Why economics must go digital to remain relevant

Source: By Diane Coyle: Mint

One of the biggest concerns about today’s tech giants is their market power. At least outside China, Google, Facebook and Amazon dominate online search, social media and online retail, respectively. And yet economists have largely failed to address these concerns in a coherent way. To help governments and regulators as they struggle to address this market concentration, we must make economics itself more relevant to the digital age.

Digital markets often become highly concentrated, with one dominant firm, because larger players enjoy significant returns to scale. For example, digital platforms incur large upfront development costs, but benefit from low marginal costs once the software is written. They gain from network effects. And data generation plays a self-reinforcing role. To put it bluntly, a digital platform is either large or dead.

As several recent reports have pointed out, the digital economy poses a problem for competition policy. Competition is vital for boosting productivity and long-term growth, because it drives out inefficient producers and stimulates innovation. Yet how can this happen when there are such dominant players?

Today’s digital behemoths provide services that people want. Economists therefore need to update their toolkit. Rather than assessing likely short-term trends in specific digital markets, they need to be able to estimate the potential long-term costs implied by the inability of a new rival with a better technology or service to unseat the incumbent platform.

This is no easy task, because there is no standard methodology for estimating uncertain, non-linear futures. Economists even disagree on how to measure static consumer valuations of free digital goods such as online search and social media. And although the idea that competition operates dynamically through firms entering and exiting the market dates back at least to Joseph Schumpeter, the standard approach is still to look at competition among similar companies producing similar goods at a point in time.

The characteristics of digital technology pose a fundamental challenge to the entire discipline. As I pointed out more than 20 years ago, the digital economy is “weightless". Moreover, many digital goods are non-rival “public goods": you can use software code without stopping others from doing so, whereas only one person can wear the same pair of shoes. And they require a substantial degree of trust to have any value: we need to experience them to know whether they work, and social influence is often crucial to their diffusion.

Yet standard economics generally assumes none of these things. Economists will bridle at this statement, rightly pointing to models that accommodate some features of the digital economy. But economists’ benchmark mental world is one where competition is static, preferences are fixed and individual, rival goods are the norm, and so on.

Starting from there leads inexorably to presuming the “free market" paradigm. As any applied economist knows, this paradigm is named for a mythical entity. But this knowledge somehow does not give rise to an alternative presumption, say, that governments should supply certain products.

This instinct may be changing. One straw in the wind is the call by Jim O’Neill, a former Goldman Sachs economist who now heads the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House), for public research and production of new antibiotics. Having led a review of the spread of anti-microbial resistance—which will kill millions of people if new drugs are not discovered—O’Neill is dismayed by the lack of progress made by private pharmaceutical companies.

Drug discovery is an information industry and information is a non-rival public good which the private sector, not surprisingly, is under-supplying. That conclusion is not remotely outlandish in terms of economic analysis. And yet the idea of nationalizing part of the pharmaceutical industry is outlandish from the perspective of the prevailing economic-policy paradigm.

Or consider the issue of data, which has lately greatly exercised policymakers. Should data collection by digital firms be further regulated? Should individuals be paid for providing personal data? And if a sensor in a smart-city environment records that I walk past it, is that my data, too? The standard economic framework of individual choices made independently of one another, with no externalities, and monetary exchange for the transfer of private property, offers no help in answering these questions.

Economic researchers are not blameless when it comes to inadequate policy decisions. We teach economics to people who go out into the world of policy and business, and our research shapes the broader intellectual climate. The onus now is on academics to establish a benchmark approach to the digital economy, and to create a set of applied methods and tools that legislators, competition authorities and other regulators can use.

Mainstream economics has largely failed to keep up with the rapid pace of digital transformation, and it is struggling to find practical ways to address the growing power of dominant tech companies. If the discipline wants to remain relevant, then it must rethink some of its basic assumptions.

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Chief of defence staff would just be the first step

Source: By Nitin Pai: Mint

If the Narendra Modi government appoints a chief of defence staff (CDS), it would constitute the most significant defence policy reform in decades. The move was considered necessary after the 1999 Kargil War and was first approved by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee cabinet in May 2001. Yet, almost two decades later, no CDS has been appointed. There have been some incremental reforms in getting the army, navy and air force to operate jointly, but the Armed Forces substantially retained the structure put in place by Lord Mountbatten’s chief of staff in 1947.

Political misgivings, bureaucratic turf protection and inter-service mistrust, together, created so much friction that the CDS wagon could not start rolling. A sense of foreboding remains. The Print’s Snehesh Alex Philip reports that top government sources said “the PM’s announcement is more like an ‘in-principle approval’, and that modalities to create the CDS post are being worked out… and the process could now be completed in one to three months". That said there is a good chance that the force of Modi’s public commitment from the Red Fort will create the necessary momentum to get things going.

In the years we waited for the CDS, the strategic environment has undergone further transformation. By 2001, it had become clear to the leaders of India’s strategic establishment that jointness—the combination of land, sea and air power—was necessary to effectively combat adversaries, who employed everything from terrorists and militants to regular troops through to nuclear weapons. With information, cyberspace and space becoming military domains already, the jointness which is required surpasses merely getting the groups in uniform together. India’s first CDS, therefore, has a lot of catching up and leapfrogging to do.

The underlying rationale for appointing a CDS is to separate management and command of the Armed Forces. If the CDS is the principal military adviser to the cabinet, the job of commanding the troops and leading them in war needs to be assigned to someone else. To assign it to the three service chiefs would largely defeat tri-service integration, the purpose of the reform. To take the logic of the CDS to its conclusion, the Armed Forces must be operationally restructured into theatre commands—complete joint war-fighting formations—led by combatant commanders.

That India needs theatre commands is well-recognized for over three decades. What those theatre commands should look like and how to get there are yet to be resolved. Moving from the existing structure to theatre commands will not be easy and the government has not announced any plans or timelines yet. In a 2008 email exchange on how this could be done, the late strategic thinker K. Subrahmanyam argued that the army and navy chiefs should first hand over their command to theatre commanders, with the air chief doing so at a later stage. He envisaged doubling the air force to 60 squadrons by 2030 and placing them under theatre commands.

Three theatres are straightforward: Northern, Western and Southern to address the threats from China, Pakistan and the Indian Ocean, respectively. To these, I would add an eastern command for the Bay of Bengal littoral and an expeditionary command responsible for operations further afield. In the years ahead, a combination of climate change, violent non-state actors and volatile politics will increase the demands on the government to deploy military forces beyond the subcontinent. Despite a multitude of threats, India’s Armed Forces have very limited capacity to operate overseas hence the need for an expeditionary command. The first major task of the new CDS will thus be to conceptualize and implement the transformation of the forces into theatre commands.

