From Our Correspondent
JAMMU: Unlike other states of the country, the ruling alliance of Congress-PDP-JKNPP does not appear inclined to abide by the constitutional amendment to limit the size of Ministry of Jammu and Kashmir on the plea of special status of the state under Article 370.
This has proved to be a big opportunity to the BJP and other opposition bodies to take upon the Congress and its allies that Congress is opting for a dubious role to inflict another wrong upon the people under the cover of so-called special status.
In Jammu and Kashmir, there are 123 legislators, including 87 of the Assembly and 36 of the Council, in addition to two more nominated members in the Assembly. As being the bi-cameral legislature, under the constitutional amendment, Jammu and Kashmir can have at the most 13 ministers. But under Article 370, the decisions of the Parliament cannot be applied in Jammu and Kashmir until the state government desires so.
At present the state is having 37 ministers. In addition, over a dozen other MLAs are enjoying the status of a minister to head various corporations and other public sector undertakings. Earlier, the number of ministers in the ministry was 39 but two of them resigned after the Congress Party claimed victory in the Lok Sabha elections.
A minister in Jammu and Kashmir is quite costly for various reasons. First, as the state is having two capitals?Jammu is the winter capital and Srinagar is for summer?the ministers are provided two well furnished bungalows in both the cities.
Security is provided not only at both their places but also at their ancestral places and also to their relations in different far-off areas. Each minister possesses bullet-proof cars and many other vehicles. According to a report, at present about 225 vehicles have been put at the disposal of the ministers whose expenses cost the exchequer crore of rupees.
The leaders of the opposition pointed out that the state is dependent on the Centre for about 85 per cent transactions. The revenue receipts from internal resources are hardly about Rs 1,500 crores whereas the pay bill of the state staff is over Rs 3,300 crores. The entire funds for developmental works and security related expenditure are met by the Centre.
The fiscal position of the state is so bad that in most of the cases the employees are not paid their salaries and other emoluments regularly. Thousands of daily-wage workers are kept without emolu-ments for months together.
The opposition argues that if just a single minister is dropped, this could save the money to pay the wages to a thousand workers who are virtually starved.
The leaders of the BJP also point out that the special status to Jammu and Kashmir was provided under Article 370, which was a temporary provision but it still exists after more than 54 years.
Many wrongs against the interest of the state as also to that of nation are being committed under the cover of this status. The rights of the women are being curtailed. Thousands of refugees, staying in the state for the past over 55 years since partition of the country have been denied citizenship rights. The democratic rights are being made a mockery by not holding regular elections to the basic democracies. Many Central labour laws have not been made applicable and the farmers are being deprived of many facilities which they are availing in other parts of the country.
Above all, thousands of jawans and officers of various defence forces have laid down their lives while defending Jammu and Kashmir as an integral part of India but in this state, they cannot possess an inch of land even for housing purposes and nor can their children get education and other facilities due to special status.
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Much of the foodgrains supplied by the Centre under the poverty alleviation scheme are finding the way to the market and thus, the kitty of the local farmers is getting adversely affected.
Similarly, major portion of the kerosene oil is being sold in black market and much of it is used by the truckers in place of diesel.
The state is getting about 30,000 tunes of foodgrains per month under the scheme of BPL (Below Poverty Line) and the Antodaya for distribution to the poor. In addition to this, large quantities of rations are also being received for supplying to the migrants. But there are reports that many families do not avail this ration and the number of families living under BPL is anybody´s guess.
About eight years back during the Governor´s rule, the number of families put in the category of BPL was recorded at about 4 lakhs. In the past years, during the National Conference regime, this number was raised to about 6 lakhs and now it has touched over 7-lakh mark.
Many wonder how this number has been ever increasing despite spending over Rs 10,000 crores both by the Centre and the state under various schemes of poverty eradication.
The misuse of the Indian foodgrains being secured under the name of poor can be well imagined that in Marwah block of Doda district, having the Census 2001 population of 20,000 souls, was supplied foodgrains for as many as over 50,000 persons since the past many years. As much of the foodgrains imported in the state through the Food Corporation of India (FCI) is reaching the open market, there are little market buyers left to purchase the produce of the local farmers.
Another riddle with little answer from the government is that the imports of foodgrains in the state have arisen from 28,000 tonnes in 1950-51 to over 6 lakh tonnes now annually. The imports of foodgrains have been increasing almost every year despite spending hundreds of crores of rupees during each plan period to boost the agriculture production with the motto of achieving self-sufficiency.
While the state government is receiving almost free rations and at nominal rates, no foodgrains are supplied through the government depots to the thousands of poor labourers from Bihar, Orissa and other states, on the plea that they are not state subjects.
The quite amazing feature of the situation is that the Agriculture Department of the state claims the increase in the production of foodgrains from about 4 lakh tonnes in 1950-51 to now over 17 lakh tonnes, which means an increase of more than 13 lakh tonnes whereas the population of the state has increased during all these years nearly three times alone.
Where are the foodgrains going? The state authorities are having no convincing answer.
There has been over three-fold increase in the supply of K-oil to the state. Thousands of new outlets have been licenced in the past six to eight years. But the fact remains that most of them exist only in papers. The poor labourers had to get the K-oil from the black market. There are allegations that over 80 per cent of the K-oil in the state is being consumed by the truckers.