Fragrance of Ideas
The traditional last day of the financial year on 31st March this year ushered in a new beginning for the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir when the Domicile Notification was signed and issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MoH), at New Delhi. It had become consequential due to the abrogation of Article 370 and 35A and also the follow up bifurcation of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir into the two Union Territories.
The response to the Notification was overwhelmingly in its favour with a demand that the domiciles of the state should be eligible to apply for all categories of posts in the government and the semi-government undertakings and institutions. While the government approved an amendment to that effect immediately, there however, remained a flaw in the Notification even after the Amendment to it.
This author was the first to point it out on 1st April 2020 itself through a press release followed by a detailed article on the subject, the copies of which were forwarded to the PMO, MoH and the Raj Bhawan at Jammu in the shape of an open letter. Rising Kashmir, Srinagar was the first top newspaper of the UT of J&K to provide due coverage to this issue in the larger interests of the public good. An article of mine titled, "Domicile Issue: Inclusion of fifth category" was published by the esteemed newspaper. It had a tremendous response and feedback. In the days that followed, similar articles of mine were carried out by the other two top newspapers of the UT also which decimated well the information about the new notification and the flaw it carried. The social media ignited the inferno of curiosity among a large section of society throughout the world in this context.
The Gazette Notification was silent about a very important and an integral section of the J&K society.
The people of Jammu and Kashmir since times immemorial have been going to the regions outside their state for education, business, jobs and other assignments. Persecutions have also led to their forced exodus from their homestead. Sometimes they would come back to their state and live and settle there once again.
However, since 1947, the time of our independence, this process did not stop. The original inhabitants and the hereditary residents who posessed the certificate of state subject of the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir state continued to live outside Jammu and Kashmir in many parts of India and the world.
Since they are not in a position now to prove their stay of 15 years in the state, hence they are not covered by the new law on Domicile. Similarly, most of them are also not registered as "Migrants" with the office of the Relief and Rehabilitation Commissioner. In such a situation, this vast chunk of our brethren belonging to Jammu and Kashmir state ceased to be the Domicile of the UT of J&K, though they possess the Hereditary State Subject certificate as well.
As per a rough estimate, there are half a million of such people living all round the world since 1947 and they originally belong to the divisions of Jammu, Kashmir, Ladakh and parts of the occupied land of Jammu and Kashmir. All such people among them who possess valid state subject certificate of J&K, the progeny of their blood and the daughters-in-law in their families have a natural and legal right to claim the Domicile status, irrespective of their stay in J&K, whether they are included in the original Notification or not.
The Administrative Order dated 16 May 2020, issued by the government of UT of J&K on 18th May 2020, settles for good and also for all practical purposes the issue of this catagory of state subjects who formed the fifth catagory of the Domicile residents. The Order makes it amply clear that all such people who were left out need to contact the Relief and Rehabilitation Commissioner's office, for the purposes of registration, to get the Domicile Certificates. Their registration will be exclusively for the Domicile Certificate purposes only and it would not be linked with any kind of a facility for "relief and ration". This registration is not also tantamount to the registration as "Migrant" in terms of the Relief Commissioner's registration of the displaced people over the last three decades.
All such Hereditary residents of Jammu and Kashmir, who would be desirous to get the Domicile Certificate, and who are not "Registered Migrants" need to apply to the RC's office for registration. The basis of documentation has also been simplified by virtue of the Order and the applicant has been allowed a period of one year from the date of the said Order to get himself registered in this connection. Those who are already registered as "Migrants" with the RC's office need not apply for any registration. However, they need to apply for issuance of Domicile Certificate as such, whenever they desire.
It is important to note that the Relief Commissioner has been empowered to issue the Bonafide Domicile Certificate to these two categories of domiciled and thus the applicant is advised to go through the Order so far as the actual documentation is concerned. In addition, the processing time for the issuance of Domicile Certificate has been fixed as 15 days and any dereliction in the timeline will penalise the officer concerned up to a maximum of Rs. 50,000 as fine. This is a revolutionary reform in the administration of the UT to start with the procedure for issuance of the Domicile certificate.
The media, political people and the thinkers & columnists across the UT played a pivotal role to espouse this issue over the last more than one month despite a number of hiccups. The J&K government and the administration under the able command and leadership of the hon'ble Lt. Governor exhibited an involving and evolving approach with a positive attitude on the politically oriented issue. Kudos to both the governments, at Centre and in the UT, for accommodating the public will so promptly and accurately and with such an ease.
Last but not the least, it is the turn to express thanks to the whole media of Jammu and Kashmir for its encompassing role for taking the lead in this direction. The UT government deserve big thanks from all of us, the humble citizenry of the UT of Jammu & Kashmir, "the people get the government they deserve" is an old saying.