By Arab News
By Dr. Rambabu C*
India’s government has made non-operational certain provisions of Article 370 of the constitution. The Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Bill has been passed unanimously in both Houses of Parliament to create union territories for Ladakh, and for Jammu and Kashmir.
This administrative reorganization is intended to improve good governance and deliver socioeconomic justice to disadvantaged sections of the populace who were unable to obtain the benefits resulting from Article 370. The government’s action does not change the boundaries or the line of control. It has no external ramifications, but pertains purely to India’s domestic affairs.
Article 370 was always intended to be temporary. It is under part XXI of the constitution that covers temporary, transitional and special provisions.
The reorganization of Jammu and Kashmir is not a unique event. After independence, the first state reorganization took place in 1953. A comprehensive reorganization legislation was then passed pertaining to 14 states and six union territories in 1956. Further reorganization has taken place at intervals up to 2014. The intent has been to address regional disparity and improve administrative efficiency.
The accession of Jammu and Kashmir to India took place in 1947 as per an instrument of accession that was identical to those signed by about 540 other princely states. However, the fact that Jammu and Kashmir was at war led to certain unique features in the constitutional arrangements that were publicly recognized as both unique and temporary in nature. At the same time, the compulsions of governance and the nature of the economy and society required the gradual application of constitutional provisions to Jammu and Kashmir.
Since 1950, 54 presidential orders have been issued under Article 370 with a view to apply legislation and regulations to that state. The most comprehensive of these were in 1950 and 1954. After a considerable gap, two orders were issued recently, on GST in 2017 and on reservations in promotion in 2019.
These orders reflected a gradual integration process by which the governance of Jammu and Kashmir was gradually synchronized with the rest of the country. They were painstaking and arduous by nature as reflected in the delayed introduction of many institutions and practices. For example, All-India Services was only introduced in 1957 as was High Court jurisdiction. The jurisdiction of the Comptroller & Auditor General was recognized only in 1958 and authority of the Chief Election Commissioner in 1962. Emergency powers were made applicable in 1964 and the post of the governor instituted in 1965. This integration process was deliberately slowed by vested interests and separatist sentiments. As a result, the people of Jammu and Kashmir were denied the benefits of development and socioeconomic progress that was available to the rest of the country.
An area where Jammu and Kashmir visibly lagged was in development and employment. An order issued in 1954 under Article 370 restricted employment, acquisition of property, settlements and educational provisions. As a result, investment in the economic progress of the state was seriously discouraged. The poor employment record was a natural consequence of the lack of opportunities. Paradoxically, these provisions that were justified in the name of local interests ended up affecting the younger generations negatively.
The application of Article 370 has been unfair on the population of Jammu and Kashmir by also perpetuating discriminatory laws and regulations. Most notably, women residents cannot pass on their property to their children if they are married to non-residents. State laws have also undermined child protection programs as mandated by relevant UN conventions. The reservation of seats for women in Panchayats, or local administration, is not allowed. Nor have the 73rd and 74th constitutional amendments on financial powers to Panchayats been made applicable. The state, unlike the rest of the country, has not enacted legislation against domestic violence. Professional encumbrances have been placed on certain communities that are manifestly unjust.
The administrative efficiency and quality of governance in Jammu and Kashmir has also been affected by its inadequate integration with national practices. Large resources from India have been made available, but without seeing commensurate development. Ten percent of all central grants have actually been given to 1 percent of the population. Between 2004-19, Rs.2,77,000 crores ($40 billion) was given to the state. On the contrary, developmental efforts have faced many obstacles delaying key infrastructure projects. The misuse of cross-LOC trade eventually led to is closure in April, 2019.
The application of Article 370 to foster vested interests has created a climate of separatism despite the opposition of people at large. Separatist political forces established links with terrorist groups. This atmosphere also encouraged cross-border terrorism. The defense of the security and stability of Jammu and Kashmir has cost more than 40,000 lives and been a major drain on resources.
• Dr. Rambabu C is an Indian diplomat at the Indian embassy in Riyadh.