for excellence in philosophy and aesthetics. We have the honour of hosting one of the greatest universities in ancient world. Here, great conferences have been held almost two millennia back. And we have produced in the past world class philosophers, aestheticians, literary critics, and poets to give us confidence that we can revive this in a big way. As a complement to the other un-industrious, I think we can try knowledge economy.
In the light of this, I want to foreground our present state of decadence and ask if we can come up with a vibrant vision with a focus on knowledge economy. Here are a few glimpses from our contemporary scenario that call for attention of policy planners:
# Huge, unskilled labour force, and unemployable youth, as they lack the required skills or quality of competitive skill.
# Elderly people including retirees not contributing to economy or to social capital.
# Culture of reading missing even in the most educated class.
# Huge chunk of literate uneducated people.
# Largely ignored primary education sector and inefficient, if not defunct, higher education sector.
# Good doctors in abundance but good teachers so rare, implying that ours is a sick society with a sick soul that calls for urgent attention.
# Great number of journalistic writers/columnists but few writers who have carved their own space and are internationally published.
# Professors, generally speaking and with only a few illustrious exceptions, in any of our universities not able to find recognition in prestigious educational institutions outside Jammu and Kashmir.
# Brilliant students generally complaining about worth of teachers at every level.
# Hardly any publisher with reputed board of editors for publishing books.
# Hardly any journal in any discipline that has made a mark at the international level.
# Education at college and PG level geared not to local employment but outside the state or overseas. So mostly it goes waste.
# Professionals opting for administrative services meaning effective loss of five or more years of skill/experience and expenses.
# Entrepreneurship hardly developed. Often has to be wedded to extra-legal arrangements for success.
# Generally a lack of work culture everywhere except in offices where money is made by office bearers.
# Gradual decadence in almost every institutional structure – religious, social, cultural, economic.
# Contradictions of an economy in transition or aborted skewed perverted economic enterprise that has given birth to mostly corrupt middle class without basis at ground level for wealth generation.
# Faith healing/black magic is one of our largest industries showing how far scientific rational spirit is from our mindset and failure of education to bring it about.
# Ours is amongst wastage economies. For want of better roads in certain key locations thousands of litres of petrol/diesel are burnt daily, thousands of hours daily lost by workers.
# Our agriculture and allied sectors suffer from extremely faulty organization which impedes our modernization and results in great leakages making agriculture and allied sectors most subsistent type only. Our livestock rearing communities continue to be the poorest in society.
# Extension programmes for transferring technologies from existing research institutions are a huge failure. I can attest at least in the case of livestock farming at grassroots level and Bakarwaal practices which suffer from huge ignorance of scientific principles.
One can only hope for action from all stake holders and look forward to a serious debate on knowledge economy in our state.

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