The government has clarified that a proposed bill about ‘rehabilitation’ of slum dwellers likely to be tabled in the ongoing autumn session of the assembly would not be extended to non-state-subjects. The draft bill may have been cleared by the cabinet, but the actual intentions of the proposed legislation can be ascertained from the detail. The important part would be to understand the mechanism that would be used to establish the identity of the target beneficiaries.
We have come across numerous complaints about some politicians trying to settle some people from outside the state to strengthen their own vote banks in blatant violation of the remaining aspect of Article 370. Apprehensions that the proposed bill in question is intended at the same objectives would be difficult to allay for the government. Most people’s representatives outside the ruling parties combine have posed serious questions about the possibilities of non-state-subjects misusing the bill if passed. Others are asking questions about first establishing whether the state’s population increase is in terms of economically weaker sections.
There are hardly any slum dwellers in the Kashmir region, while it may not be the case with the Jammu region. So, a legitimate question that begs an answer is that the government could be trying to evolve another layer of dispensing central grants and increase the possibility of corruption in the second most corrupt state in the country.
Apprehensions at the common man’s level in the Kashmir region are rife with ‘conspiracies’ to legitimize the migrant tent dwellers whose population seem to increasing every season. If the questions already raised by the opposition parties are not addressed before the bill is tabled, in Kashmir it has the potential of destabilizing the situation.
On the face of it, the problem of granting property rights to people who have no proof of their citizenship in the state also amounts to attempts at affecting the demographic composition of the sensitive state. If the concerns are not addressed at the earliest and the debate over the bill not given due time and weightage in the assembly, the issue to bring alive the ghosts of the Amarnath land deal that cost a government fall and widespread unrest for which the government would then have no one but itself to blame.
At a time when the entire security establishment seems at tenterhooks to avoid slipping into a unrest like situation, and the unmarked graves issue already threatening to develop into a crisis for the state, a controversial bill is the last thing the government can afford. The ruling parties would be well advised to freely debate the issue without displaying impatience to push it through the autumn session in bravado.