LS passes Bill to merge J&K cadre with AGMUT for civil services

The Lok Sabha on Saturday passed the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Amendment) Bill, 2021 to merge the J&K cadre of civil services officers with the Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Mizoram, Union Territory (AGMUT) cadre.

The Bill was passed with voice vote despite objections raised by the Congress, Trinamool Congress, DMK, RSP and other opposition parties.

Introduced in the Rajya Sabha last week, the Bill amends the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019 which provided for the bifurcation of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir into the Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh. The Bill repeals the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Amendment) Ordinance, 2021.

The Bill specifies that the members of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), the Indian Police Service (IPS) and the Indian Forest Service (IFS) serving in J&K would continue to serve in the two UTs, based on the allocation decided by the Central government.

Further, in future, postings of officers in the two UTs of J&K and Ladakh would be from the AGMUT cadre, which also covers the three states of Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Goa, as well as all the UTs.

Putting aside the apprehensions of the opposition, Union Home Minister Amit Shah said the Bill has nothing to do with the statehood of Jammu and Kashmir, which will be given at an appropriate time.

Shah also urged the oppositiion members not to oppose the Bill just for the sake of politics. Highlighting that the Bill does not mention anything about not granting statehood to J&K, Shah said, “I will reiterate again that this Bill has nothing to do with the statehood of Jammu and Kashmir. In due time, Jammu and Kashmir will be given statehood.”

Taking a jibe at the Congress, the Home Minister said, “You are asking us what we did in the last 17 months, what have you done in the last 70 years?”

Introducing the Bill earlier in the day, Minister of State for Home Affairs, G. Kishan Reddy, said the government is working to take Jammu and Kashmir further on the path to development.

He said around 170 Central laws are being implemented in Jammu and Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370 that gave special status to the erstwhile state.

During discussions on the Bill, the opposition party members slammed the BJP for making empty promises in J&K and giving a tainted picture of ‘vikas’ (development) happening there.

The Congress pointed out the increase in internet ban, ceasefire violations, curfews as well as the shrinking of industries since the abrogation of Article 370 in August 2019. Congress MP Manish Tewari urged the BJP to restore the statehood of Jammu and Kashmir.

Raising objections to the Bill, Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said, “What was the need to bring an ordinance for this?”

He said that regularly promulgating an ordinance is not good for a parliamentary democracy as an ordinance should be preceded by an emergency situation or any urgency.

“Our point of contention is loud and clear,” he said, adding that after abrogating Article 370, the government showed a ‘dream’ to the people that they would ‘make heaven’ in Jammu and Kashmir and create jobs there. Introduction of this Bill reflects that the government took the step of abrogating Article 370 without any preparation, Chowdhury alleged.

The Congress leader said that Jammu and Kashmir is a sensitive state and its cadres should be local officers having ground knowledge. He alleged that militancy is still prevalent in the UT and people are living in an atmosphere of fear.

The government tried to turn Jammu and Kashmir into a large prison, the opposition leader said, adding that it blocked telecommunication services but failed to normalise the situation there. “There is unemployment, restriction, lost avenues and total confusion,” Chowdhury alleged.

He further said the government had promised to bring back Kashmiri Pandits to the Valley, but it has failed to ensure their return.

“Please think for Jammu and Kashmir with new ideas and do not take adhoc measures,” Chowdhury said, adding that the government should make Jammu and Kashmir a state and create a cadre to appoint officers there.

Speaking against the Bill, Jammu & Kashmir National Conference leader Hasnain Masoodi said that it is akin to an assault on the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

“You are continuously increasing confusion. What is the objective of this Bill? You are taking Jammu and Kashmir towards uncertainty through this Bill,” he said, adding that the appointed officers should have connect with the ground realities.

Masoodi added that the government should restore the position of Jammu and Kashmir to what it was prior to August 5, 2019, when Article 370 was abrogated.