From a defence policy perspective, the CDS presents us with the opportunity to optimize defence economics and make expenditure more effective. Today, the question “how much should India spend on defence?" is answered by adding up the budgets of the three services. It is well acknowledged that considerable efficiencies are to be gained by optimizing resource use, procurement, training and so on. That’s the theory, but as any student of mergers and acquisitions knows, achieving those efficiencies is a question of leadership, management and organizational cultures. So, the second big task for the CDS is to ask if the Armed Forces are making the best use of the national resources allocated to them. In other words, the defence ministry needs economists. It has many accountants and finance professionals, but I am yet to see a defence economist in the government.

The appointment of the CDS will certainly change the civil-military balance, and, if done correctly, will address some of the grievances of the Armed Forces pertaining to their status vis-a-vis the civil services. Yet, it should also cause them to look inwards. “A civil service recruit becomes a district magistrate in six years and is in charge of a district of a million people," Subrahmanyam noted, “but an army recruit gets independent charge only after 18 years of service. Why should it take 18 years for an army officer to progress to that level?"

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How states are split into seats

Source: By Ritika Chopra: The Indian Express

SINCE THE bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir State into the Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh, delimitation of their electoral constituencies has been inevitable. While the government has not formally notified the Election Commission yet, the EC has held “internal discussions” on the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019, particularly its provisions on delimitation.

Why is delimitation needed?

Delimitation is the act of redrawing boundaries of Lok Sabha and state Assembly seats to represent changes in population. In this process, the number of seats allocated to different states in Lok Sabha and the total number seats in a Legislative Assembly may also change. The main objective of delimitation is to provide equal representation to equal segments of a population. It also aims at a fair division of geographical areas so that one political party doesn’t have an advantage over others in an election. Delimitation is carried out by an independent Delimitation Commission. The Constitution mandates that its orders are final and cannot be questioned before any court as it would hold up an election indefinitely.

How is delimitation carried out?

Under Article 82, the Parliament enacts a Delimitation Act after every Census. Once the Act is in force, the Union government sets up a Delimitation Commission made up of a retired Supreme Court judgethe Chief Election Commissioner and the respective State Election Commissioners. The Commission is supposed to determine the number and boundaries of constituencies in a way that the population of all seats, so far as practicable, is the same. The Commission is also tasked with identifying seats reserved for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes; these are where their population is relatively large. All this is done on the basis of the latest Census and, in case of difference of opinion among members of the Commission, the opinion of the majority prevails.

The draft proposals of the Delimitation Commission are published in the Gazette of India, official gazettes of the states concerned and at least two vernacular papers for public feedback. The Commission also holds public sittings. After hearing the public, it considers objections and suggestions, received in writing or orally during public sittings, and carries out changes, if any, in the draft proposal. The final order is published in the Gazette of India and the State Gazette and comes into force on a date specified by the President.

How often has delimitation been done in the past?

The first delimitation exercise in 1950-51 was carried out by the President (with the help of the Election Commission), as the Constitution at that time was silent on who should undertake the division of states into Lok Sabha seats. This delimitation was temporary as the Constitution mandated redrawing of boundaries after every Census. Hence another delimitation was due after the 1951 Census. Pointing out that the first delimitation had left many political parties and individuals unhappy, the EC advised the government that all future exercises should be carried out by an independent commission. This suggestion was accepted and the Delimitation Commission Act was enacted in 1952. Delimitation Commissions have been set up four times — 19521963, 1973 and 2002 under the Acts of 1952, 1962, 1972 and 2002. There was no delimitation after the 1981 and 1991 Censuses.

Why was there no delimitation then?

The Constitution mandates that the number of Lok Sabha seats allotted to a state would be such that the ratio between that number and the population of the state is, as far as practicable, the same for all states. Although unintended, this provision implied that states that took little interest in population control could end up with a greater number of seats in Parliament. The southern states that promoted family planning faced the possibility of having their seats reduced. To allay these fears, the Constitution was amended during Indira Gandhi’s Emergency rule in 1976 to suspend delimitation until 2001.

Despite the embargo, there were a few occasions that called for readjustment in the number of Parliament and Assembly seats allocated to a state. These include statehood attained by Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram in 1986, the creation of a Legislative Assembly for the National Capital Territory of Delhi, and creation of new states such as Uttarakhand.

Although the freeze on the number of seats in Lok Sabha and Assemblies should have been lifted after the 2001 Census, another amendment postponed this until 2026. This was justified on the ground that a uniform population growth rate would be achieved throughout the country by 2026. So, the last delimitation exercise — started in July 2002 and completed on May 31, 2008 — was based on the 2001 Census and only readjusted boundaries of existing Lok Sabha and Assembly seats and reworked the number of reserved seats.

Why is delimitation for Jammu and Kashmir in the news now?

Delimitation of Jammu and Kashmir’s Lok Sabha seats is governed by the Indian Constitution, but delimitation of its Assembly seats (until special status was abrogated recently) was governed separately by the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution and Jammu and Kashmir Representation of the People Act, 1957. As far as delimitation of Lok Sabha seats is concerned, the last Delimitation Commission of 2002 was not entrusted with this task. Hence, J&K parliamentary seats remain as delimited on the basis of the 1971 Census.

As for Assembly seats, although the delimitation provisions of the J&K Constitution and the J&K Representation of the People Act, 1957, are similar to those of the Indian Constitution and Delimitation Acts, they mandate a separate Delimitation Commission for J&K. In actual practice, the same central Delimitation Commission set up for other states was adopted by J&K in 1963 and 1973.

While the amendment of 1976 to the Indian Constitution suspended delimitation in the rest of the country till 2001; no corresponding amendment was made to the J&K Constitution. Hence, unlike the rest of the country, the Assembly seats of J&K were delimited based on the 1981 Census, which formed the basis of the state elections in 1996. There was no census in the state in 1991 and no Delimitation Commission was set up by the state government after the 2001 Census as the J&K Assembly passed a law putting a freeze on fresh delimitation until 2026. This freeze was upheld by the Supreme Court. The J&K Assembly has 87 seats — 46 in Kashmir37 in Jammu and 4 in LadakhTwenty-four seats are reserved for Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). The freeze, some political parties argue, has created inequity for Jammu region.

