Wednesday, August 22, 2018
 News Details
ARC alone can end Jammu discrimination
Straight Talk

By K B Jandial

Jammu rightly woke up last week to speak out its anger-filled heart to two important panels, one headed by the former PM Dr. Manmohan Singh and another by Union Home Minister Rajnath which visited the State. The ‘Policy and Planning Group’ of Congress set up in April this year, sought to update its approach towards J&K situation before formulating its policy on the State while Rajnath’s delegation was a follow-up to Modi’s I-Day call for embracing (galey lagana) Kashmiris to restore peace & confidence and also to review overall situation including execution of PM’s Rs one lakh crore development package. While the Home Minister group came to Jammu after spending two days in Kashmir, Congress delegation made its first halt at Jammu giving an impression that it recognizes Jammu’s relevance in finding solution to Kashmir problem. While there is plethora of problems in Jammu from erratic power supply to unresolved DPs issue even after 70 years but one major concern was no other than the off-repeated discourse on discrimination against Jammu and its permanent solution.

One of the important issues raised by a newly formed ‘Jammu Intellectual Forum’ to Congress group was to create broad consensus for a constitutional arrangement like Autonomous Regional Council (ARC) for Jammu to put a stop to continuing discrimination. Jammu is reduced to Kashmir’s appendage or a colony. In national narrative on J&K, Jammu figures only in passing way while Ladakh is not treated even this much. Who is responsible for this annoying distortion?

Some well-meaning former senior civil servants, ex-servicemen, senior lawyers, doctors, businessmen and media persons having been concerned about the marginalization of Jammu region, have put their heads together for the cause of Jammu and met Congress high level policy planning panel. The Forum strongly pointed out the policy of discrimination against Jammu region in past 70 years in all respects: economic development, recruitment and political power; and suggested that the only way out is the creation of Autonomous Regional Council (ARC)l for each region under a constitutional arrangement otherwise demand for trifurcation of the State would emerge forcefully.

The greatest satisfaction should be that at least two major political parties, NC & Congress- which had remained in the Government for most of the post-Independence period, too have aired bias against Jammu and demanded from Union Home Minister some sort of Constitutional arrangement to end discrimination against Jammu. Interpreting otherwise, it amounts to graceful confession that Jammu discrimination could not be stopped during their regimes. Both the political parties are aware of Jammu’s anger on discrimination that has reached to a saturation point and if not addressed urgently it would lead to disastrous consequences.

Even the long delayed settlement of the issue of the Displaced Persons from PoK is attributed to Govt’s negative attitude against Jammu. How shameful is the fact that the successive Governments could not fully resolve the issue of 41000 DP families of PoK who are State subjects when there was no legal or constitutional hiccups, and so are 10000 families of Chhamb sector, uprooted in 1965 and 1971 wars. Non- resolution of the humane Issue of settlement of 5700 plus families of West Pakistani DPs is always sought to justify by successive State Govts taking the cover of J&K Constitution ( Section 6 relating to Permanent Residents) but how it justify 70 years delay it caused to settle its own State Subjects of PoK and Chhamb? It is indefensible. The general perception is that had they been of Kashmir region the issue might have been settled long back. If in past 70 years a problem of small group of DPs could not be fully resolved how can the nation trust this political leadership in resolving much complicated Kashmir issue?

Feeling of discrimination is not only a mere perception but stark reality. Gajendragadkar Commission appointed by Sadiq Governments in 1961 and later on, Sikri commission appointed by Sheikh Abdullah to probe into Jammu’s grievance of discrimination had made a slew of recommendations to address this widely accepted grievance but most of these are gathering dust in Govt repositories. Wazir Commission also made some recommendations including increase of districts in Jammu but while doing so Azad Govt granted equal number (4 each) of new districts in Kashmir even when there was no such needs and justification for new districts in Kashmir which is evident by the fact that an administrative unit of a tehsil was made a district. The only motivation was that how can Kashmir have less number of districts as compared to Jammu. In a radius of just 20 sq. kms area, South Kashmir has four districts. The fact is that the Governments had never applied criteria for their actions and granting four districts to Kashmir belied any such norm.

Available data from 2008 to 2011 reveals that Jammu districts (region) despite having 10,245 sq. km more area than Kashmir, (26293 sq. kms in Jammu against 15948 sq. kms in Kashmir) had spent Rs340 cr fewer on development than Kashmir districts (region) excluding Ladakh districts. Sector-wise expenditure of 2015-16 indicates that Rs 1627cr were spent during the year in Kashmir in Health sector against Rs 925 cr in Jammu region. Local Bodies in Kashmir had spent Rs. 131.57 cr as grant –in-aid during this period against Rs 88.17cr to Jammu Local Bodies. Srinagar Municipal Corporation spent Rs232 cr against mere Rs 43. 30cr by Jammu Municipal Corporation. In Irrigation & Flood Control sector, expenditure incurred in Kashmir was Rs 251 cr and in Jammu region it was Rs. 138 cr.

