Two years after abrogation of Article 370, problems of people of Jammu and Kashmir have only increased
The local authorities have reportedly become corrupt and turned a blind eye to the grievances of the public
August 5 this year marks the two-year anniversary of the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution of India, which gave Jammu & Kashmir a special status.
On August 8, 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had addressed the nation and said, “We have removed the provisions in Article 370 which acted as an impediment to J&K and Ladakh’s development. The people of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh were deprived of their rights. With the abrogation of Article 370, the dreams of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, B.R. Ambedkar and Syama Prasad Mookerjee have been fulfilled. A new era in Jammu and Kashmir has now started.”
However, in the last two years, the only thing to have increased is the grievances of the people of the union territory of Jammu & Kashmir. The Wire reported that people whose grievances need to be addressed by the union government have been receiving help, but those who need help from local bureaucrats or police are turned a blind eye to. The local authorities have all been corrupted, the report in The Wire alleged.
Azim Premji University and the Lokniti Programme for Comparative Democracy conducted a survey in 2019 titled ‘Politics and Society between Elections’ that found out that people prefer their grievances addressed by local authorities than by those in positions of power. And even if people in higher positions address their issues, nothing happens until the local officers do their part.
The Wire also stated that when people criticise the indifference of DMs and bureaucrats, they are meted with arrests. Even though each district in J&K has 14 elected district development council members, they are forced to stay near the district headquarters, are not given proper offices and staff, which comes in the way of them performing their duty. Altaf Bukhari, leader of the Apni Party, recently said that his party’s council members are “not allowed to function and that their movements are restricted by the local administration”.
There’s no accountability from financial institutions in the UT either. Jammu and Kashmir Bank does not even come under the ambit of the Right to Information Act (RTI) 2005. No local authority in the UT respects the RTI Act. Local authorities have been known to charge huge amounts for RTI applications, even though the Act specifies that photocopying fee cannot be charged for over 30 pages.
“The corruption nexus was broken with the cooperation of the secretary of the Department of Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs in the J&K administration, but the officials involved in the scam are yet to be taken to task,” said the report in The Wire.
But besides this, most government departments do not upload any information on their websites. When the pandemic was at its peak, people were still forced to go to government offices to file their RTI applications, as no digital option was available to them.
Though the Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha has been responsive and accessible to the public, that is not enough. The UT needs drastic reforms, and support from the Union government.
The Wire reported that the meeting between Modi and J&K leaders in June this year was a ray of hope for the people, but because no positive outcome has been seen till now, it looks like a fluke. The people of J&K are facing innumerable problems ever since the abrogation of Article 370 occurred. What they need is “democratically elected government” that can be held accountable.