The state of Jammu and Kashmir will be officially bifurcated into the Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh on Thursday, October 31. This was the date chosen after the bifurcation was announced in Parliament on August 5. Beyond the symbolic importance — October 31 is the birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel — the day will mark the beginning of the functioning of the two UTs at a bureaucratic level. The period between August 5 and October 31 has been used by the state administration and the Home Ministry to put a basic bureaucratic structure in place to implement the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act.
What happens on October 31?
In terms of events, the Lieutenant Governors of the two UTs will take oath of office along with the Chief Justice of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court. Last week, the Union government appointed serving IAS officer of Gujarat cadre Girish Chandra Murmu as the LG of Jammu and Kashmir, and retired bureaucrat of Tripura cadre Radha Krishna Mathur as LG of Ladakh.
On the ground, the two UTs will get their own Chief Secretaries and other top bureaucrats, their own police chiefs and key supervisory officers. While Dilbagh Singh will continue to be DG of J&K police, an IG-level officer will head the police in Ladakh. Both forces will remain part of the J&K cadre which will eventually merge with the Union Territory cadre.
For full-fledged bifurcation, the Reorganisation Act gives a period of one year. Reorganisation of states is a slow process that at times can take years; issues relating to reorganisation of erstwhile Andhra Pradesh, which was bifurcated into Andhra and Telangana in 2013, are still being brought to the Union Home Ministry for resolution.
What will happen to other officers already posted in the undivided state?
An apportionment of posts in both Union Territories has been done. While the bureaucratic structures are in place, the staff of the state administration are yet to be divided. The government had asked all staff to send in applications for their preferred posting between the two UTs. This process is still on. The basic idea is to have minimum shifting between the two UTs, sources in the state administration said, with preference being given to regional affinities. “We would like to give people the posting of their choice between the two UTs. Those from Ladakh prefer being posted in the region and those from Kashmir and Jammu want to stay put. The only issue is there aren’t enough Ladakhi staff to fill in all posts there. So some people from Jammu and Kashmir may have to go there. All of that is being worked out. It will take some time,” a state administration official said.
As of now, the Home Ministry has issued an interim order to maintain the station of all staff in the lower bureaucracy as it is. “This is to ensure that the two UTs keep on functioning without any hiccups beginning October 31,” said the official.
What happens to the laws that governed the state of Jammu & Kashmir?
Legislative restructuring is a work in progress, with a lot remaining to be done. While 153 state laws are to be repealed, 166 have been retained. Then there is the cosmetic exercise of repealing Acts that mention “applicable to all of India but not the state of Jammu and Kashmir”.
As of now, the state administration has implemented all that is mentioned in the Reorganisation Act as it is. But it is also saddled with the massive legislative exercise of arriving at and making state-specific insertions into the 108 central laws that would now be applicable to the two Union Territories.
For example, the state used to have its own Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) which would now be replaced by the central CrPC. Unlike the Ranbir Penal Code, which is practically a replica of the Indian Penal Code, Kashmir’s CrPC has many provisions different from the Central CrPC. “It will have to be seen if any modification needs to be done to suit the state. But a final decision in all these aspects would be taken by Delhi,” an official said.
“Similarly, there are state-specific insertions that may be done in laws relating to the protection of women and children that have been replaced by the POCSO Act of the Centre. Same is the case with the Juvenile Justice Act. Then there is the law relating to reservations in the state which has been retained. While the quota for economically weaker sections has already been added through an amendment, the Centre may want to make some insertions drawing from central Acts,” another state administration official said.
Which are the laws that may require state-specific insertions?
A major bone of contention with regard to the Juvenile Justice Acts of the Centre and the state is the age limit. While the central Act takes those above the age of 16 as adults, the state Act’s age limit is 18. The argument has been that given the special situation in Kashmir where teenagers are often found to be part of violent protests, the central Act could jeopardise the future of many.
As far as the state’s reservation laws are concerned, they do not recognise reservation according to caste. The state has provision for region-wise reservation such as quota for those living near the LoC and the International Border and a quota for backward regions. While the state population includes 8% SCs and 10% STs, there are regional differences such as Ladakh having no SC population but a high tribal population.
“Then there are laws relating to land which may need to be looked into. There are issues relating to business rules which have to be framed for both Union Territories. There are also issues relating to employment as anyone can now apply for a job here. The Civil Services Decentralisation Act may require changes,” the official said.
Section 96 of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act facilitates this: “For the purpose of facilitating the application in relation to the successor Union Territories, of any law made before the appointed day, as detailed in Fifth Schedule, the Central Government may, before the expiration of one year from that day, by order, make such adaptations and modification of the law, whether by way of repeal or amendment, as may be necessary or expedient, and thereupon every such law shall have effect subject to the adaptations and modifications so made until altered, repealed or amended by a competent Legislature or other competent authority.”
Sources said though all central laws have been extended to Ladakh, regulations have to be framed.
The Act also provides for an increase of seats in the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly to 114. Given that the Act also provides for delimitation, the process for which has not yet begun, this may take more time.
How will assets be shared?
On September 9, the government constituted a three-member advisory committee under the chairmanship of former Defence Secretary Sanjay Mitra to divide the assets and liabilities of the state between the two Union Territories. The committee is yet to submit its report.
Three more committees — on personnel, finance and administrative matters — were constituted at the state level for the purpose of reorganisation. The three committees are learnt to have completed their work but their recommendations have not been made public yet.
A far more complicated task than sharing of assets is financial restructuring. “Because of the decision coming in August, the administration is saddled with a middle-of-the-year financial restructuring which is proving to be a massive bureaucratic exercise. It is going to take some. more time to fully put things in place,” an official said.
Notably, while the total budget for Union Territories is Rs 7,500 crore, the budget for Jammu and Kashmir is in excess of Rs 90,000 crore. This could also necessitate continuance of the Kashmir division in the Home Ministry, sources said.