Article 35 A – from Jammu’s perspective

Rajan Gandhi
The latest misleading misinformation campaign against Article 35A, launched by Kashmir centric political parties, is really amazing. After being caught on a sticky ground, they have changed their tactics on the plea that instead of Kashmir Division its Jammu Division which is going to suffer if Article 35 A is struck down in the form of loss of jobs, land and cultural infiltration in Jammu Division as their logic is that Kashmir being troubled part will not be affected immediately. But the facts speak otherwise and depict how till now Article 35 A has been a hindrance to the progress of our State, especially to Jammu Division.
About the plight of 200 Valmiki families brought from Punjab in 1957 as Safai Karamcharis till date successive Congress, NC, PDP governments have done nothing regarding promised “permanent resident status” even after 60 years and they are still not entitled to apply for any job except as Safai Karamcahris. They can vote for the Lok Sabha elections but not for local bodies or the Jammu and Kashmir legislature. On the other hand SC reserved category vacancies of Kashmir Division are not filled up by eligible persons from Jammu Division but these vacancies are merged with general or some other category from Kashmir Division. Same is the case of West Pakistan three lakh plus refugees mainly reserved category people who are devoid of any social welfare schemes, scholarships, admission to schools run by the State Government on account of the protective shield of Article 35 A. It is a travesty that those who chose to settle in Jammu and Kashmir are still treated as refugees and all other refugees who settled at other places were granted full rights of a citizen of the country. This is how we are treating and protecting deprived sections of society in the name of Article 35 A. It is also important to mention that our Maharaja, CM, separatists can marry out of State, even out of the country and their legal heirs have every right including ruling the State but a girl marrying outside State is cultural invasion and her legal heirs are threat to the State, isn’t it ridiculous interpretation of Article 35 A!!
The most important dimension that needs to be analysed is that the economic potential of the State which has not been harnessed as Article 35A acts as a deterrent to investment from outside – not many are interested in setting up their business in Jammu and Kashmir unless they are provided with land-owning rights. Though Jammu and Kashmir is part of tax rebate benefits scheme offered to other states of Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and North Eastern but the volume of business generated at industrial estates like Parwanoo, Baddi, Rorkee, Haridwar, Pantnagar and others is thousand folds what we have achieved in Jammu and Kashmir and whatever little bit achieved is mainly from Jammu Division only. All major industrial investments from companies like Cadila Pharmaceuticals Ltd ,Sun Pharmaceuticals, Dabur India, Medley Pharmaceuticals ,Indo-Swift Pharmaceuticals ,Berger Paints, Kangaroo Industries and Priya Gold Biscuits have been at Jammu Division only. During UPA-II several corporate bigwigs including then Tata Group Chairman Ratan Tata, Aditya Birla Group Chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla, HDFC Chairman Deepak Parekh and Bajaj Auto MD Rajeev Bajaj visited the State as part of a delegation headed by Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi with much hype and fanfare but ultimate result on ground is still zero as the focus of all successive State Governments have been to get the major projects in the Valley but with investment running into thousands of crores no industrialist dares to invest at Kashmir. Which industrialist can afford shutdown of 200 days in a year? Recently only two mega industrial units were proposed by the Centre to set up a steel manufacturing unit and a mega food park at the Lassipora Industrial Estate in Pulwama and the government had identified 30 hectares for the projects but turmoil and prevailing conditions have put both the projects in limbo. As per information in public domain there are approximately 10,000 industrial units in Kashmir Division and 12,000 in Jammu Division and as per government disclosure 368 have become sick in Kashmir against only 89 in Jammu. Of these 368 units 59 units have been sanctioned soft loan under rehabilitation package in Kashmir Division, while in Jammu Division, out of 89 sick units, only eight were approved for soft loan. Clear discrimination here also. There are numerous gun factories in Jammu Division as against only two in Kashmir, namely Zaroo Gun Factory and Subhana and Sons and these two are also on the verge of closure as likes of HMT, Cadbury, HLL, Maral Overseas, the list of such financial misadventures is manifold and it reflects only one conclusion, protectionism under the disguise of Article 35 A has landed us nowhere.
State Government is the largest employer but with only 1 per cent contribution to the GDP of the country, financial constraints are obvious. Contractual lecturers are on hunger strike for more than last six months, wireless operators are dismissed, PDD engineers planning to go on strike, Anganwari workers on roads and further government is not able to regularise daily wagers even after 25 years in service, the sorry state of protectionism speaks itself. The unemployment rate for persons between 18-29 years of age in the State is 24.6 per cent, which is higher than the national unemployment rate of 13.2 per cent in the same age group. The number of unemployed youths registered in various district employments and counseling centers is approximately seven lakhs and with no visible plan in hand, situation is really serious and moreover with clear discrimination with Jammu Division even in whatever employment generated by government what worse can happen with Jammuites after abrogation of Article 35 A. Situation of Jammu is just like that of a person chained to an ailing person, neither can ailing person run nor the other person. Recovery of bank loans were stalled under SARFAESI Act on the pretext that all Indian laws are not applicable to Jammu and Kashmir. Owing to the provisions of Article 370 and 35 A, the Jammu and Kashmir High Court in 2015 went to the extent of proclaiming that the state has sovereign powers, independent of India! It is a different matter that the Supreme Court shot down such a finding in no uncertain terms. This situation has been successfully exploited by separatists who find it easy to rope in unemployed youth in the name of protecting the Kashmiri identity and the State is always in a state of turmoil aided and abetted by Pakistan. No wonder that every time these Articles are spoken about, all political parties except for the BJP raise the banner of revolt and predict doomsday for the country if these are repealed. Currently, we are witnessing the same scenario where the NC, PDP, CPM, etc. have ganged up, ostensibly to build pressure against any court intervention.
So, rather than aiding the people of Jammu and Kashmir, these provisions have, over the years, impeded the growth of the State. All political parties should shun their ostrich like approach and the artificial shackles of Article 35 A must go. State cannot progress unless all parties shun petty political gains. Some parties supporting cause of Rohingya refugees but opposing settlement of West Pakistan refugees is beyond one’s wisdom. Jammu is the bridge between Kashmir and rest of India and unless until we strengthen this region our road to progress is bound to be doubtful. All State parties delegation can plan and invite large investments from industrial tycoons who have already visited our state and let them have land rights at the place of their choice. Any unemployed youth can come and work in Jammu Division without any fear or discrimination but the vice versa is not feasible right now. With only Jammu, Kathua, Udhampur connected by rail, hub of all industrial activities is bound to be these places only. Let Central Government invest in railways for Chenab Valley and Rajouri, Poonch as well as Kashmir. Develop each area independently as major tourist hubs as all these places are Mini Kashmir. Major boost to tourism can generate major employment opportunities. Remove all the road blocks to progress like any other state of India. Nutshell is that we don’t have either technical expertise or resources to sustain growth unless until we are coalesced with the rest of India. United with India we stand and progress, divided regionally we fail only.

editorial article
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