Our Special Correspondent
Indian money is being used to distance Jammu and Kashmir from the rest of India. The decisions of Parliament for benefit of the country as also its people are not implemented on the plea that the state is having special status under Article 370 of the Constitution, which was, of course, a temporary provision but has been retained even after over half a century of its adoption.
The latest stance being taken by the coalition of Congress-PDP and its allies in Jammu and Kashmir is the refusal to implement the Constitutional Amendment providing for limiting the size of the ministry by taking the cover of special status.
Against the required strength of 12 ministers, the state ministry is having as many as 37 ministers, in addition to over a dozen other legislators, who have been bestowed the status of ministers to head the state-owned corporations and other bodies. Almost all these government undertakings and public sector establishments are running under heavy losses and surviving with special assistance provided by the state.
The adversaries of the Congress and those of the ruling alliance describe this attitude of the government leaders as ridiculous and point out that the representatives from Jammu and Kashmir in Parliament had fully endorsed the decision in course of long deliberations on the issue of downsizing the ministries and amending the anti-Defection Law.
Under Article 370, no measure adopted by the Indian Parliament, applies in Jammu and Kashmir unless it gets an approval from the state.
A minister in Jammu and Kashmir costs the exchequer far more because of security and other reasons. The state is having two capitals?summer capital at Srinagar and the winter, at Jammu. Security guards have had to be deployed in strength at the bungalows at both the places besides the ministers´ private houses located in far-off areas, in addition to their kith and kin along with some other acquaintances.
The security measures, as also the staff and other expenditure on ministers total about Rs 300 crore which constitute about 5 per cent of the total budget of the state. Over 85 per cent of the budget of Jammu and Kashmir draws funds from the Centre in the shape of grants and special assistance as also security-related expenditure. This expenditure on security-related matters has gone up from Rs 120 crore in 1992-93 to over Rs 500 crore now which is reimbursed by the Centre.
Under various schemes including Annapoorna, Antodaya, People Living Below the Poverty Line (BPL) and other systems of public distribution, the government of Jammu and Kashmir annually gets about six lakh tonnes of foodgrains and other rations from the Centre but such foodgrains and other rations are not supplied to the poor labourers and others from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and other parts of the country on the plea that they are not state subjects.
The government of Jammu and Kashmir also gets huge quantities of kerosene for supplying to the poor but the poor labourers and workers buy it from the market at quite high rates. Thus, the Indian rations are being used to create bad blood between the locals and the persons from outside the state.
In many other spheres of life this discrimination is quite glaring. It may be admission to educational institutions, allotment of housing plots, providing of licences for various trades, etc. Highly crude manners are applied to demonstrate that the people of this state are different than those from other parts of the country.
But all this is happening with the financial assistance being provided by the Centre.
To what an extent the state is dependent at the Centre can be well judged from the fact that the entire development plans are being financed by the Government of India, and the fiscal position is so dismal that the revenue receipts of the state from internal resources is hardly Rs 1,500 crore, whereas the pay bill of the staff alone has crossed to over Rs 3,200 crore.
Peace in Kashmir a far cry
The formation of a new separatist outfit under the banner of Jammu and Kashmir Tahreek-e-Hurriyat by hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani is likely to hamper the peace process through dialogue in the troubled state.
Keen observers of the Kashmir scene are of the view that Pakistan has outwitted Indian diplomacy because in the presence of this new outfit the moderates left in the All Parties Hurriyat Conference would not be able to continue their dialogue with the Centre, which is now talking more about the four walls of the Constitution than opting for diplomatic language. It is but natural that the hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani then would be operating under the guidance of fundamentalists in Pakistan and the leaders of Tahreek-e-Hurriyat would be isolated amongst those people who have been with the Hurriyat because of their pro-Pak tunes.
There are some observers who are of the view that the Congress leaders of the new government at the Centre themselves and certain elements in the ruling hierarchy of the state do not want to encourage the moderates as this would harm their own political interest?as being the sole representatives of the pro-India elements in Kashmir.
As the situation in the Valley of Kashmir is shaped, it would not be easy for the leaders of the Hurriyat Conference to have the courage to talk in a passionate and independent manner, especially when Syed Ali Shah Geelani would be having the backing of Syed Sallah-ud-Din, supreme commander of the dreaded Hizb-ul-Mujahideen terrorist outfit, and the moderates already being under threat of the gun-wielding terrorists.
There are also some observers who are of the view that the new government at the Centre has itself created difficulties for the moderates as they had developed proximity to the leaders of the previous NDA government and Syed Ali Shah Geelani, being an old comrade, along with some others found entry in the state assembly during the rule of Sheikh Abdullah and his supporters.