On the other hand, Jammu contributes more in revenue than Kashmir. For example, Jammu region contributed Rs 1021cr and Rs 1074 cr as revenue during 2014-15 & 2015-16 respectively while Kashmir’s contribution was Rs 695 cr and Rs 837 cr respectively.

Today, Jammu has almost lost faith in recruitment agencies because of perceived bias against Jammu and a separate Public Service Commission for Jammu is a buzz word among the people. It is gaining support as Jammu’s share in open category recruitment is declining. According to one estimate, Jammu’s share in open category selection made by PSC this year is 12 to 15 percent. In the absence of any rebuttal or even clarification from the Constitutional body or the Govt over this perception and amidst reports of probe by Crime Branch of the police of fudging of records in one case, people’s deep concern over the falling share of Jammu region is justified. The concept of ARC with separate service cadre up to a certain level on regional basis can probably take care of the issue of equal share of recruitment. These issues need to be examined with open mind and solution found with constitutional safe guards.

Political disempowerment was the worst thing happening to Jammu. It was done by Farooq Abdullah’s Govt in 2002 before going into assembly elections on Sept-Oct, 2002 by amending Section 47 (3) of J&K Constitution and adding a proviso which says, “that until the relevant figures for the first census taken after the year 2026 have been published, it shall not be necessary to readjust the total number of seats in the Legislative Assembly of the State and the division of the State into territorial Constituencies under this sub-section”. Sub section 3 of Section 47 says, “Upon the completion of each census, the number, extent and boundaries of the territorial constituencies (of Leg Ass) shall be readjusted by such authority and in such manner as the Legislature may by law determine:” Section 3 of the J&K Representation of People Act was also amended along with amendment of Section 47 (3) of the Constitution. A Delimitation Commission that was mandatorily under Section 3 of the Representation of People’s Act was banned at least up to 2031.

Interestingly for 2002 elections, Jammu had electorate of 31, 06, 114 against 28, 84,841 of Kashmir, which means that Jammu had 2.67 lakh voters more than Kashmir and thus qualified for more Assembly constituencies than Kashmir but it was not allowed to happen by virtue of constitutional amendment that has put on hold the process of readjustment of number of constituencies. Even in 2004 Lok Sabha poll, Kashmir had 28,84,841 electors while Jammu had 31.06,114 i.e. 2.21 lakhs electors more in Jammu but Kashmir region despite having less voters had three Lok Sabha seats against two in Jammu. The existing number of Assembly constituencies shall remain 37 in Jammu, 46 in Kashmir and 4 in Ladakh till 2031. This is the biggest discrimination any region can have in democracy as political power is the basis for its empowerment to prevent inequalities, ensures equal say in decision making at highest level, equitable distribution of State’s resources for balanced development and equal share in Govt jobs.

Will Kashmiri leadership ever agree to end political disempowerment of Jammu region which is the only place in the State which represents India’s pluralism and composite culture in true sense? Ghulam Nabi Azad himself confessed before Dr. Manmohan Singh that that he failed in his effort to bring down the exiting gap of nine Assembly seats between two major regions to give Jammu political justice despite his cabinet approving a Constitutional Amendment Bill in 2007-08 as the leaders of both PDP (then coalition partner of Congress) and NC came to him together before introduction of the Bill in the Legislative Assembly requesting him not to present the Bill as they were not in support it. Accordingly, he didn’t introduce the Bill. This should be an eye opener for all.

It is good augury that both Congress and NC have publically supported a constitutional arrangement for Regional Councils during their meetings with Union Home Minister. The fact is that establishment of Regional Councils has been in the manifestoes of all most all political parties but unfortunately on coming to power all parties tends to overlook it to revisit only on the eve of election to emotionally hoodwink gullible electors. But now this demand has gained currency much before elections and as such cannot be dismissed as mere election promise. A serious thought should go into it by all stakeholders and take it to the logical end. Surprisingly, BJP and PDP have yet to commit themselves on this issue which is as important as Kashmir issue itself as Jammu’s growing discontentment has dangerous potential. Modi Govt can ignore it to its own peril.

(The writer is former Secretary Information, health, transport, CAPD departments and a member of Public Service Commission, feedback: [email protected])

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