Srinagar, July 4 (IANS) Abrogation of Article 370 dealt a severe blow to the entrenched system of corruption and led to 890 central laws becoming applicable in Jammu and Kashmir.
The decision dismantled the nexus of officials and politicians, who thrived on their authority and connections, and operated within their own ‘Samrajya’ (kingdom).
Till August 5, 2019 — when the Centre announced its move to revoke J&K’s special status and bifurcate it into two Union Territories — the ‘Patwari’ (entry-level revenue official) was more powerful than the collector but the digitization of land records made revenue records accessible to the public, reducing the opportunities for corruption and empowering citizens.
Not only have the revenue records been digitized the entire system in J&K has witnessed a sea change after 2019. Influence of unscrupulous elements has been curtailed leading to a more equitable distribution of resources and benefits. The corruption has been exposed and reduced, leading to improved governance and increased public trust in the administration.
The decision to scrap Article 370 has ushered in an era of transformative change. The extension of the central laws has brought about positive reforms, eradicating the deprivation faced by sections of the population.
Moreover, the Union Territory’s newfound global visibility, along with the empowerment of Panchs and Sarpanchs, has paved the way for inclusive development and opportunities for all.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah, who championed J&K transformation, have fulfilled the promises they made to the people on August 5, 2019.
The citizens of J&K have embraced the change with open arms, supporting every step taken by the government to change the region’s status-quo after seven decades. This widespread support vindicates the positive impact these steps have had on the lives of the people.
Establishment of equitable system
Pertinently, after J&K’s reorganisation 890 Central laws became applicable to the Union Territory, 205 state laws were repealed and 129 laws were modified. It led to the establishment of an equitable justice system for all sections of the society.
During the past three years significant efforts have been made to ensure that weaker sections, such as Scheduled Tribes, other traditional forest dwellers, Scheduled Castes, and Safai Karamcharis get equal rights.
The application of relevant Acts in the region has brought them at par with the other sections of the society.
Recognition of Forest Rights Act, 2006, which was already applicable in other parts of the country, was extended to Jammu and Kashmir. This act recognizes and protects the rights of tribals and other traditional forest dwellers over forestland. It grants them ownership and access to forest resources for their livelihoods, cultural practices, and development. By implementing this act, the rights of these marginalized communities in J&K were ensured, allowing them to lead a dignified life while preserving their cultural heritage.
Similarly, the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, was enforced in Jammu and Kashmir. This act is designed to prevent and address the atrocities faced by Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes communities. It provides for the stringent punishment of offenses committed against these communities and establishes special courts for the speedy trial of such cases. By applying this act, the rights of these marginalized communities were protected, and measures were taken to eradicate discrimination and violence against them.
Furthermore, the prohibition of employment as manual scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013, was implemented in J&K. This act aims to eradicate the inhumane practice of manual scavenging and improve the lives of Safai Karamcharis. It prohibits engagement in manual scavenging and provides for the rehabilitation, skill development, and alternative employment of those involved in this degrading occupation. The enforcement of this act in J&K played a vital role in ensuring the rights and dignity of Safai Karamcharis.
In addition to the existing reservation policies, amendments were made to reservation rules in Jammu and Kashmir to extend the benefits of reservation to previously excluded categories. The Pahari speaking people, who were left out of the Scheduled Tribes category, were included, ensuring their representation and access to affirmative action.
Additionally, the Constitution (103rd Amendment) Act, 2019, extended reservation benefits to economically weaker sections across all communities, ensuring their inclusion and socio-economic upliftment.
Applications of relevant Acts, and amendments in J&K after August 5, 2019, have played a crucial role in ensuring the rights of weaker sections.
Sections of society, such as displaced persons of PoJK and Chhamb, West Pakistani Refugees and residents of border areas, who faced discrimination for the past 70-years, have been brought at par with others.
The OBC reservation benefits have been increased from 2 per cent to 4 per cent and income ceiling has been raised from Rs 4.50 lakh to Rs 8 lakh.
Following rationalisation of the percentage of reservation of different categories in direct recruitment, the residents of backward areas now have 10 per cent reservation, Pahari speaking people (4 per cent) and Economically Weaker Sections (10 per cent).
