The central government appointed the J&K Interlocutors Group on October 13, 2010. The Group submitted the Report to the Home Ministry earlier this year. The Report was made public by the Home Ministry on May 24, 2012. It may be noted that under Article 370 of the Constitution special status has been granted to the State of Jammu and Kashmir. The power of the Parliament to legislate is restricted to defence, external affairs, communication and central elections. However, the President may with the concurrence of the state government extend other central laws to the state. Furthermore, in 1952, an agreement known as the Delhi Agreement was entered into between the state of Jammu and Kashmir and the central government. The Agreement too provided that the state government shall have sovereignty on all subjects except for matters specified above. However, since then some central laws relating to other subjects such as environment have been made applicable to the state. This blog post divides the recommendation into two broad headings: political; and socio-economic. It also looks at the roadmap proposed by the Group to achieve these recommendations. Political recommendations:
- The Group recommended that a Constitutional Committee (CC) should be set up to review all the central Acts that have been extended to the state of Jammu and Kashmir since 1952. The CC should come out with its findings within six months. According to the Group, the CC should review whether, and to what extent, the application of central acts to the state has led to an erosion of the state's special status.
- The word ‘Temporary’ in Article 370 should be replaced with ‘Special’ which has been used for certain states such as Assam, Nagaland, Andhra Pradesh.
- Central laws shall only be made applicable to the state if they relate to the country's security or a vital economic interest, especially in the areas of energy and water resources.
- Currently, the Governor is appointed by the President. The Group recommended that the state government shall give three names for consideration for the position to the President. However, the Governor shall finally be appointed by the President.
- Separate Regional Councils for Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh should be created and certain legislative, executive and financial powers should be devolved to them. The subjects that could be transferred to the Regional Council include prison reforms, public health, roads and bridges and fisheries.
Cultural, Economic and Social Recommendations:
- There are 16 centrally sponsored schemes which are mostly funded by the centre. However, most of the funds for these schemes have not been utilised properly. The Group recommended that an effective system to monitor these schemes should be put in place.
- An expert committee to review the state’s financial needs should be constituted.
- The central government should tap the hydro-electricity potential of the state. Till date only 15 per cent of the potential has been harnessed. Additional hydro-electricity projects should be established for which the central government should meet the entire equity capital.
- Industrial establishments and other buildings occupied by the security officers should be vacated.
- Financial package of incentives on the pattern given to the North Eastern States should be given to the state.
- The hilly, remote areas should be declared as special development zones.
- The restrictions on the internet and mobile phones should be reviewed.
In order to fulfil these recommendations, the Interlocutor’s Group proposed the following roadmap:
- The ‘stone pelters’ and political prisoners against whom no serious charges have been framed should be released.
- There should an amendment and review of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1990 and the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, 1978.
- The state policy should provide for the return of Kashmiri Pandits.
- A judicial commission to supervise the identification of bodies buried in the unmarked graves should be established.
The full report may be accessed here. Sources: