Administrative Reorganisation Of J&K: A Step In Right Direction

Background

Abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A (part of the Indian Constitution) on 05 August 2019 has emerged as a landmark event in the history of J&K that has evoked mixed emotions in India while drawing a contemptuous reaction from Pakistan.  Since the abrogation, Pakistan has commenced with the propaganda of fakery to propagate its own narrative to the audience internationally as well as to those within Pakistan.

Articles 370  and 35A

The Instrument of Accession was signed on 26 October 1947 and Article 370 was never a part of the Instrument. It was thought for the first time as part of the draft constitution of India which was placed before the Constituent Assembly on 17 October 1949― almost two years after the signing and accession of J&K to the Union of India. Post-debate on the issue, the Article was included in Part 21 of the Indian Constitution, which deals with Temporary and Transitional provisions of the Constitution. Now, Article 370 is really an anachronistic provision in the Constitution. It was explicitly and uniquely temporary in nature, and gave no special status but ensured special discrimination.

Article 35A on the other hand, infringed upon the basic rights of women, minorities, and the refugees of the State. The State due to the provision of these two Articles suffered socially & economically.

Infirmities & Discriminatory aspects of Article 370 & 35 A

Article 370, which was temporary and transient in nature, and aimed at the integration of the state of J&K, actually resulted in just the opposite. It created various classes of people, disempowered sets of population particularly women, encouraged nepotism, and did not create any base for sustainable educational, economic, and industrial opportunities. This resulted in large-scale unemployment and created a self-sustainable cycle of violence. Lack of accountability of the state representatives, and other vested interests thrived in such an environment, and in fact, they became stakeholders in propagating the status quo.  This so-called special status of J&K conferred on it by the Articles, in fact, divested and marginalised a large section of the population (SC/ST and status of Gujjars and Bakarwals). In the interest of the people, their well-being, and for the fulfillment of their legitimate aspirations, they had to be afforded the same opportunities as available to the rest of the country, for that to happen, Articles 370 & 35A had to go.

Administrative Re-Organisation of J&K

In so far as the administrative reorganisation is concerned, it implies that the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir has been bifurcated into two Union Territories― one is the union territory of J&K with its own Legislative Assembly, its own Chief Minister, and the other being the Union territory of Ladakh, which will have an elected council. Further, the abrogation of these Articles has been undertaken through the due democratic and legislative processes.  The question that may be asked is as to what does abrogation of Article 370 and administrative reorganisation of the state entail, and what is the difference between the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir and the Union Territory of J&K. It really means that the people of Jammu and Kashmir would have the opportunity to the provision of accountable governance, social justice, economic development of the region, empowerment of women and the marginalised communities, and applicability of many other proactive and positive legislation promulgated by the Government of India, which hitherto, did not apply to the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir because of provisions of the Articles. Just to highlight certain specifics, Right to Education, Right to Employment, Right to Information, Domestic Violence Act that was designed to protect women, etc. did not apply to the erstwhile state of J&K. Women were particularly discriminated and they were not allowed to participate in grassroots democratic process (Panchayat level elections), nor inherit property if they married a non-local resident. Further, most affirmative action programs that applied to traditionally disadvantaged communities never reached the intended beneficiaries in J&K because of restrictions and limitations imposed by the provisions of the Articles. Pakistan, along with motley supporters, took measures to ensure that the residents of Jammu and Kashmir (particularly youth) were kept in an unending cycle of unrest and violence. Hence, with the abrogation of Articles 370 & 35A, the people of particularly the young people, that are in majority in the state, have a bright future.  They can look forward to a modern and progressive Jammu and Kashmir abreast with economic development and social progress, which is being achieved in the rest of India. Hence, the verbiage coming out of Pakistan on a daily basis is not as much for the abrogation of the Articles as it is about imminent prosperity to the state of J&K, which will expose Pakistani fabrication and make it irrelevant to the narrative. The decision of the Government of India relating to the administrative reorganisation of the state of Jammu and Kashmir is uniquely applicable to territory within India. This reorganisation is an internal matter of  India and has taken place on 12 different occasions in the past. This particular process does not impinge on the boundaries of the state of J&K, the International Border or the Line of Control, and therefore this is an in-house administrative exercise, with no impact on any other country.

