Omar Wins For Congress

After protracted ‘war and peace’ rehearsal when Congress finally obliged Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, it was a document that reinforced Kashmir growing minority status within the state, reports R S Gull

Residents of Kapran, Shopian protesting in favour of Tehsil status in Press Enclave Srinagar. Pic: Bilal Bahadur
Residents of Kapran, Shopian protesting in favour of Tehsil status in Press Enclave Srinagar.
Pic: Bilal Bahadur

For most of the residents of Kaprin, deep South in Shopian’s far belly, the life flows like Toungri, the fast flowing rivulet gushing out of Aahrabal. Roaring but clean, the snow-cold river follows a natural course, unchanged for centuries. That was perhaps why this well-read village – it has its first school in 1861, was disinterested in campaigning for elevation in its status when a ministerial committee led by Congress man Tara Chand took over from a bureaucratic group that former Revenue Commissioner Mushtaq Ahmad Ganai presided over.

“We have been a Niabat since 1967, the same year when Shopian got a Niabat,” said one of the residents of the village, a well placed official. “As we met, I told villagers, there are set norms for upgradation and by all means, we will get our right.” They did not meet anybody as the process was going on. When the results were out, Kaprin failed.

Now Kaprin looks like Toungri in turmoil. The Tehsil flood is hitting banks on either side of the rivulet and the “well read and system-respecting” Kaprin villagers are part of the surging crowds that are seeking their rights. They pay for their activism.

 These days, as lawmakers are preparing for the budget session, end number of protests reach Srinagar early in the morning. As scores of protesters reach the Press Colony, Kashmir’s Fleet Street in Srinagar, daily, Partap Park is gradually emerging a grievance counter of the governance structure. Some of them are now going to Jammu to make their presence felt.

While the Congress and the NC might be enjoying the ‘we-did-it’ feeling, but the end product of the entire exercise has badly damaged the status quo, on all fronts.

While the reaction in Jammu and Ladakh could be understood for the heterogeneity of the demographies involved, Kashmir has by and large existed as single block homogenous structure. The coalition intervention hit this homogeneity at the core of it.

“It (creation of new units) has created a situation that a village is pitted against another,” PDP president Ms Mehbooba Mufti said. “The campaigning time for the next elections was converted into social upheaval for electoral reasons”.

Terming it a “game”, Ms Mufti says it started with a “mock fight” between the coalition partners, threats of resignation, hobnobbing with new possible allies and the stage was set for an unprecedented chaos in the sensitive state.

Secondly, the larger argument against the idea is that the government used the most inappropriate time to add to the state’s burden. Right now when it is not in position to manage its dues from the central kitty (share of funds and not alms), is readying for an interim budget, the government added to the burden of the public exchequer. Cost of the new creations: Rs 255 crore a year for 10511 employees that would be appointed. One time outgo for creating infrastructure is conservatively put at Rs 1255 crore plus Rs 50 crore for the land.

Finally, the huge number that was created, it was perhaps the figure that impressed Dewinder Singh Rana, the NC’s Jammu provincial president that he saw it worth comparison to land-to-tiller of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah! The tragic part is how these were created?

Statistics offers its own poetry once it is put in perspective. The 2011 census put J&K’s population at 1.25 crore of which 55.03% lives in Kashmir, 42.68% in Jammu and balance 2.31% in Ladakh region.

People from Shadimarg  Pulwama holding demonstrations to press their demand for Tehsil status to their area.
People from Shadimarg Pulwama holding demonstrations to press their demand for Tehsil status to their area.
Pic: Bilal Bahadur

Barring districts at the top and Patwar Halqas at the bottom (these were separate tackled by the system including the cabinet sub-committee), there were only 501 administrative units operational across the state: 21 sub divisions, 82 tehsils, 143 community development blocks (CDB) and 255 niabats.

Kashmir had five sub divisions, 39 tehsils, 59 CDBs and 120 niabats – a total of 223 units.

Jammu had 239 units comprising 11 sub divisions, 37 tehsils, 66 CDBs and 125 niabats.

Ladakh had a total of 39 units including five sub divisions, six tehsils, 18 CDBs and 10 niabats.

If population is a parameter, then Kashmir had less number. Against 47.70% administrative units existing in Jammu, only 44.51% operated from Kashmir as Ladakh had 7.78%.