This month, the Union government scrapped the state’s special status and turned J&K into a Union Territory. Under this law, delimitation of Lok Sabha and Assembly seats in J&K UT will be as per the provisions of the Indian Constitution. The Act also states that in the next delimitation exercise, which is expected to kickstart soon, the number of Assembly seats will increase from 107 to 114. The increase in seats is expected to benefit Jammu region.

 

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Valley’s new dawn

Source: By Ravi Shankar Prasad: The Indian Express

Article 370 had to go for the benefit of Jammu and Kashmir’s (J&K) common people. We need to applaud the courage of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the determination of Home Minister Amit Shah, who ensured that a 70-year-old problem became history in less than 70 days of their assuming office.

Article 370 was inserted in the Constitution as a temporary provision under unfair circumstances. More than 560 former princely states became part of India without any provisional arrangement like Article 370. People of all communities with great cultural diversities lived in these territories. Yet, the founding fathers of the Indian Constitution, who were leaders of great wisdom and foresight, did not accord any special provision for these princely states. The only inference one can draw is that, except J&K, all were handled by Sardar Patel and they all are today a proud part of India. J&K was handled by Jawaharlal Nehru, much to the embarrassment of Patel, who, as the deputy prime minister handling the ministry of home and princely states, ought to have handled it as well.

For more than 70 years, the problem of J&K has been lingering. Nearly 42,000 lives have been lost. Kashmiri Pandits were forced to leave their homes at gun-point. The so-called special arrangement led to separatism. Sheikh Abdullah was imprisoned for 11 years by the Congress government at the Centre. Between 1990 and 1996, the Valley remained under curfew on an average 200 days in a year. In retrospect, Nehru’s emotional attachment clouded an objective assessment about J&K.

Who benefited from Article 370? Obviously, the common people of J&K did not. The Shia community, Gujjars, Bakkarwals, Gaddis, other Scheduled Tribes, Scheduled Castes and people living in Ladakh and Kargil did not get any substantial benefit either.

There was thinking in New Delhi that if a few families of J&K are handled well, then problems of the entire state will be taken care of. These few families perpetuated their power, indulged in rank corruption and whenever accountability was sought, they took shelter behind Article 370. How can anyone justify that the Prevention of Corruption Act — which lays down elaborate legal provisions that insist on criminal accountability against authorities, both political and bureaucratic, for abuse of power and corruption — was not made applicable in the state? Why were laws like the Right to Education, Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, the Right to Information Act and the law prohibiting manual scavenging not made applicable in that state? Article 370 was abused to deny the people of the state free and fair elections. People still remember one of the fairest elections held after a long time was when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the prime minister.

Most importantly, when many brave Kashmiri Muslims like army officer Ummer Fayaz, rifleman Aurangzeb and many others were killed by terrorists in the most gruesome manner, those speaking aggressively against Article 370 maintained a conspicuous silence.

We need to recall that the constituent assembly of the state of Jammu and Kashmir enacted the constitution of the state in 1956. Under Part II, Article 3, it was specifically provided, “the state of Jammu and Kashmir is and shall be an integral part of the Union of India”. Article 147, under Part XII, provided for the amendment of this constitution, where it was clearly stipulated that no Bill or Amendment inter alia seeking to make any change in the provision of Section 3 (J&K shall be the integral part of Union of India) shall be introduced or moved in either House of the state legislature. Once the constituent assembly of J&K enacted a constitution, which proudly declared the state to be an integral part of India that shall remain unalterable, then in many ways Article 370 lost its relevance.

Article 370 was deliberately kept as a temporary provision and the prime minister rightly observed that those supporting it never had the courage to make it permanent. It is significant that once the Constituent Assembly enacted the Constitution, it served its purpose and any further amendment as per Article 147 of the state constitution was given to the state legislative assembly. In this light, it was perfectly justified to declare by a presidential notification that the expression constituent assembly under Article 370 (3) shall be read as state legislative assembly and since the state was under President’s Rule, its power was constitutionally exercised by the Parliament under Article 356 (1) (b) of the Indian Constitution.

During the debate in the two Houses of Parliament, voices from all the regions of Jammu and Kashmir were heard. This fact also needs to be stressed that the BJP had received a resounding mandate from the people of India on its promise to remove Article 370. The arguments that like Article 370 other special provision dealing with welfare of Northeastern regions and tribal areas may also be removed are completely misplaced. Article 371 (a) to (j) are special provisions and not temporary provisions and will remain. After creation of new states, special provisions have been incorporated for the development of a particular region or for particular tribes. These, being special provisions, are permanent in nature.

There are many cases of young Muslim girls from the Valley getting married to people outside the state and losing all their rights. Recently, I met a young officer of the All India Service from Jammu and she was a Hindu, who told me that she lost all her rights in the state because she married a civil servant from outside her home state. With moist eyes, she expressed her gratitude towards PM Modi for abrogating Article 370.

With the developmental initiatives of the Government of India, BPOs are operating from places like Srinagar, Sopore, Budgam, Bhaderwah and Jammu; 3,158 Common Service Centres are functional in the state, working as a window to deliver digital services to citizens. Whenever I meet them, I see sparks in their eyes. Some of these young boys and girls told me that they should get more opportunities to make a better future for themselves.

Surely, this is a new dawn of development and inclusion for Jammu and Kashmir, which will give a voice to those who were deprived and marginalised. Obviously, the patrons of terrorism and separatism are unhappy but this is not an India where they will find a place.

 

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Why Article 370 had to go

Source: By Abhinav Kumar: The Indian Express

It is not always that a writer has to quickly deal with the practical consequences of what he wrote about recently. My last article (‘A New Deal for Kashmir,’ July 5), published in these pages, looked at the difficult choices India faced in Kashmir and suggested that we should have a wider debate about repealing Article 370 as one of the options. Predictably, it caused a furore amongst a section of our intelligentsia for whom Article 370 was more an article of faith than anything else.

Around midnight on August 4, when we received our orders to go on high alert and prepare for some important announcement in Parliament the next day, little did I realise that what I had advocated for debate, had actually been decided. Starting midnight, we began to go into lockdown mode. The communication blackout was total. It would be a few days before one would get access to a mobile phone — voice only, no data. And a few more days before one had limited access to internet at speeds that brought back memories of the dial-up modem era.

As one watched the home minister stand up to speak in Parliament to announce the intended changes in the relationship of the state of J&K with the Union of India, one realised that one was witness to something of profound historical significance. A decision would create immediate professional challenges for all of us serving in positions of responsibility in Kashmir. In the last two weeks of July, all of us had expected that some important decision about J&K was going to be taken. However, the direction and scope of the decision came as a complete surprise.

