Research scholars Ishfaq Majid and Shazia Kouser provide their joint perspective on the new domicile law for Jammu and Kashmir as a Union Territory and the potential implications such policy shifts will have on Kashmir's wider demography.
The Government of India announced a new set of laws for Jammu and Kashmir on 1st April 2020. The move came as the Government of India abrogated Article 370 and 35A on 5th August 2019, which resulted in downgrading the state into two Union Territories (UT). Such a drastic policy change arrived at a time when the whole world is struggling with the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic, fighting a battle for the preservation of life in the face of imminent death.
Despite the people not expecting much, the Central Government and Home Minister Amit Shah had also assured last month that the Central Government would not carry out any demographic changes in the Union Territory. The Home Minister had also promised that the new domicile rule for J&K would be better than that of any other state.
Under the new domicile law, the Central Government on 1st April 2020 issued a notification where they announced amendments to 138 Acts of J&K that include protection of jobs up to Group-4 for those who are domiciled in the Union Territory. The new domicile law mentions that those who have resided in the UT for 15 years or have studied for seven years and have appeared in Class 10th & 12th examinations in educational institutions located in the region are now eligible to become permanent residents of the UT. The new law has also empowered the children of central government officials who have served in Jammu and Kashmir for a total period of 10 years by providing them domicile status.
The new law also states that no person shall be eligible for appointment to a post carrying a pay scale of not more than Group-4 (Rs 25,500) unless they are a resident of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. It is worth to mention here that Group-4 is equivalent to the rank of constable in the police.
The Domicile Law now formally allows people from outside the Union Territory of J&K to apply for jobs in the UT. While the Level IV jobs have been reserved for native people with domicile status, the other non-gazetted and gazetted jobs have been kept for the people from across the country, including people domiciled in J&K. It means that for non-gazetted and gazetted jobs, people from across the country will be eligible to apply along with the native residents of J&K Union Territory.
The Jammu and Kashmir Union Territory is already suffering from the crises of unemployment and also lags behind significantly in private sector jobs. At a time when the unemployed youth of Jammu and Kashmir are waiting for government job notifications, this new domicile law is an act against their interests. Amidst this chaos and pandemic, when the entire Indian nation is trying to save the lives of their people, the Government of India has been busy in changing the demography of Jammu and Kashmir, which reveals the priority of the central government.
As per the Economic Survey Report of 2016, the unemployment rate in Jammu and Kashmir is higher than the average national unemployment rate. Nearly a quarter of its population in the age group of 18 to 29 years is unemployed at a rate of 24.6 percent, which is far more than the national rate of 13.2 percent.
As the Union Territory has already limited resources, the unemployment will continue to rise as more and more educated youth are clearing their educational degrees with each passing year. And it is also believed that the rate of anxiety, stress, and depression will increase among the youth. Ultimately the youth will lose their interest and hope for getting government jobs, which will result in their demotivation towards receiving formal education. The Union Territory which was typically seen as a destination for tourists given its scenic beauty will be a living hell for its indigenous people.
About the Authors
Ishfaq Majid and Shazia Kouser are Jammu and Kashmir-based research scholars at the School of Education, Central University of Gujarat. The authors are exploring the area of Information and Communication Technology in Education. Their previous writings have appeared in The Diplomat, Economic and Political Weekly, Medium, Qatar Tribune, Mainstream Weekly, South Asia Journal and Café Dissensus.