Farooq Abdullah’s demand for autonomy for Kashmir has opened a Pandora’s box alright. Except that the consensus among experts is that three of the four states-J&K, Assam, Punjab and Tamil Nadu-which have demanded autonomy won’t know what to do with it if they get it.
Indeed, in liberalised India, autonomy, especially fiscal autonomy, is an idea whose time has come. States today are competing for foreign projects, multilateral aid, infrastructure investments and sprucing up their record-books to present a better face to the interested. And fiscal autonomy could greatly help. Trouble is, fiscal autonomy goes hand in hand with fiscal responsibility, which is absent from the balance-sheets of the first three states.