The first week has seen a whirlwind of activity. The NSA himself arrived to take charge of the situation. He quickly spelt out the expectations of the Government of India. Our first task was to ensure that the prohibitory orders were effectively enforced to ensure that there was no widespread unrest or violence. We were asked to mitigate the worst effects of the lockdown for those citizens in genuine need, such as for medical emergencies. It is too early to comment on how well these directions have been implemented on the ground, but, so far, so good.

As contact with the rest of the world was reestablished, one began to engage with the public response to this decision. The usual suspects on the Left have gone apoplectic for the usual reasons. Some self-styled nationalists have welcomed this decision with a most offensive and inappropriate display of bigotry and hate-filled language. They deserve the condemnation of all right-thinking Indians and where possible should be booked for inciting hatred and trying to inflame an already explosive situation. One group of critics shows a poor understanding of our national interest and the other is patently oblivious to our civilisational values that celebrate diversity and tolerance. Broadly speaking, the criticism of the decision to alter 370 and scrap 35 A, takes four main approaches.

First, there is the Constitutional argument that there is serious legal infirmity in the manner in which this was done. Second, the democratic argument that the will of the people of J&K was not ascertained. Third, the appeal to the historical argument that even if these Articles can be legally modified, the Constitutional guarantees offered by Nehru at the time of accession of Kashmir to India must be honoured in perpetuity. The fourth is the moral argument that the harsh security crackdown in Kashmir is unjust and immoral. This kind of curtailment of civil liberties and communications is simply unacceptable in a modern democracy. Each of these arguments deserves serious analysis.

The legal argument is already before the Supreme Court. I would like to see the legal logic that will persuade the SC that Article 370 is somehow part of the basic structure of the Constitution, and therefore, cannot be altered in any way. With regard to the specific wording of 370, it would be interesting to see if the Court rules that amongst all the articles of the Constitution, 370 alone has the privilege of choosing the mechanism of its own repeal. Article 368 is for commoners of the Constitution. Article 370 is some kind of royalty. Is the will of an extinct constituent assembly of J&K somehow expected to prevail in perpetuity over the will of Parliament? I am sure these issues will come up before the Court.

Coming to the democratic argument, the changes announced by the home minister have been passed by both houses of Parliament and have received the assent of the President of India. They were enacted by a government which has just won a sweeping majority in a general election where Kashmir was a central issue. Should the purported wishes of the Valley somehow override the wishes of the people of India and the wishes of the people of Jammu and Ladakh? This is an extraordinary claim of democratic entitlement.

Coming to the historical argument — there is plenty of evidence to question that the conventional wisdom about these guarantees is misplaced. What was the original intent of Nehru behind offering these guarantees over the objections of Patel and Ambedkar? Did he genuinely want to leave an opening for Kashmir to secede from India? Or did he see these guarantees as a necessary stopgap measure to eventually secure Kashmir’s complete assimilation with India? Were these guarantees a one-way ticket to flirt with azaadi? Or were they a bargain that also required Kashmir to offer something in return? It is hard to believe that Nehru intended Article 370 to be some kind of a blank cheque with no expiry date. And people conveniently forget that our neighbour has been shuffling the legal status of PoK like a deck of cards.

The last argument, namely, the appeal to morality and civil liberties, comes in the context of a land that has seen 30 years of terrorism and ethnic cleansing. The concerns of public order and public safety are paramount. Abrogating these articles was a difficult decision, bound to have a violent reaction in the valley. Trying to pre-empt large-scale violence is not immoral, rather, it is the duty of a responsible government. The restrictions in place are quite sensitive to ground realities. As and when the situation improves, they will be eased.

We simply cannot allow jihadis to have free run to incite mob violence. It is entirely understandable that our civil society has concerns about the present curbs on civil liberties. They are harsh but not unprecedented. It remains the primary concern of all of us enforcing these restrictions to ensure that they are lifted as early as possible with minimal violence and loss of life. Kashmiris too have an obligation to express their sentiments about these decisions without letting their protests be hijacked by violent unrest or terrorism. The fact that Friday prayers, Eid and Independence Day have passed off peacefully is extremely encouraging and I am sure that we will see a calibrated lifting of restrictions and minimisation of inconveniences faced by all Indians in the Kashmir valley.

It is, of course, an extremely challenging time to serve in Kashmir. I, for one, regard it as an extraordinary privilege and honour to be a part of this historical exercise. While we cannot satisfy all the prophets of doom and gloom, we are sure that an overwhelming majority of the citizens of India appreciate the challenges ahead and we have their confidence and support. There was never a better moment to serve India in uniform.

 

 

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L-G will be supreme

Source: By M Gautham Machaiah: Deccan Herald

The bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) into two Union Territories (UT) has once again drawn focus to the role of nominated Lieutenant Governors (LG) who have traditionally abused their power to assert supremacy over the elected chief minister, thereby negating the mandate of the people.

The Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019, which comes into effect on October 31, the birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, provides for two UTs - J&K and Ladakh—each with an LG of its own. Union territories are regions that are directly administered by the Centre through an administrator or LG.

Of the nine UTs in the countryJ&K, Delhi and Puducherry which have been granted ‘partial statehood’ are entitled to an elected legislative assembly and a chief minister. The UTs without an assembly are Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Chandigarh, Daman and Diu, Lakshadweep and Ladakh.

Ever since the President granted his assent to the Act, social media is abuzz with ‘news’ of the imminent appointment of retired senior police officer K Vijay Kumar as the LG of the J&K UT, but in reality this does not seem to be an immediate possibility. Vijay Kumar, a 1975-batch IPS officer of Tamil Nadu (TN) cadre catapulted to fame when the Special Task Force headed by him shot dead dreaded forest brigand Veerappan in 2004. He had earlier served as the Inspector General, Border Security Force (BSF) in the Kashmir Valley and was involved in anti-Naxal operations as the DGP of CRPF.

He is currently one of the two advisers to the governor of J&K, which is under Central rule. Though he might be eminently suited for the LG’s post, given his vast experience in counter-insurgency, there is a catch.

Section 5 of the Act says, “On and from the appointed day (October 31), the Governor of the existing state of Jammu and Kashmir shall be the Lieutenant Governor for the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, and Union Territory of Ladakh, for such period as may be determined by the President.” In order to ensure continuity, it is most likely that the current Governor - Satya Pal Malik - will hold fort until stability is restored. Thus, separate L-Gs to the new UTs will be appointed only at a later date.