The Committee led by former Revenue Secretary Mushtaq Ahmad Ganai was constituted to take care of the issues identified in the follow up of Ghulam Nabi Azad’s decision (June 6, 2006) to add eight districts, three sub divisions, and 11 tehsils to the existing administrative structure. It had specific mandate to make suggestions for additional units and it submitted its report to the government in July 2011. Barring 733 patwar halqas, the Ganai Committee suggested creation of a total of 222 units across the state.

The Committee recommended creation of 101 units in Kashmir – 12 sub divisions, 25 tehsils, 31 CDBs and 33 niabats. For Jammu, it recommended 109 units –10 sub divisions, 28 tehsils, 29 CDBs and 41 niabats. Ladakh comprising the two districts of Leh and Kargil were supposed to get 13 units including one sub division, four tehsils, three CDBs and five niabats.

Ganai Committee was still sympathetic to the ground realities. It was a fine balance between the aspirations and the possibilities. It was more than 44% increase in the overall numbers of the contested four units.

But the Cabinet Sub Committee (CSC) that was constituted in July 2013 after a detailed fault finding of the Ganai report started working after breaking free from all restrictions. It helped the CSC to recommend creation of 437 units across the state. It distributed these units amongst various regions like this:

Of the 172 units that Kashmir got, there are three sub divisions, 29 tehsils, 48 CDBs and 92 niabats. Jammu got a total of 239 units including 16 sub divisions, 44 tehsils, 55 CDBs and 124 niabats. Ladakh got additional 35 units including four sub divisions, five tehsils, 10 CDBs and 16 niabats.

On the recommendation of the CSC, the cabinet approved both the recommendations. With the 669 new creations by the two panels, the overall number of the four units is pushed to 1170 – an increase by 133.53%. Why it is historic, says an NC leader, is that for the next fifty years J&K may not require opting for any creation!

In the ‘new history’ that Omar led coalition wrote was ridiculed by one and all. In Frisal, locals said, their Sarpanch woke up after his siesta to listen to the noises outside. He was told they are a Tehsil. He went up to his first story verandah to oversee the jubilations only to listen more noise from Yaripora and Qaimoh – located less than five kms from Frisal. He asked the reason and when he was told they are also Tehsils, he said: “We were better with the Panchayat!”

A reporter went to facebook saying it was indeed great to see things changing from “land to tiller” to “tehsil to tiller” and ended up demanding: “Declare my native place Hawal a district and Firdous Cinema a sub-district, Mirza Kamil Sahib a tehsil and Madeen Sahib a block.”

But the “historic” creation had utter disregard to the geography and the people that inhabit it. Of the 669 creations – 348 (52.01%) were given to Jammu region. Kashmir got 273 (40.8%) as balance 48 (7.17%) was given to Ladakh.

As the new creations would start operating within next two months, the situation of April 2014 is going to be like this: Jammu is home to 37 sub divisions, 110 tehsils, 150 CDBs and 290 niabats; Kashmir is left with 20 sub divisions, 93 tehsils, 138 CDBs and 245 niabats and Ladakh has 10 sub divisions, 15 tehsils, 31 community development blocks and 31 niabats.

Twin capital cities of Srinagar and Jammu are the two populous places in J&K. Presently a tehsil in Srinagar was serving 6.25 lakh people compared to 3.81 lakh in Jammu. Jammu had four tehsils and Srinagar city had two. Now when the number of tehsils in Jammu has gone to 21 and for Srinagar to eight, how many people will a tehsildar serve: for one tehsildar in Jammu there will be 72686 people and for him in Srinagar, it will be 158718! Srinagar is not crying but it had better share of discrimination.

Obviously the exercise is completely political. NC, for its part, is aiming the friction to help in coming elections. Whether it will be able to reap the benefits needs to be seen. But the larger issue that requires understanding is whether Omar was trapped into the mess.

Congress tactfully opposed the creations. It opposed Ganai Committee for being discriminatory. Then it wanted CSC report delayed for obvious financial implications. It led Omar harden the stand. He created a huge issue out of it. After negotiations and interventions, Congress yielded. It was quid pro quo. Omar or any of his ministers did not oppose to the blatant discrimination that Congress incorporated – the unfulfilled demands include creation of seven districts – five for Jammu, and one each for Kashmir and Ladakh. Eventually, Omar won the game for Congress, at the cost of Kashmir.


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