August 5 marked the first anniversary of the abrogation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and conversion of the erstwhile state into two Union Territories — Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. “But more than all this,” writes A Surya Prakash (former chairman Prasar Bharati), “it has meant the constitutional mainstreaming of this erstwhile state and an end to the shameful, discriminatory and undemocratic policies pursued by an entrenched elite for seven decades”.
Looking at the changes brought about in the past 12 months, Prakash states, it is obvious that the Union government has pulled out all the stops to ensure that everyone living in the two Union Territories would get a sense of the egalitarian principles that are firmly embedded in India’s Constitution.
“These developments extend to a wide range of issues like social and political equality, education, jobs, reservations and other rights enjoyed by the underprivileged in the rest of the country,” he states.
For the first time after seven decades, the Indian Constitution and all the 890 Central laws are fully applicable to J&K. This has meant the application of 170 more Central laws to J&K, including progressive laws such as the Scheduled Caste and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1954, the Whistle Blowers Protection Act, 2014, the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis Act, 1993, the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forests Rights) Act, 2007, the National Commission for Minorities Act, and the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009.
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“Apart from these initiatives, the last 12 months have seen several other momentous developments,” he states. The first of these is the rehabilitation of the Kashmiri Pandits, who were hounded out of the Valley 30 years ago by militants. In the year gone by, Prakash states, 4,000 of them have got jobs in the UT and many others are listed for employment. Also, over 20,000 refugees from West Pakistan, who were treated as aliens in their own country and denied all rights, have been given domicile rights and financial assistance of Rs 5.50 lakh per family.
The follow-up after the constitution of the two Union Territories has been swift. Simple rules have been formulated for issuing domicile certificates — “this will create a much-needed level-playing field for all residents,” he states.
The J&K government has also initiated a massive recruitment drive to fill up 10,000 vacancies in the local government; another drive to fill up 25,000 posts is in the pipeline. Also on the anvil are revised rules to enable the hitherto disadvantaged groups like Scheduled Tribes, OBCs and economically weaker sections to get employment.
Other measures which have ensured mainstreaming of the region are the enforcement of the Right to Information Act, 2005, direct supervision of the Central Vigilance Commission with regard to anti-corruption cases and the setting up of the 18th Bench of the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) for the UTs of J&K and Ladakh.