With this, for the first time in the history of the country, a state will be downgraded to two UTs while a sitting governor will be demoted to the post of L-G, a lower rank. Usually, it is the other way round—a UT is upgraded to a state and the L-G is promoted as governor. The governor is the head of a full-fledged state and possesses executive, legislative, financial and judicial powers.

But in practice, he exercises only nominal powers as he is bound by the “aid and advice” of the council of ministers headed by the chief minister of the respective state, according to Article 163 of the Constitution. Though this is applicable to L-Gs too, they enjoy certain discretionary powers which have enabled them to bypass the council of ministers and become a law unto themselves, sidestepping the elected executive.

The J&K Reorganisation Act also states that “Council will aid and advise the Lieutenant Governor on matters that the assembly has powers to make laws,” but it makes no bones about who the real boss is. The L-G has been given wide-ranging discretionary and financial powers which can reduce the chief minister to a rubber stamp while police and public order will not come within the domain of the state administration, no bill or amendment can be moved in the assembly regarding “imposition, abolition, remission, alteration or regulation of any tax” without the recommendation of the LG. The amendment of any law with respect to any financial obligations of the UT will also require the prior consent of the L-G. In addition, the L-G will have direct control over All India Service officers and anti-corruption bureau.

This is not the first time that the powers of the L-G have come into question. In the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi versus the Union India case where Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had challenged the powers of the L-G, the Supreme Court held, “The L-G does not have independent decision-making powers, and is bound to act on the aid and advice of the council of ministers. All decisions of the council of ministers, who are elected representatives of the people of Delhi, must be communicated to the L-G, but that does not mean his concurrence is required.”

Puducherry story

In Puducherry, L-G Kiran Bedi had used her discretionary powers under Section 44 of The Government of Union Territories Act, 1963, to veto even cabinet decisions and interfere in the day-to-day administration. Chief Minister V Narayanaswamy has openly accused her of working on the orders of the centre to disrupt the functioning of his government.

When the matter reached the Madras High Court, it ruled that the L-G could not run a parallel government as she did not have the powers to act on her own and was bound by the aid and advice of the council of ministers.

The Supreme Court has refused to entertain Bedi’s appeal and has directed her to approach the division bench of the High Court. Though by implication, the court orders should apply to J&K too, one never knows what new loophole a future L-G may find to undermine an elected government. It will be a sad day if J&K which was an autonomous state is reduced to a vassal of the Centre. In a democracy, the voice of the people should prevail over that of a titular head.

 

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370 decisions put India in the driver’s seat

Source: By Harsha Kakar: The Statesman

For decades Pakistan was demanding UN intervention and a plebiscite in Kashmir. It sought mediation on resolving the Kashmir issue. Pakistan also changed its terminology on Kashmir from Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) to Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IOJK). For Pakistan, Article 370, included in the Constitution, well after the UN resolution meant nothing. They have exploited it as the basis of ensuring the Muslim majority status of the valley. Pakistan conned President Trump into stating that Prime Minister Modi had requested him to mediate. The US state department deleted all references of mediation in its official release and has stood by India’s views of Kashmir being a bilateral issue. However, Pakistan continued to gloat about Trump’s comment.

China, Pakistan’s permanent ally, stated in an editorial in the Global Times, mouthpiece of the Chinese communist party, after the visit of Imran Khan to the US that it supports the US in wanting to mediate in Kashmir. Chinese investments in POK have been impacted by increased Indo-Pak tensions on Kashmir. China is aware that it cannot officially take sides, as it also seeks to enhance ties with India. Pakistan however remains desperate.

SM Qureshi, Pakistan’s foreign minister, in a joint press conference with the Chairman Kashmir Committee, Syed Fakhar Imam on 30 July, attempted to link cooperation on Afghanistan with resolving Kashmir. He stated that the meeting was called “to discern the way forward given the silver lining that has emerged from US President Donald Trump’s offer of mediation in the Kashmir dispute.” He added that Pakistan cannot ignore its eastern borders, while it seeks to fulfil its commitments on its western borders.

India can never be pressurized to accept mediation. Interestingly, Pakistan has never included leaders from Gilgit Baltistan (GB) in any such meetings, seeking to deny it being a part of J and K, which it separated from POK in 1970.

The Hurriyat and Valley-based political parties have stated that Kashmir can only be resolved in dialogue between India and Pakistan. The Hurriyat has demanded that it also be considered a party to the dialogue. Farooq Abdullah has mentioned on numerous occasions that POK cannot be taken militarily and Kashmir resolved by dialogue. Mehbooba Mufti has also begun gravitating towards the Pakistani view, to regain some political relevance.

Thus, the perception doing the rounds is that the area under dispute is only Kashmir and not POK or GB, a claim which has rarely been countered by India. Recently, the defence minister, Rajnath Singh, stated in parliament during the opposition’s criticism of Trump’s remarks that talks with Pakistan would only be bilateral, without outside mediation and would include POK. Such a statement has been rarely given; what has been stated is that ‘talks and supporting terrorism cannot remain bedfellows.’

India’s insistence on sticking to the Shimla Agreement and Lahore declaration as also demands of Pakistan stopping support to terrorism have rattled Islamabad. This was evident when Qureshi stated in frustration, “Neither are they willing to undertake bilateral talks, nor are they receptive to third-party facilitation.” India holds the cards, militarily, economically and in international stature. Pakistan is aware that misadventures and infiltration are now being met with greater force than ever before and in its present precarious state, Pakistan cannot risk escalation.

Pakistan remains desperate for talks without closing the terrorist tap. It attempts to push Kashmir into international limelight at every opportunity, ignoring Indian demands for POK and GB, in case talks begin. Thus, till recently, India had been losing the propaganda game on Kashmir. Pakistan’s narrative on only Kashmir being disputed was being blown away in the international domain. POK and GB remained ignored as India rarely raked up the issue, since it stuck to its stand of bilateral talks and end of terrorism. India also advocated in multiple forums that it had no desire for territorial gains.

The decision to revoke Article 370 and convert J and K into two Union Territories (UT) had Pakistan spooked and changed the narrative. It was further aggravated by the words of the Home Minister, Amit Shah, when he stated that the next stage would be amalgamation of POK and GB. It had no answer. It desperately sought solutions and found few. The biggest setback to Pakistan was the complete failure of its assessment and the timing of the Indian decision. Offers on mediation and the crucial stage of US-Taliban talks, on which Pakistan was banking to drag in Kashmir, had just been rendered useless.