Current Situation post 05 August 2019

The decision to abrogate Article 370 has dealt a  severe blow to Pakistan-sponsored terror infrastructure in Kashmir. Hence, Pakistan’s frustration and desperation are quite understandable. It is no-brainer that, Pakistan will continue to make all attempts to vitiate the atmosphere at all levels and forums.

Over the past two years, the security situation in Kashmir has remained remarkably peaceful and under control. The overall plan of the Government of India is pivoted on the maintenance of peace and order in the UT, especially in the Kashmir valley. The steps were taken by the local administration, essentially precautionary and preventive, were instrumental in maintaining law and order and averting casualties.

In the Kashmir valley, the fact that people did not react in the manner visualised by the terrorist masterminds, is now driving the terrorists to a point of desperation. They are trying to terrorise people into submission by threat, intimidation, and sporadic killing with the aim to create an untenable security situation. However, till now there have been only minor law and order incidents. As regards terrorism, the terrorist Incidents in the Kashmir valley have reduced drastically post abrogation.

During the last two years, the scourge of the global pandemic  (COVID-19), had forced necessary lockdowns in the UT. However, there was no shortage or disruption of any of the essential services in the valley. However, post abrogation, due to its compulsions, Pakistan has gone all out to exploit the situation in the Valley. Terrorists targeted locals/non-state drivers/laborers, and threatened apple owners/ shopkeepers/schools to shut down. The frustration of Pakistan is palpable, as it has failed to implement its proxy war strategy.

Government Initiatives and  Dividends Post Abrogation

The Government’s Action Plan of initiating development in Jammu & Kashmir is visible not only in the local administration’s focus on rural development but also during critical situations wherein maintaining the law and order has been the top priority.   The Central Government focused on a multi-dimensional and multi-faceted approach in various fields with respect to J&K. It has started to fill thousands of vacancies that had existed in the State of J&K, thereby opening employment opportunities to the people of the Union Territory (UT). USD 11.79 Billion have been allocated as a comprehensive developmental package for the opening of engineering and medical college, development of highway, power generation, etc. In addition, the projects, which lay dormant for several decades, are also being revived. The budget of Feb 2020 saw the Government allocating USD 10.71 Billion for the UT of J&K. A total of 60,000 new pensioners have been enrolled into various schemes & more than 18,500 houses have been built in 2019 under PM Awas Yojana― a 48% jump in fund utilisation under this scheme. A total of 4500 students from the Valley have taken admission all over India under the PM Scholarship Scheme, maximum in the last five years. There has been a major impetus towards boosting horticulture, handicraft, and tourism with a view to bringing J&K at par with other states.

The Government has allotted USD 112 Million under Prime Minister Development Package (PMDP) for vital health projects. The funds sanctioned for development are being used for setting up FM Stations and up-gradation of infrastructure in J&K and Ladakh. Over 37 central laws have been applied in UT of J&K. These laws will not only give democratic rights to all in the UT but will also promote development and help the most vulnerable section of the population. Legislative and  Parliamentary elections are being held in the erstwhile State of J&K since 1951 and 1967 respectively. However, for the first time, the Block Development Council polls were held in October 2019, which will allow Panchayat’s direct funding so that they can decide their own developmental priorities. Overall, an impetus is being provided to tourism, horticulture, education, employment, and better living standards by focusing on the development of grassroots facilities. These areas will not only boost investment through the creation of supportive infrastructure and promote commercial activity but will also encourage small and medium businesses. Hence, the vision of our Prime Minister to make J&K a global hub for tourism in the next five years, will pave the way for the growth and development to accelerate at a rapid pace, and bring J&K to par with a high level of growth experienced by the rest of India. We are sure that the problems, which have been preventing Kashmir from realising its true potential, will go away and a new world of opportunities and possibilities will open for the people of J&K.

Conclusion

It may be surmised that  Articles 370 and 35A being flawed provisions, restricted job opportunities, stimulated terrorism, rendered discrimination to women and the marginalised communities of the state. However, it is the malign influence of Pakistan, which circulates fake storylines by exploiting cyberspace and social media to target India. While India has impeccable and universally acknowledged democratic credentials, Pakistan has a record of training and equipping terrorists and terror groups. Hence, it is essential to see through the fog of lies and deceit being perpetuated by Pakistan.