Jammu, Feb 9: Rajya Sabha Friday passed three crucial J&K bills aimed at amending its Local Bodies’ Laws and expanding the lists of Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs) in the Union Territory.
These three Bills included Jammu and Kashmir Local Bodies Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2024 providing reservation to OBCs in Panchayats and Urban Local Bodies; the Constitution (Jammu and Kashmir) Scheduled Castes Order (Amendment) Bill, 2024 including “Valmikis” in list of SCs in J&K and the Constitution (Jammu and Kashmir) scheduled Tribes Order (Amendment) Bill, 2024 granting ST status to Paharis and three other communities, thus expanding existing list of STs in the Union Territory.
All these three Bills were approved by the Lok Sabha on February 6.
J&K LOCAL BODIES LAWS (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2024
While replying to debate on the “Jammu and Kashmir Local Bodies Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2024”, the Union Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai stated that there was substantial decline in terror related incidents in J&K due to bolstered security grid and zero-tolerance approach of the present government towards terrorism.
Rai moved the Bill for consideration and passage and replied to the debate on behalf of the Union Home Minister Amit Shah.
Substantiating his point with a dash of statistics, Rai said that between 2004 to 2014, 7,217 (terror related) incidents took place however these incidents came down to only 2,224 during 2014-2023 registering 69-percent reduction.
“2829 killings of civilians and security personnel occurred during 2004-2014, the figure dropped to 913 between 2014-2023, registering a 68 percent decline. We have not become complacent with these figures. With zero percent tolerance, we will bring the level of such incidents to zero and completely obliterate terrorism in J&K,” he said.
He stated that during 2004-2014, killings of 1769 civilian and 1060 security personnel occurred, the figure reduced to 339 and 576 between 2014-2023 recording 81 and 46 percent decline respectively. Similarly in 2010, 112 civilians died in stone pelting, whereas in 2023, not even one person died, he added.
“Abrogation of Article 370 by the Modi government not only brought Kashmir to the mainstream in the country, bolstered the pace of development in J&K but it also removed an obstacle in the unity and integrity of this nation. As a consequence, the people of Jammu and Kashmir have become intrinsic part of the country's mainstream and equal stakeholders in its development. The step has brought revolutionary reformative changes in social, economical, development scenarios. Infrastructure development has undergone a significant change,” Rai said.
Elaborating on this account, he said that the power generation was only 3050 Mega Watts in 70 years. “In last five years, power generation rose to a significant level. Foundation has been laid by fast-tracking projects to achieve our goal to generate 5000 MegaWatts in five years. In case of industrial development, the UT has received 3362 investment proposals worth Rs 90182 Cr. The proposals worth over Rs 5000 Cr have already started taking shape on the ground, generating over 4 lakh job opportunities,” he said, while enumerating the list of achievements and changes that occurred post Article 370.
With regard to opposition members’ criticism that the government failed to protect the interests of OBCs in J&K and elsewhere in the country, he said, “J&K government, under the leadership and the guidance of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister, has taken many steps for the welfare of Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in the Union Territory. The duo’s leadership has accelerated the tempo of development in Jammu and Kashmir.”
“For giving their due rights to deprived OBC sections, J&K government provided them with reservation in jobs and educational institutions besides scholarships and establishing hostels for them. A Backward Classes Commission was also set up. The government has also appointed a nodal officer to address the issues related to OBC employees. There also exists J&K State Advisory Board for Welfare and Development of OBCs under the chairmanship of the Lieutenant Governor to secure their rights and protect their interests,” he added.
With regard to the Bill, he said it was aimed at ensuring equitable development of the OBC population demonstrating the government’s commitment to empower them (OBCs) socially and politically.
With particular reference to the opposition members’ posers as to what the government was doing to protect the interests of SC and ST population in J&K, Rai said, “Modi government gives guarantee of equality and justice to the SC and ST women, children and the aged population. Pahari speaking people have been given four percent reservation and the people living along the International Border too have been given reservation."