The present Pakistani government, including its military leadership which runs the country faced intense internal flak for failure of its external policies and intelligence. Balakot had created a sense of panic within Pakistan’s military hierarchy. Thus, they continued to maintain terrorism well below Indian threshold levels of tolerance. The changed Indian military policy from defensive to offensive had caught them off guard twice. They could not risk another setback.

Further, pressure from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), of which India as a member was leading the charge, had forced it to control infiltration, enabling Indian security forces to create a condition of near normalcy in the state. Pakistan was being repeatedly told by the US and FATF that remaining on the Grey List implied that the recently agreed IMF loan could be at risk. It had to show progress. Pakistan acted to save face by reducing diplomatic ties, suspending bilateral trade, announcing review of bilateral arrangements and approaching the UN.

It may attempt to push Al Qaeda militants, blaming it on Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) and POK residents as trained terrorists. Officially it claims that AQIS is also anti-Pak, a fake statement. It knows it has lost the battle and is now desperate to regain some ground at least for its internal audience.

Finally, in one stroke, Pakistan’s Kashmir narrative has lost ground to India. The propaganda war of Pakistan which was thus centred on Kashmir would now shift to POK and GB. It is India which is now in the driver’s seat.

 

 

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The constitution test

Source: By Faizan Mustafa: The Indian Express

In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the greatest difficulty lies in this: You must first enable the government to control the governed, and next, oblige it to control itself. The main purpose of the constitution is constitutionalism, the concept of limited powers.Constitutions are a social compact between the state and people. We need to ensure that the exercise of governmental powers should be controlled in order that it is not destructive of the values it was intended to promote. If the last century saw the death of God, currently we are experiencing the death of constitutionalism. The sudden abrogation of Article 370, like the imposition of Emergency in 1975, is nothing short of the sad demise of constitutionalism.

All societies are by nature authoritarian and governments even more so, particularly if they have massive majorities in Parliament. Today most western constitutions, including that of the US, are only ostensibly about rights and limitations; in fact, they are about power and control. Article 370 was a shell that had long been emptied. The successive Presidential Orders issued under Article 370, in fact, gave special status to the Centre. So, what has been gained by its abrogation is not clear.

The state is a necessary evil and an instrument of exploitation in the hands of those in power. It can be termed as the march of God on earth when it operates within its allotted sphere and upholds people’s liberties.

Constitutionalism is the anti-thesis of authoritarianism. Having a constitution does not mean that we have constitutionalism as well. Several communist and Islamic countries had constitutions without constitutionalism. Hitler, too, had the Weimar Constitution. Constitutionalism tries to limit the power of constitutional authorities through doctrines such as rule of law which, as opposed to rule by law, ensures equality before law, equal protection of laws to all and non-arbitrary exercise of power.

To ensure that too much power is not concentrated in one hand or organ, we have the doctrine of separation of powers between the three organs of state — the legislature, executive and judiciary. Distribution of powers ensures that the Centre does not become too powerful and power is shared with the states. Under asymmetric federalism, special status is given to some states due to peculiar historical and cultural factors to limit the power of the Centre in those states.

All fundamental rights are negative restrictions on the power of the state. As the state enjoys monopoly of power, the greatest danger to fundamental rights comes from the state. Kashmiris, rather than getting personal liberties and freedom under Article 21 and freedom of speech and movement under Article 19, are experiencing detention and censorship. Even the Supreme Court does not see any urgency to guarantee these fundamental freedoms and has asked to wait for two weeks. Are we back to ADM Jabalpur (1975)? After the 44th constitutional amendment of 1978, rights under Article 21 are non-derogable and cannot be denied even during emergencies.

The opening words of our Constitution are “we the people”, not “we the government of India”. As the people’s representatives too may go against the Constitution, we have given the power of judicial review to constitutional courts to strike down a law if it violates the constitution and a constitutional amendment if it impinges on its “basic structure”.

The Instrument of Accession signed by Raja Hari Singh on October 26, 1947 and accepted by India on October 27, 1947 with a promise of plebiscite, was an exercise of limiting powers of the central government in respect of J&K. The framers of the Constitution incorporated these restrictions on the Centre’s powers in Article 370. Article 370 thus limited the power of the Centre by laying down that in extending central laws on matters provided in the Instrument of Accession, mere consultation with the government of J&K would be enough but on matters not conceded to the Centre by the Instrument of Accession, concurrence of the state government will be required. Article 370(3) further laid down that the President may, by order, modify this Article or order that it will cease to operate. But such an order could be issued only with the concurrence of the constituent assembly of J&K. After the dissolution of Kashmir’s constituent assembly on January 25, 1957, this option was no more available to the president. Ideally, the matter should have first been referred to the apex court for advisory opinion.

We have now used Article 370 to insert a new clause in Article 367 and then invoked this clause to convert the constituent assembly of Kashmir into a legislative assembly of a Union Territory. This is a blot on constitutionalism. Similarly, sounding a death knell to all principles of representative democracy, we have treated the governor as the government of the state. While governments represent the popular will, it is an open secret that governors are agents of the Centre.

Federalism is the basic structure of the Constitution and it means sharing of power between the Centre and states. Since the Kashmir assembly would have opposed bifurcation of the state into two UTs, we did not hold assembly elections along with Lok Sabha polls. Now currently the state is under President’s rule, and Parliament has exercised the powers of the assembly. This means we have gone against the spirit of the Constitution and made it a plaything.

The President of India, too, like Fakhruddin Ali Ahmad, has not kept in mind that he had taken an oath under Article 60 “to preserve, protect and defend the constitution”. He should have at least consulted the Attorney General and other experts before signing the orders and assenting to the J&K State Reorganisation Bill. Zail Singh did not sign the Postal Bill even though Rajiv Gandhi had 400 plus MPs in Lok Sabha.

Nobody has even bothered to examine the delicate international law angle in this controversy. The right of internal self-determination cannot be claimed by a minority in a country. But the denial of internal political freedoms may lead to a claim of external self-determination by secessionist elements. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in its 2018 and 2019 reports did recommend to us to “fully respect the right of self-determination of the people as protected under international law”. Keeping the intricate international dimensions in mind, PM Modi in his address to the nation spoke like a true statesman and assured Kashmiris about their political rights in electing their representatives.

The BJP has argued that Article 370 was temporary though the Supreme Court did not say so. Unlike Article 369 and SC/ST reservation in Parliament and assemblies, it did not mention any time limit. Having abrogated Article 370, we should forcefully defend our action. Our courts can examine the constitutionality of this abrogation but we cannot permit any other country to raise this issue. Gandhiji said the ends do not justify the means. Even conceding that the time for the abrogation of Article 370 had come, it could have been done in a more democratic and humane manner.

