17 June:A workshop on "Economic Freedom of Indian Indian States with Special Focus on Jammu and Kashmir" was organized by the Benchmark Lecture Series University of Jammu on the 17th June, at the Hotel Asia, Jammu from 9:30 AM to 2:00 PM in collaboration with the Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Contemporary Studies, New Delhi and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation, New Delhi. The Chief Guest for this occasion was Shri Janak Raj Gupta, Political advisor to the Chief Minister.
Dr Shyam Narayan Lal of the Department of History, University of Jammu and Coordinator of the Benchmark Lecture Series welcomed the speakers and the audience. Mr Subodh Kumar of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation, New Delhi spoke on the importance of freedom while Dr P.D. Kaushik outlined the aim of the workshop to concentrate on economic freedom as it was the least controversial of all freedoms. Inthis context he chose to focus on economic freedom afforded to individuals and criticized the phenomenon of government interference in all sectors of the economy. Janak Raj Gupta in his speech explained as to why India had gone in for a mixed economy and the how the government had to be active to protect powerless consumers from dishonest traders. He also urged the speakers to take into account the peculiar conditions of Jammu and Kashmir where the preference for government jobs was very high. Prof Desh Bandhu Controller of Examinations, University of Jammu who chaired the session questioned the wisdom of isolating the concepts of political, social and economic freedom in his summing up.
In the business session, Dr Kaushik defined economic freedom especially in the context of Indian states. He pointed out that the relationship between income growth rate, per capita income and economic freedom was very high nationally and internationally. Coming to Jammu and Kashmir, whose rank in 2007 was calculated to be 11 up from the previous year’s 13, he stated that Jammu and Kashmir did poorly on account of a massive government sector which represented resources that could have been spent by the residents of the state on goods and services of their choice. He placed the state in the areas of rule of law and regulation of credit and labour markets as being above average. The index, especially its composition was criticised by Dr Shyam Narayan Lal, and Dr Suresh Babu, Department of Sociology. While not denying the importance of economic freedom, they opined that it was a simplistic concept and measure measure that ignored the importance of certain factors like social development and education where state involvement was a must. Dr Dipankar Sengupta pointed out that in Jammu and Kashmir, recipients of state aid had not been able to compete while those who had not received handouts had done well for themselves. Prof Ashok Aima of the Business School who chaired the business session bemoaned the prevalent attitude which preferred low paid state employment over lucrative private sector employment. Those who attended the workshop included Prof B.C. Sharma, Dr Sameer Gupta and Ms Komal Nagar of the Business School, Dr Bhanu Pratap Singh and Mr Irfan Goni of the Bhaderwah Campus as well as Dr D.L. Choudhary and Mr Imran Farooq of the Gen. Zorawar Singh Auditorium Complex. KAS probationers form IMPA also took part in the discussions.
The vote of Thanks was proposed by Dr Dipankar Sengupta, treasurer of the Benchmark Lecture Series.