Extension of central laws harmonized legal framework
The extension of central laws to Jammu and Kashmir has harmonized the legal framework in the region with the rest of the country.
The central laws that have been extended cover various aspects, including civil rights, criminal justice, social welfare, education, and labor. For instance, laws related to women’s rights, such as the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act and the Dowry Prohibition Act, are now applicable in J&K. This has ensured that women in the region have access to legal protections and remedies similar to those available in other parts of the country.
Similarly, labour laws, such as the Minimum Wages Act and the Employees’ Provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, have been extended to J&K. These laws safeguard the rights of workers and ensure fair wages, social security benefits, and safe working conditions. By applying these laws in J&K, the government has aimed to promote a just and equitable work environment for all residents.
The rights of children and senior citizens were also prioritized in Jammu and Kashmir. The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, was implemented to ensure free and compulsory education for all children aged 6 to 14 years. This act guarantees access to quality education and aims to prevent dropouts, especially among children from disadvantaged backgrounds.
For the welfare and protection of senior citizens, the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007, was enforced in J&K. This act recognizes the rights of senior citizens and establishes provisions for their maintenance, healthcare, and overall welfare. It emphasizes the responsibility of the younger generation to provide support and assistance to their elderly parents and promotes the establishment of facilities for their care.
The repealed state laws included discriminatory provisions such as the Permanent Resident Law, which limited property rights and job opportunities for non-permanent residents of J&K. The removal of such laws has ensured that all residents, regardless of their place of origin, have equal access to resources, employment, and other opportunities within the region.
Apart from the extension and repeal of laws, the abrogation of Article 370 also led to the modification of 129 existing laws in Jammu and Kashmir. The purpose of these modifications was to align the legal framework of the region with the broader principles of justice and fairness.
The modifications introduced changes in areas such as land ownership, education, and governance. Previously, certain laws in J&K restricted the transfer of land to individuals who were not permanent residents of the state. These restrictions often hindered investment and economic development in the region. The modifications have removed these barriers and opened up opportunities for investment, leading to economic growth and employment generation.
Empowerment of Panchayati Raj Institutions
One of the key outcomes of the abrogation of Article 370 has been the empowerment of Panchs (village council members) and Sarpanchs (village heads). This transformative measure has revolutionized the idea of development in rural areas. Panchs and Sarpanchs are now actively involved in decision-making processes, enabling them to drive local development initiatives. The increased participation of grassroots representatives has not only improved governance at the local level but also provided avenues for inclusive growth and development. Even critics have been compelled to acknowledge the positive impact of this empowerment, leaving them with little to criticize.
The grass- root democracy in J&K has been made stronger by enhancing the financial powers of Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) for execution of works whose expenditure is being met out of Panchayats’ own resources.
Gram Panchayats have been vested with an authority to accord administrative approval to works from Rs one lakh to Rs five lakhs, the Block Samitis can accord administrative approval to works ranging from Rs 5 lakhs to Rs 20 lakhs and the Zila Parishad can accord administrative approval up to Rs 1 crore.
These institutions are the basic units of democracy and by strengthening these grass root democratic set-up in J&K has been made more vibrant.
National, international recognition
Since the abrogation of Article 370, J&K has witnessed a surge in high-profile events and opportunities that have put the region on the global map. The Union Territory has hosted events like the Real Estate meet and the G20 summit for the first time, showcasing its potential and attracting investments.
Additionally, national dairy meets and other programmes have provided avenues for farmers to interact with representatives from across the country, fostering knowledge exchange and opening doors to new opportunities. This renewed focus on J&K has not only enhanced its economic prospects but also bolstered the confidence and aspirations of its people.
During the past three years J&K has revived its connection with the film industry. Many film sequences have been shot at the scenic locations across the Union Territory.
An International Film Festival of Jammu and Kashmir is slated to be held in Katra on August 5 and 6, 2023. The highlight of the event is the introduction of the prestigious K.L. Saigal Award, a groundbreaking recognition in the history of Indian cinema. This global symbol of distinction will be presented to renowned celebrities from both Bollywood and the international film fraternity. J&K hosting international, national summits, film festivals, programmes for farmers and other events have provided recognition to the Union Territory globally.