 

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The revocation of Article 370

Source: By Sandipan Deb: Mint

Since 5 August, when the government revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), the floodgates of righteous rage from the usual suspects from India and the rest of the world have opened. Hardly surprising, this was the jackboot, the blood-soaked end of democracy, a rape of the Constitution, the trampling of fundamental rights of Kashmiris, and so on. These hyperventilating flag-bearers of freedom (or whatever) should calm down and consider one historical fact. Which is this? The “temporary and transitional" provision Article 370 made an exception to the fundamental rights guaranteed to all citizens by the Indian Constitution, these fundamental rights have now been restored. And this is shockingly easy to explain.

A New York Times columnist has wailed that the government has now converted “the people of Kashmir to second-class citizens, if not subjects". Sorry, but the truth is that some of these people—specifically the male Kashmiri Muslim—enjoyed far greater rights than any other Indian citizen; they have now been brought down to equal status. And many other inhabitants of the erstwhile state had fewer rights than normal Indian citizens; they have been granted equality. One would think that anyone who believed in democracy would see that as a good thing.

To explain this, we must come to “majoritarianism", over which much chest-beating is going on. Some people have seen the government’s action as “unabashed majoritarianism" whereas if there ever was any unabashed and constitutionally sanctioned majoritarianism anywhere in India, it was in J&K through Article 370. The Constitution of this Muslim-majority state did not have the word “minorities" anywhere in it. Unlike in the Indian Constitution, their rights were not protected. J&K was also the only Indian state with no tribal rights (and the state had no right to education either). And it should be our national shame that we allow these hypocrites to freely talk of majoritarianism while staying silent about the 20th century’s swiftest forced exodus of a minority community—Hindu Pandits from Kashmir in 1990.

There is extensive scare-mongering that the removal of Article 35A will lead to land grab by non-Kashmiris, because the law permitted ownership of immovable property in the state only by permanent residents (PRs). But this law also stipulated that J&K women who married non-PRs, lost their PR status and inheritance rights. When we spoke to an old family friend, a Kashmiri lady engineer married to a non-Kashmiri, who played a key role in the Chandrayaan-2 launch, she was tearful; all she could think of was building a little home in her homeland. Article 35A also ensured that the thousands of descendants of Valmikis (Dalits) who were brought in from Punjab as government sweepers in 1957 were never allowed to get any government jobs other than sweepers. And they could not even get a Scheduled Caste certificate from the state government, so were not eligible for any benefits under central schemes. Hindu and Sikh refugees from West Pakistan remained non-PR second-class citizens, while Uighur Muslims from Xinjiang were granted PR status. And we are supposed to believe that Kashmiri Muslims have become second-class citizens, when in reality, actual second-class citizens now have full citizen rights.

Fear is being spread about the government plotting demographic change in Kashmir, like China settling Han Chinese in Tibet. But systematic attempts to change demography have been in progress for years in J&K, through settling Muslims in Buddhist-majority Ladakh (Namgyal mentioned this), and recently, Rohingyas in Jammu.

The vast majority of Indians have never understood why J&K deserved special status, and certainly Sardar Patel and B.R. Ambedkar were vehemently opposed to Article 370. Patel told his secretary, V. Shankar: “Jawaharlal royega (Jawaharlal will weeps over this)", and Ambedkar refused to attend the session that passed the motion. And the fact that many Opposition parties supported the revocation, that even Congress is divided over it, obviously indicates that politicians know that the people of our democratic republic feel that it’s time for all Indians to be equal citizens.

The real test begins now. With J&K a Union territory, the central government must ensure that funds are deployed properly and don’t line the pockets of a few families and their cronies. However, it will take time before industry feels that the valley is a safe bet. Pakistan will try to up its terrorist game. Also, when the US withdraws its troops from Afghanistan, some of the Taliban’s resources will be available to Pakistan to be re-directed towards Kashmir. But, most importantly, the doubting Kashmiri Muslim must realize that Article 370 made him special in a very negative way. It kept him alienated from his nation for seven decades. No Malayali, Gujarati, Assamese, and no Dogra or Ladakhi has lost his identity because he is an Indian. India has opened her arms. It is now up to sceptical Kashmiris to accept the offer.

 

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Let us grant Kashmir freedom from Indian aesthetics

Source: By Manu Joseph: Mint

When Indian politicians talk of “development" we know that they mean clearing forests and shaving hills to spread a viral small town, planting an “eight-lane" highway on which no one follows the lanes, amoeba-like golf courses, and malls that are called “plazas" or even malls. A few years ago, the Goan government even classified coconut palms as grass so that the builders can raze them without permission. Much thought goes into the ugliness of the great republic.

So, when India promises “development" to Kashmir, anyone who has seen that exquisite place will be terrified even if he is not a career alarmist. Now that India has politically co-opted Kashmir beyond ambiguity, I propose we grant it freedom from Indian urban aesthetics and from that amiable Indian tourist, who can trash a whole hill in no time, and who shadows white women beseeching them for selfies.

You may want to argue it is very “elitist" to deny Kashmiris the dismal smog of “development", and to deny Indian tourists the right to do to Kashmir what they have done to Shimla and Manali and Ooty. I do not wish to quarrel with you on that matter today; instead, I will seed a thought: Can Kashmir is a Bhutan, without the farce of official happiness, where a high price tag regulates human traffic for a greater moral cause? In fact, can Kashmir be the start of a more intelligent form of urban planning and tourism in India?

How did it come to be that the astonishing integration of Kashmir, a political masterstroke, has so easily acquired the moral masquerade of development? How did a nation that could not “develop" vast regions in its firm control have the confidence to officially integrate a reluctant state in the name of progress?

On most days, if not all, an average Kashmiri resident has a better quality of life than most Indians. He lives in a better home than an average person in Mumbai; he is in the proximity of great beauty, breathes clean air and, in the winters, he even skis down one of the best slopes in the world. I would argue that in recent times he has faced far lower risk of a human rights violation than an average poor Indian because of the political spin given to any such violation. And, crimes against women are low. But progress is always about change and overrating change, and for long the young of Kashmir have felt the rot of a life without prospects. In their hierarchy of wants, “development" was much higher than what their liberal handlers let on.

