Thursday 13 December 2018

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J&K, Special Status and Unemployment

 

There is a misconception that the prohibition of sale of land to non-Kashmiris comes from the special status in the constitution. J&K came into Indian Union under peculiar circumstances and article 370 dealt with the federal scheme only. Law on prohibition on sale of land is not under that special status scheme.


J&K, Special Status and Unemployment

Cleofato Almeida Coutinho

As unrest in Jammu and Kashmir shows signs of receding, the state has seen tremendous increase in the domestic tourists’ footfalls. The foreign tourists are yet to look at Kashmir as a holiday destination. Even when peace returns to the valley, educated youngsters are seen throwing stones at the Indian army and its vehicles parked in the precincts of the Jama Masjid.  Why should educated young, some of whom hold Masters and Ph.D. degrees, throw stones at the Indian army particularly at a time when there is a rainbow of peace around the skies of the state?

On one hand the unrest over the long period and on the other hand   the state law prohibiting sale of any land to non-Kashmiris, J&K lost out on investments. Due to this, big industrial houses have not entered the state despite the enticing climate of this paradise. Only the Jammu and Kashmir Bank branches are seen in Srinagar. Other banks seem to shy away.

With the insurgency now becoming the thing of the past unemployment issue has come to the force. Not that the employment situation is bright in other parts of the country, but at any given time the number of registered unemployed youth in J&K is more than double that of the national average. A huge chunk of educated youth is working on daily wages. Thousands of young boys drop out from school to take up jobs as pony riders at Pehalgam, Sonmarg, Gulmarg and other areas. Hundreds of graduates work as tourist guides, drivers and other odd jobs in the tourism sector.  There is hardly any scope for the educated without any major industry.

The state government has on number of occasions come out with various schemes like Sher-e-Kashmir Welfare employment Programme. The Central Government’s ‘Udaan’ Scheme to provide skills and employment to youth and ‘Himayat’ Scheme providing training to youngsters.   Only handfuls get benefits of such schemes.   Only pumping of more money into the state   has done too little. The problem is that the industrial houses are just not interested in investing in the state. During the UPA-II Rahul Gandhi led a delegation of Ratan Tata, Kumar Mangalam Birla, Deepak Parrek and Rajiv Bajaj. However nothing substantial come out of that political initiative. 

The industrial houses want land for industry and land for their staff on long term basis which is not possible under the land laws of J&K. Having realized the seriousness of the matter the J&K government under the brief period of Governor’s rule proposed new industrial policy 2016-26 permitting non Kashmiris to acquire land on lease for 90 years beyond the designated industrial estates. Fear of loss of identity both as Kashmiri Muslims and in terms of their land, the new industrial policy 2016-2026 is under severe attack in the valley. Even the High Court Bar Association is unable to look at the broader picture of employment   and the PDP led government is all set to review the scheme.

 

There is a misconception that the prohibition of sale of land to non-Kashmiris comes from the special status in the constitution.   J&K came into Indian Union under peculiar circumstances and article 370 dealt with the federal scheme only. Law on prohibition on sale of land is not under that special status scheme. The prohibition dates back to 16th March 1846 A.D. when the ‘treaty of Amritsar’ was signed between the British government and Maharaja Gulab Singh of the Dogra dynasty who became the Maharaja of the J&K state by the said treaty.  Maharaja Hari Singh who ordered the signing the agreement of accession facilitating the J&K becoming part of India was the last Dogra ruler.  Even in parliament in 1963 when the issue of sale of land to non-Kashmiris came up Nehru said “that is an old rule coming on, not a new thing and I think it is very good rule which should continue, because Kashmir is such a delectable place that moneyed people will buy up all the land there to the misfortune of the people who live there; that is the real reason and that reason has been applied ever since British times and for one hundred years or more”. 

Through a number of presidential orders issued by the central government, in connivance with puppet rulers of J&K, the  promised autonomy under Art. 370 has been diluted. It is a myth that J&K enjoys special status as envisaged in the year 1950. It is that dilution of autonomy that the Kashmiri population finds itself vulnerable and insecure in respect of its identity so close to their heart. But the special status permitted J&K to retain the 1846 Dogra law and that is one law which the central government has not tinkered with.

Should a 1846 law continue in the 21st century with the same rigidity, at the cost of growth of youngsters and development in the state? At the heart of the matter is the dilution of the Kashmiri Muslim identity and of course the dilution of the valley raven landscape of Kashmir. The Kashmiri sentiment is against any perception of diluting of that identity and even when it comes to land for industry. That sentiment is fuelled by existing industry. The result is, the young find nothing better to do then throw stones. 

The  manufacturing sector  spurs  better growth and provides employment. The over exploitation of the tourism  sector without development and infrastructure  cannot be the substitute.   Some compromises for  small and medium enterprises in the 1846 Dogra law is needed in the interest of the young. If J&K has to grow it has to be seen as an investment destination.  J&K must find that fine balance between land for industry and its landscape without any compromise on the special status under Art. 370.




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Cleofato A Coutinho

Cleofato Almeida Coutinho is a senior lawyer and one of the constitutional expert in Goa. A member of Law Commission of Goa, he also teaches at Kare College of Law in Madgao.

 

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