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Jammu and Kashmir: Govt to bring domicile provision to protect jobs; land ownership rights to be firmed up

Deeptiman Tiwary
Jammu and Kashmir, Article 370, Union territories, ministry of home affairs, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Nirmal Singh, domicile provision

Five months after the scrapping of Article 370 and bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union territories, the ministry of home affairs is likely to finalise provisions to protect jobs and land ownership of people in J&K in the next few days.

"It is almost finalised, we are just discussing the procedure: Whether the state administration alone can notify it or we need to approve it," a top official in the ministry said. For protection of jobs in the new UT, a provision to make domicile of at least 15 years in the erstwhile state will be introduced. "Several states have such provisions for protection of jobs for locals," the official said, adding this provision will also be applicable for admission to educational institutions in J&K.

For protection of land ownership in J&K, a handful of provisions, the official said, are being considered which include land ownership protection regimes in force in states such as Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. "There are provisions in several states that agricultural land cannot be acquired. Similarly, there is protection provided for people in Himachal and Uttarakhand. All of these are under consideration," the official said.

The government had stripped the state of its special status on August 5. The decision abrogated Article 370 and Article 35A - the latter reserved jobs in Jammu and Kashmir for residents of the erstwhile state and prohibited anyone from outside the state to own property there.

The stripping of these provisions caused a lot of anxiety in the region, especially in Jammu where people felt that given the security situation in the Valley, many from outside the state would settle in Jammu. Several BJP leaders from Jammu urged the government to ensure protection of jobs and land.

In August last year, following the abrogation of the state's special status, senior BJP leader Nirmal Singh said that what was required was a safeguard like a "domicile" certificate to "protect the interests of locals in respect to land and state jobs". On land ownership too, Singh said, "Our neighbouring states of Himachal Pradesh and Punjab have certain laws protecting the interests of the local people, including agriculturists."

He pointed out that Punjab required a person to be a resident for at least six years to become eligible for a state government job, while in Himachal, an outsider cannot buy agricultural land. At some other places, there are conditions that one cannot purchase more than 50% of the agricultural landholding of a farmer.