Autonomy For J&K In The Offing-Taj16 April 2011
Srinagar: Disclosing that centre was seriously discussing grant of autonomy to the state of Jammu and Kashmir, senior Congress leader and Minister for Irrigation and PHE Taj Mohiudin said that mechanism for devolution of powers to the state at regional and sub regional levels is being discussed to satisfy the aspirations of all the three regions of Jammu and Kashmir. Talking exclusively to this correspondent Taj Mohiudin said that centre was very serious in resolving the Kashmir issue through grant of autonomy and further devolution of political and economic powers at regional and sub-regional levels. “This is from horses mouth and I assure you that autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir will be restored soon” Taj said adding that the only complexity is how to address the regional and sub regional aspirations within state. “ I would not go into legal and juridical implications of autonomy to which legal luminaries may address. But I want to assure you that restoration of autonomy is essentially a pragmatic approach towards ending the political uncertainty in the state” Taj said. Taj Mohiuding said that return to a position anywhere between 1953 and 1975 is what is being discussed now and the Centre-appointed Interlocutors have also recommended restoration of autonomy to the state. “The Congress led UPA government at centre is committed to grant autonomy to the state, but I am concerned about the economic self-reliance essential for sustaining the political autonomy. We have to tape our resources particularly water resources and have to launch a sustained campaign for return of Hydro-Electric Power Projects to the state that will go a long way in making the state a vibrant economy” Taj said. The minister further added, “we do not know as yet the final contours and quantum of contemplated autonomy nor do we know the frame of regional autonomy which the central government and the Chief Minister have been discussing right now. . But we shall be justified in visualising what could be the fall-out of this measure if state-resources are not properly utilized and the major power projects being run by the National Hydro Power Corporation (NHPC) of the state are not returned back to the state”. The Congress leader said that autonomy to the state will certainly open avenues for the realisation of the aspirations of all the three regions and will tend to provide the wherewithal for the development of their respective identities as the essence of autonomy in theoretical terms is to find a mechanism of meeting the aspirations of different regions and ethnicities in the state and to help it develop its identity. Taj, however, said that the real challenge is the huge fiscal deficit, the state is facing as its resources are being looted by the NHPC and people of the state will have to launch a campaign for return of at least Salal, Dulhasti, Uri 1st as the NHPC is earning 50 thousand crores annually from these projects. “Autonomy means not only socio- political but most importantly financial. As we see, the political problems are being addressed through economic perspectives and we have to be economically strong to sustain whatever is granted or conceded politically to us” Taj Mohiudin said adding that Article 370 of the Indian Constitution is the bedrock of the special powers to the state and fiscal autonomy is no separate issue.. 'The overall fiscal liabilities of J&K State have increased manifold over the years and the state should make urgent efforts to reduce its fiscal liabilities and deficit” Taj Mohiudin who has been pioneer in enacting Jammu and Kashmir Water Resources (Management and Regulation ) Act imposing water usage charges to the tune of 9 thousand crores annually on usage of water by NHPC. It merits a mention here that the reported recommendation by center’s Interlocutors to restore autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir had fuelled a predictable political debate, with opponents suggesting it would create more confusion than solve problems in the troubled state. According to reports, the government appointed interlocutors – Dileep Padgaonkar, Radha Kumar and M.M. Ansari – in their interim report on a political settlement of Kashmir had suggested restoration of autonomy, a special status enjoyed by the state till 1953, under Article 370 of the constitution. They have also recommended a debate on issues like erosion of the special status, changing the nomenclature of heads of government and state – wazir-e-azam and sadr-e-riyasat, the process of nominating a governor and on provisions of Article 356 that empowers the central government to disqualify state governments. But the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – a known opponent of Article 370 – had termed the recommendations as ‘regressive’. However, for last couple of weeks BJP has considerably softened its stand on Kashmir issue which is seen as a significant development. The ruling National Conference says more powers would ‘restore the distinctive dignity’ of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. In 2000, the National Conference passed a resolution in the state assembly for restoration of autonomy and sent it to the central government. But the resolution was trashed by the then BJP-led government. Separatist leaders have always been rejecting any solution to the Kashmir issue within the framework of the constitution.