In the last two years after reorganisation of J&K, the people-centric and community-led approach has ushered in a new dawn, particularly by prioritising the development of the region and grassroots democracy
The month of August marks the second anniversary of the reorganisation of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K), which converted J&K and Ladakh into two separate Union Territories, following the abrogation of Article 370 and Article 35A. During these two years, there has been speculation on the extent of progress and development that J&K has witnessed. To put an end to such speculation, it is timely to review the development that the State has witnessed since the abrogation of Article 370 and Article 35A.
Recognising the ambivalence created by the special status, Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee took up the cause of Jammu and Kashmir Praja Parishad, demanding that the State be fully integrated with the rest of India under the same Constitution. During his visit to Jammu in August 1952, he once told a mammoth meeting: ‘I will get you the Indian constitution or lay down my life for it.’ Unfortunately, Dr Mookerjee, a humanitarian, nationalist, and the greatest statesman and parliamentarian of India, died in custody in J&K while leading an agitation against the provision. With his death, a long-drawn demand of millions of Indians, including the people of J&K, remained a distant dream till two years back.
By recognising J&K as a Union Territory of India, the ruling party has rectified a historical mistake and barred the history from repeating itself. The decision has empowered the people from within and given the capability to withstand any vagaries from outside. The people of J&K are now able to secure the rights and privileges available to citizens all over the country.
Extending Good Governance
For the first time in seven decades, certain 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, can now be availed by the people in the valley akin to 170 more Central laws which are applicable to J&K.
Another revolutionary change that the ruling party introduced was the Jammu and Kashmir Official Languages Act, 2020, which notified Kashmiri, Dogri, Urdu, Hindi, and English as official languages of the Union Territory, thus, fulfilling another long-standing demand as well as boosting new aspirations and securing the future of succeeding generations.
There are other major initiatives to boost the development of the UT, such as several major road projects, two new AIIMS and seven new Medical Colleges, which are under process of completion, the notification of new industrial policy worth Rs 28,400 crore package to accelerate industrial growth in J&K and create 4.5 lakh jobs, among others.
Ensuring Accountability and Accessibility
In the past two years, the Union Territory (UT) has availed constitutional advantage and protection as well as ensured financial stability by exercising Constitutional provisions that protect the rights of the people in case of failure of Constitutional machinery. The enforcement of the Right to Information Act, 2005 has ensured clarity of the information to the citizens, prevention of corruption and promotion of accountability in the working of every public authority.
One of the momentous changes was the dissolution of the discriminatory legal provision, which prevented women in J&K from retaining their rights if they married outside the State. Other measures that have ensured the region’s mainstreaming are the direct supervision of the Central Vigilance Commission concerning anti-corruption cases and the setting up of the 18th Bench of the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) for the UTs J&K and Ladakh.
Given the scenic beauty and rich resource availability of the land of J&K, the Central Government is identifying and utilising the productive capabilities of the different regions of the Valley to trigger the growth impulses, thereby expediting economic growth for the people. The establishment of the three-tier Panchayati Raj System and the election and Constitution of Block and District Development Councils with the approval of the Union Cabinet for the adaptation of the Jammu & Kashmir Panchayati Raj Act, 1989 are important initiatives in this direction.
There are other major initiatives to boost the development of the UT, such as several major road projects, two new AIIMS and seven new Medical Colleges, which are under process of completion, the notification of a new industrial policy worth Rs 28,400 crore package to accelerate industrial growth in J&K and create 4.5 lakh jobs, among others
The three-tier system, which was not there in Kashmir before, will strengthen grassroots level democracy by providing the opportunity to the people to elect their local representatives. As the power to manage local bodies will go to the people, the locally elected representatives will participate in the district and block-level planning and implement welfare schemes. As experienced by the UT in the past two years, a people-centric and community-led approach has facilitated the development of democracy along with the cultural and constitutional integration of J&K.
To consolidate the democratic and development trajectory, Prime Minister Modi held a high-level meeting with various political parties of J&K in June this year. They have also expressed their consensus to be part of the future trajectory intended to strengthen democracy and the development of the region further.
The various initiatives along with the coming on board of various regional parties in the future vision of the Modi government under ‘Sabka Sath Sabka Vikas’ demonstrate leadership acumen and astuteness. In the last two years since the reorganisation of J&K, the people-centric and community-led approach has ushered in a new dawn, particularly by prioritising the development of the region and grass-root democracy.