He alleged that the opposition members, out of 20 members, who participated in the debate, instead of offering wholehearted support to the Bill which aimed at the welfare of OBCs, were trying to divert the focus of debate by raking up issues not related to the Bill or OBCs.
Earlier at the very outset of his reply to debate on the Bill, Rai accused the opposition, particularly Congress of opposing all welfare measures being taken for OBCs. In this connection, he also referred to Congress’ opposition to the Mandal Commission. Rai also enlisted many steps taken for the benefits of OBCs at the national level.
WHAT AMENDMENTS BILL BROUGHT
While explaining about the amendments the Bill brought, Rai said that besides reservation to OBCs in Panchayats and Urban Local Bodies, the Bill also proposes to vest the superintendence, direction and control of the preparation of electoral rolls for, and the conduct of all elections to the Municipalities and Municipal Corporations in a “State Election Commission” consisting of a “State Election Commissioner” instead of the Chief Electoral Officer, which was existing practice in J&K.
“It also proposes to bring parity in provisions related to the removal and conditions of service of the State Election Commission (SEC) in J&K Panchayati Raj Act, 1989 with the practice prevalent in other States/UTs of the country,” he said.
The provisions pertaining to State Election Commissioner in the Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Act, 1989 were at variance with the provisions of the Constitution, he said.
PAHARI ETHNIC GROUP, KOLI, PADDARI, GADDA BRAHMINS TO GET ST STATUS
While replying to debate on “The Constitution (Jammu and Kashmir) Scheduled Tribes Order (Amendment) Bill, 2024”, the Minister of Tribal Affairs Arjun Munda said that the amendment would give new communities benefits of ST reservation without diluting the reservation quota already being enjoyed by the existing tribes.
The Bill provided for the inclusion of the communities of “Gadda Brahmin”, “Koli”, “Paddari Tribe” and “Pahari Ethnic Group” in the list of Scheduled Tribes in respect of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
Following passage of Bill, the list of STs in J&K includes Bakarwal; Balti; Beda; Bot, Boto; Brokpa, Drokpa, Dard, Shin; Changpa; Gadda Brahmin; Gaddi; Garra; Gujjar; Koli; Mon; Paddari Tribe; Pahari Ethnic Group; Purigpa and Sippi.
NO VOTE BANK POLITICS IN GIVING DEPRIVED SECTIONS THEIR DUE
Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment Dr Virendra Kumar, while replying to the debate on “The Constitution (Jammu and Kashmir) Scheduled Castes Order (Amendment) Bill, 2024”, stated that the Modi government never resorted to vote bank politics and ensured justice to all. “We are ensuring that the benefits of welfare schemes and reservation reach all deserving sections which were deprived of their rights by Congress so far across the country,” he said.
While enumerating reservation benefits, which the SCs and STs and other deprived sections were getting, Kumar, however, said that Muslims and Christians were not getting these benefits as untouchability prevailed among Hindus.
VALMIKIS TO BE INCLUDED IN LIST OF SCHEDULED CASTES OF J&K
The Bill provided for inclusion of Valmiki (in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir only) along with Chura, Bhangi, Balmiki, Mehtar" in the Schedule to the Constitution (Jammu and Kashmir) Scheduled Castes Order, 1956.
Earlier participating in the debate on three Bills, the opposition members criticised the government for not conducting elections in J&K and restoring its statehood. CPI-M and INC MPs even raked up the issue of complete “shutdown in Ladakh.” MP Santosh Kumar questioned the non-availability of data related to OBCs.
AITC MP Jawhar Sircar, while speaking on the ST amendment Bill, accused the BJP government of perpetuating “caste and tribe politics.”
BJP MPs, while supporting all three Bills, stated that the Prime Minister Narendra Modi ensured justice to SCs, STs and OBCs in alignment with his Mantra of all-inclusive, justice-oriented development. One of the BJP MPs taking a dig at Congress said that its leader Rahul Gandhi could address gatherings at Lal Chowk in Srinagar during his Bharat Jodo Yatra, only after Article 370 abrogation.