National interest to the fore in J&K

National interest to the fore in J&K
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National interest to the fore in J&K

Highlights

In a logical move, after the abrogation of the special status of Kashmir, the Ministry of Home Affairs, on October 26, notified new land laws for the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir

In a logical move, after the abrogation of the special status of Kashmir, the Ministry of Home Affairs, on October 26, notified new land laws for the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir. This move of the central government has sparked fears (mildly put) or led to an outrage (subdued perhaps) among locals as the local land was earlier reserved only for permanent residents under the now-scrapped Article 370 of the Constitution of India.

Opposition leaders in the state have criticised the Centre for rewriting the land laws, with former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah claiming the government could not tolerate even one Muslim-majority state in India. Any Indian citizen can now buy land, except agricultural, in municipal areas of Jammu and Kashmir without being a domicile.

In its order, the home ministry said the new laws will be called the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization (Adaptation of Central Laws) Third Order, 2020. It added that it will come into effect immediately and will encourage development in the UT of Jammu and Kashmir.

The Centre said the "permanent resident of the state" clause has been omitted now. Under this, 12 state laws have been repealed and 26 others have been adapted with changes or substitutes. Under the notification, for the first time the spouse of a Jammu and Kashmir domicile shall also be deemed as a domicile. Earlier, spouses of Permanent Resident Card holders were considered at par but were not considered domiciles. Children of central government officials posted for over ten years in Jammu and Kashmir will also continue to be considered domiciles.

The notification stated that the government may, on the written request of an Army officer not below the rank of Corp Commander, declare an area "strategic" within a local area. This can only be done for the direct operational and training requirements of the Armed forces, which may be excluded from the operation of this Act. A government spokesman has replaced the old, regressive, intrinsically contradictory and outdated laws with a set of modern, progressive and people-friendly provisions.

There is always room for disagreement. The new land laws will not only afford protection to over 90 per cent of the land in J&K from being alienated to outsiders but also help revamp the agriculture sector foster, rapid industrialisation, aid economic growth and create jobs in J&K.

The issue is simple. Should Kashmir remain only an agrarian economy or move over to industrial economy too? A number of protections have beeen built into the new land laws on similar lines as had been enacted in other states such as Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

To begin with, no agricultural land could be transferred to any person from outside the Union Territory of J&K but could only be sold to an agriculturist from within J&K. No land used for agricultural purpose could be used for any non-agricultural purpose.

The fresh enactments have provoked anger in the Union Territory, where suspicions abound that the Centre is gradually disempowering the local population and consolidating control through untrammeled executive power. The move has exacerbated concerns of Kashmiris and rights groups. Yet, it is a welcome move and in the national interest.

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