The centre has notified a controversial new law for appointments to government posts in Jammu and Kashmir, nearly eight months after it withdrew special status to the former state under Article 370 and bifurcated it into two union territories.
As per the new law only low-ranking positions, such as junior assistant and peon, have been reserved for residents, or domiciles, of J&K with the rest open to people from across the country. Earlier, all jobs had been reserved for permanent residents who also had other rights, including that over ownership of land.
The law also alters the definition of resident to include those who have lived in J&K for 15 years, as well as those who studied there for at least seven years and appeared for Class 10 and 12 exams from an educational institution in the newly-created union territory.
Eligible individuals will also include children of central government officials in Jammu and Kashmir.
“Subject to the provisions of this Act no person shall be eligible for appointment to a post carrying a pay scale of not more than Level 4 (Rs 25,500) unless he is a domicile of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir,” the gazette notification read.
Anyone who is registered as a migrant by the Relief and Rehabilitation Commissioner (Migrants) will also be deemed a “domicile”.
Issued by the Home Ministry, the notification, which empowers Tehsildars to issue certificates to those within their jurisdiction, comes into force with immediate effect.
It has, however, been fiercely criticised by opposition leaders and others, who have pointed out that J&K residents are now only assured of low-paying jobs.
National Conference chief Omar Abdullah, who was released after nearly eight months in detention, hit out at the centre for “insult heaped on injury” and questioned the timing of a “domicile” notification as India fights to contain the infectious novel coronavirus outbreak.
“Talk about suspect timing. At a time when all our efforts and attention should be focused on the COVID-19 outbreak, the government slips in a new domicile law for J&K. Insult is heaped on injury when we see the law offers none of the protections promised,” Omar Abdullah tweeted.
“You can imagine how hollow the domicile law is from the fact even the new party, created with Delhi’s blessings, whose leaders were lobbying in Delhi for this law, have been forced to criticise,” he added.
You can imagine how hollow the domicile law is from the fact that even the new party created with Delhi’s blessings, whose leaders were lobbying in Delhi for this law, have been forced to criticise the #JKdomicilelaw
— Omar Abdullah (@OmarAbdullah) April 1, 2020
Mr Abdullah, who had been detained hours before the centre withdrew special status under Article 370, was referring to the Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party, which said the notification was “unacceptable”.
Party leaders had recently met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah on the question of domicile in statehood. Both the Prime Minister and Mr Shah had issued statements later, reiterating their commitment to protecting rights of J&K people.
“This order is a casual attempt, cosmetic in nature, to hoodwink the people of Jammu and Kashmir, who genuinely believed that post October 31, 2019, their rights and privileges in the matter of employment would remain as it had been,” party chief Altaf Bukhari said.
The notification has also been criticised by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), which warned the new law would give rise to “massive problems for residents of J&K”.
“The domicile law, as it appears, is not only trying to shake the boundaries of an already existing state, but it is also trying to give rise to massive problems for residents of J&K,” the party said on Twitter.
The domicile law as it appears is not only trying to shake the boundaries of an already existing state, but it is also trying to give rise to massive problems for the residents of J&K
— J&K PDP (@jkpdp) April 1, 2020
The party, whose chief Mehbooba Mufti remains under detention, also said the centre”s “manipulation of the law” would only further alienate the people.
Sajjad Lone, the chief of the Jammu and Kashmir People’s Conference (JKPC) also hit out, comparing the new law to the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the world.
“The new definition of domicile is humiliating and insulting. Doing away with district and divisional recruitment is an affront to the concept of affirmative action. We had no expectations but this particular order has made the disappointment even more intense,” spokesperson Junaid Azim Mattu was quoted by news agency PTI.
With input from PTI