Institute for Social and Economic Change
Working Paper: 511
Peace-Building and Economic Development Through
Decentralization: The Pre-Bifurcation
Jammu and Kashmir Experience
Sardar Babur Hussain
India is known for introducing a decentralized system of reforms, and there is a considerable literature on India that has investigated the impact of decentralization on local development, reduction of poverty, and delivering of essential services such as health and education. However, within India, the frontier and conflict-affected erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) has not received much scholarly attention in spite of having the unique distinction of introducing decentralized development reforms much prior to the introduction of such reforms at the national level or in other states. A central aim of this paper is to provide a historical background of decentralization in the erstwhile state of J&K and to assess the present working of decentralization as a peace-building strategy. The paper situates the working of decentralization within the protracted conflict situation and explores the outcomes related to local community participation and specifically on the devolution of funds and taxation powers. The paper argues that the panchayats in the region have failed to act as instruments of change and development as they have been mainly used to promote a discourse of peace and normalcy, and important aspects such as credibility and timely conduct of panchayat elections, devolution of funds, and their taxation powers have been sidelined and have been of secondary importance.