NEW DELHI: The Centre is working on giving special rights to residents of the newly-carved out Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir in government jobs and land rights, along the lines of special privileges given to residents of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, top government officials said on Friday, confirming a report published in this newspaper on December 6.
An announcement on special concessions for locals is expected soon. “We are examining whether the Centre needs to notify it or if it can be done by the Union Territory itself,” said a top government functionary. After revoking of Article 35A and provisions of Article 370, exclusive rights of permanent residents in government jobs and property rights were abolished.
The government is examining a proposal to grant domicile status to those who have been living in the state for a specific number of years, sources said, adding that provision will protect the rights of locals the way they were safeguarded before abrogation of special status of J&K. Since August 5, when the government scrapped J&K’s special status and bifurcated it, there have been concerns over government jobs and land rights being grabbed by outsiders.
In the erstwhile state of J&K, a ‘state certificate’ was a must for government jobs and ownership of land. While different states have different residency norms, the government is planning to introduce a minimum residency norm for an outsider to attain domicile status in J&K, sources said, adding the arrangement would be similar to that in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
Eligibility for availing a domicile certificate in the hill states is 15 years of residency and a domicile certificate is must for government jobs, buying land and for admissions in government institutes.
There has been a growing demand both in Jammu and the Kashmir Valley that given the economic backwardness and the huge unemployment in J&K, domicile rights of the residents must be protected. J&K unit of the BJP and opposition parties had protested vociferously when the high court recently threw open applications for 33 vacant, non-gazetted posts in district courts in Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh to candidates from across the country. The controversial job advertisement was later withdrawn by the J&K administration.
Incidentally, a similar residency norm was fixed by the last Dogra ruler of erstwhile J&K, Maharaja Hari Singh, who issued a notification on June 27, 1932, fixing 10 years of continuous residence as a mandatory requirement before “foreign nationals” can purchase immovable property and be considered Class III state subjects.
However, this provision was altered by the Constituent Assembly in 1954 when it amended the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution Act, 1939, defining permanent residents of the state as any person who, before May 14, 1954, “lawfully acquired immovable property in the State” and “has been ordinarily resident in the State for not less than ten years prior to the date”.
The amendment deprived thousands of refugees from erstwhile West Pakistan, who had settled in Jammu following the 1947 Partition, from becoming permanent residents of the state.