Debi Prasad Mohapatra
The abrogation of Article 370 of the state of Jammu and Kashmir was one of the major highlights in 2019. Along with that, the passing of the Reorganization Act in the parliament to bifurcate the state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) into two Union Territories (UT) on October 31 was the major development that happened for the first time in the history of India. The Act introduced J&K as a UT with a legislature and Ladakh as a separate UT without legislature. It has been regarded as a strategic move by the Indian government to reassert its territorial position up until the Pakistan Occupied Jammu & Kashmir (POJK) region and the Aksai Chin region of Ladakh occupied by China, which it had lost after it recognized the LOC and LAC boundary line since 1971. With the implementation of the Act it has formally scrapped the Shimla Agreement of 1971 with Pakistan and also allows representations from the POJK region in the J&K legislative Assembly with 24 MLA seats.
The abrogation entitled the region to be formally connected to the rest of the country through a single constitution and a single rule of law. With that the state can be opened for major developments and open for job opportunities to the younger generations, which were a major concern especially in the valley because of increasing terrorist activities and the younger generation trapped under these unfortunate circumstances in the past. Growth has been the major factor in this region which was constrained due to the previous special status that had been prevailing in the state since the independence. The positive impacts to the Act have immensely proved a boon for the UTs with developments happening on a likely speedy process under the effective leadership of the Lieutenant Governors of both the UTs. But, the pandemic of COVID-19 has affected the development progress for example, the Investment Summits that were to be held in the early months of 2020 have been delayed further.
Ladakh which has been carved out from the erstwhile state of J&K has been a welcoming decision for the people of Ladakh as they have been fighting for long for a separate representation in the governance structure. The maximum representations of Kashmir in the Legislative Assembly had previously deprived the Ladakh and the Jammu region from institutional and infrastructural developments. But after the Reorganization, the Ladakh region has been fortunate with their own three MLAs from the region to take their decisions and directly have a connection with the central authorities. With their own representatives the UT can directly allott funds which will bring in private investments, boom in tourism sector and infrastructural development will bring in employment opportunities for the Ladakhi people. Likewise, Jammu had also been deprived of its developmental activities, but now since it has been an UT both the region including Kashmir will get equal focus. The act has also brought major developments in issuing of the domicile certificates to the people living in the region mainly, the Dogras of Jammu and Buddhists of Ladakh. It also gives citizenship to the ones that came from the West Pakistan as they were not being provided with representation in any of public schemes before. Now, with this certificate they will become formally a part of this country irrespective of their religion and culture. Also, the domestic violence and crime rates have gone down with new laws that are implemented under the Indian Penal Code which were not being defended under the previous constitution. Like, the 2005 Hindu Succession Act amendment that gave women equal inheritance rights, will now be applicable in the UT. The restrictions on the transfer of property under Section 139 of the J&K Transfer of Property Act has also been abolished from the current framework. Likewise, on the educational front all the center’s scholarship schemes are now applicable to the students of the region which were not accessible to them before.
The operation of the J&K Public Service Commission has been a welcome move for the civil service aspirants of the region. It has also been confirmed that, a massive recruitment drive has to be conducted under the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendment Act that applies for the staff recruitment which will give the aspirants of the students of J&K more job opportunities. There are also programs that have been bringing in professional trainings like the establishing of two Centers for Invention, Innovation, Incubation, and Training (CIIIT) in partnership with the Tata Technologies that would strengthen industry- academia partnership and bring qualitative improvements in technical education.
The infrastructural projects like the Pakal Dul Hydroelectric Power project is one of major developments that has started to provide electricity in various areas which were deprived of electricity for last many years. According to Lieutenant Governor of J&K, Girish Chandra Murmu there has also been developments on the sports infrastructure where, till now 8 Indoor Stadiums have been constructed and 11 are under progress to provide adequate opportunities to the youths to showcase their athletic capabilities in Indian and international forums. Similarly, in Ladakh, the center has started developing the Leh Airport by expanding it to a new terminal building which will be equipped with all modern facilities also showcasing the art and culture of Ladakh. The development is given priority in view of the increasing number of domestic and foreign tourists to Ladakh. The Border Road construction along the Chinese border has provided job opportunities for about 1600 Ladakhi people which is immensely important for the protection of the border areas as well as easy approach to these scenic areas for the tourists.
The sudden development of Abrogation of Article 370 and 35 and bringing in the J&K reorganization Act has been quite a difficult change for the people in this region. The Government in the center says that Article 370 has not served the people of the J&K, but only served some political families and separatists that accumulated the power for such long time. To change this and bring development in this region, this has to be the only bold step that needs to be taken. Moreover, the pandemic has been a roadblock for many projects that would have started already but nevertheless it would regain its pace in due course of time.
(The author is associated with Department of National Security Studies Central University of Jammu)
Debi Prasad Mohapatra