Billing Blues

The PDP-BJP coalition government has finally announced it will adopt the Food Security Act and after legislating on it in the fast approaching budget session, it will be implemented by February 2016. This law will fetch access to low cost food grains to a vast section of the population across the state. This bill was supposed to be adopted by the last coalition but it was not adopted despite Congress insisting on it.

With the Food Security Bill, there is the land bill which, by now, has been adopted by various states across India. The Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 (LARR) replaced the archaic Land Acquisition Act of 1894 and was adopted on January 1, 2014. Despite Congress insisting that J&K government must adopt the law, there is no indication that even the successor coalition is willing to adopt it.

The dichotomy exhibited by the successive regimes in the twin legislations is interesting. After some dithering on the food security act by the last coalition, the ruling coalition eventually adopted it simply because it entails costs to the centre and not to the state. In fact, state’s costs in implementing the scheme are much less than the benefits it may have.

But in the land bill, state may have to bear the burden of adopting it because this law suggests the landowner must be compensating to the tune of four times of the existing rates in the market. This has been done to take care of serious crisis of dispossession.

Study of lawmaking in J&K has always remained interesting. Though for most of the debate on this issue has been around the exclusivity that J&K has retained in its constitutional relationship with Delhi. But the Article 370 that survives as the fulcrum of the debate is a hollowed one. While most of the discourse in Srinagar is that it was used as a bridge by Delhi to extend its grip on the state, the fact is that the regimes that have dominated the discourse in Srinagar have also done almost the same thing for completely different reasons.

While Srinagar’s resistance in adopting certain laws aimed at diluting its fig leaf of autonomy is understandable, there is no harm in copying the socially important laws falling within the domain of the state. But that has not been happening. In fact, boys in Kashmir were considered major compared to their counterparts in the rest of India. It took a lot of public pressure and campaign by global watchdogs to force the government to do away with the distinction that was helping them jail the minors.

Delhi had always remained concerned about how it will reduce the quantum of autonomy to J&K. In Srinagar, regimes had always their priority in how to reduce the autonomy of the citizenry it rules. During the 1952 Delhi agreement, NC resisted adopting the fundamental rights clauses and wanted to legislate on this in the constituent assembly. The idea behind this was to have its brand of fundamental rights implemented in the state, which eventually did not take place.

Lawmakers for all these decades have skipped even going through the statue books in which there are numerous laws obsolete by all means. In 2015, even prostitution is still a legal practice. Is somebody understanding this?


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