When Kashmiris argue among themselves what do they argue about? What are the two sides? Do they have two sides? A “debate" where everyone says the same things to people who have similar views is called a litfest; Everywhere else, among people who are not obsolete in their own time, who debate in bazaars and restaurants, they spar over conflicting ideas. For long, the most influential ambassadors of Kashmir have only transmitted the hypothesis that all Kashmiris wish for independence from India.

This was promoted by the sort of person who was born with the loudest megaphone: an upper-caste Kashmiri feudal lord who was made to feel like a social underdog by the Indian state, who knew how to talk to the Western liberal elite, who knew what an “op-ed" was, who made up for all his literary limitations through the hyperbole of homelessness and subjugation.

Do you know of a society today where such a person and the poor agree on an issue? Do sophisticates and the poor have identical views on politics anymore? So, why has the world not heard the other side? In a polarized world, where is the polarization in Kashmir? The most fervent wish of the average Kashmiri was so drowned in the noise of making India the villain that Narendra Modi’s liberation of Kashmir from its own elite in the name of “development" may actually turn out to be a popular move in the region.

A few years ago, I interviewed several Kashmiris, most of whom were not activists or writers or politicians; many of them had never been interviewed before. They were tired of politics, they were ready to move on, they were ready to be co-opted by India if that would bring them jobs and prosperity, because being co-opted by their elite did not get them anywhere. Some of Kashmir’s cultural elite, too, wished to move on. “But we can’t say it, you know," one of them told me, “we can’t say it publicly without a lot of our brothers from Dubai and America abusing us." The young spoke of wanting the trappings of progress, and multinationals and malls, and cricket matches and fun. They made me swear that I will not quote them because they would be shamed on social media by their elite, including those who lived good lives in New York and Dubai.

After I reported this attitude in a story titled Sorry, Kashmir Is Happy, a few more educated and frustrated youth cautiously opened up to me. One young man wrote to me saying that Kashmir is represented in the global media “by a certain section of people who impose their political ideology on others".

I do hear now and then from my Kashmiri foes, too, who are chiefly artistic. Every time something bad happens in Kashmir, they lampoon me by saying, “Kashmir is happy." They fear happiness, because it is trauma that keeps their politics alive. I do not say Kashmir is happy today, but then in this world, it is hard to escape happiness.

 

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A long night in the Valley

Source: By Mani Shankar Aiyar: The Indian Express

Narendra Modi and Amit Shah have just created a Palestine on our northern border. To do so, they first floated the deceitful rumour of an imminent massive Pakistani terror attack on the Valley to induct around 35,000 additional armed personnel into a region already bristling with lakhs of jawans. They then forcibly evacuated tens of thousands of Amarnath yatris and tourists from Kashmir. They have detained over 400 local leaders. They have shut down schools and colleges, shops and hotels, petrol pumps and gas outlets, and rendered the usually bustling streets of Srinagar and other Valley towns an empty wilderness. All communications have been severed other than those they do not have the technological capacity to cut. Parents in the Valley are unable to contact their sons and daughters in the rest of the country.

In the name of Fundamental Rights, the fundamental rights of the people of Kashmir are being extinguished. The Directive Principles of the Constitution are being enforced by transgressing the letter and spirit of the Directive Principles. A well-known Aya Ram-Gaya Ram of Uttar Pradesh is being paraded as the “voice of the people” of Kashmir. Why such suppression of seven million Kashmiris if they are in fact being “liberated” from the stranglehold of “three families”?

Modi-Shah has learned their lessons well from their mentor, Benjamin Netanyahu and the Zionists, including Menachem Begin, who preceded Netanyahu. They have learned how to trample on the freedom, dignity and self-respect of the Kashmiris even as Israel has tried to get away with seven decades of merciless oppression of the Palestinians. The Palestinians have retaliated by running a ceaseless insurrection ever since Al-Naqba (“The Catastrophe”) of May 14, 1948, when they were crushed by the Zionist war machine, funded and supplied by western imperialism. Intifada has followed intifada. All have been mowed down but miraculously spring up again. That so many Arab allies have abandoned them and their own liberation movement has split down the middle has not ended Palestinian protest, however heavy the cost to the ordinary Palestinian in terms of death, injuries and incarceration.

Modi-Shah have promised the Kashmiris “development” in exchange for forced integration at the point of the rifle and pellet shots into the eyes of their children. Even as the Palestinians, whatever their internecine differences, have unanimously spurned the Manama package of US/petrodollars goodies in exchange for quiescence, so too are the Kashmiris spurning the Modi offer of an enslaved prosperity. Modi’s political ancestors, of course, played no part in our freedom movement but had they done so they would have known that whatever the colonial investments made in railways and the telegraph, in industry and trade, in tea and jute, in “development” so-called, We the People of India (barring the Hindutva-ites) answered the British with the call of “Quit India”.

What is sought to be drowned out is the legacy of unflinching patriotism to India that the Kashmiri Muslim has displayed, first in being the only Muslim-majority concentration in undivided India to close their ears to the siren call of Pakistan. They refused to believe that “Islam” was “in danger” because Independence was coming to secular Bharat. Mohammad Ali Jinnah was delivered a knock-out blow. In 1965, every single Pakistani intruder sent into the Valley under Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s notorious Operation Gibraltar was picked up and reported to the Indian authorities. By whom? By the Kashmiri aam aadmi, who else, almost all Muslim to the last man, woman and child.

How betrayed must they be feeling now that “freedom” is being thrust down their throat, like castor oil to a recalcitrant child, by the largest deployment ever of armed might inside an integral part of the country? How must the Naga and the Mizo, protected by the Article following the now deleted 370, namely, Article 371 of the Constitution, be looking at the purses of gold being flung at them by a patronising central government driving a Faustian bargain to buy adherence to a contemptuous India?

What the full-fledged Constitution of India promises to the Kashmiri is but a pale shadow of the “Naya Kashmir” manifesto adopted by the National Conference 75 years ago, on September 29-30, 1944. The principal draftsman was B P L Bedi (the father of actor Kabir Bedi). The leading lights of the National Conference included Prem Nath Bazaz, Kashyap Bandhu, Jia Lal Kilam and Pandit Sudama Sidhu, besides Sardar Budh Singh.

It was a Naya Kashmir for all the religious communities of the Riyasat. Writing in 1966, the renowned scholar of Kashmir affairs, Sisir Gupta, in his magisterial study, had this to say: “Socialistic in its approach, the plan in New Kashmir has ever since 1944 provided the guiding principles of the National Conference’s approach to the problems of Kashmir”. In other words, left to themselves, the Kashmiris might have given themselves an even more liberal order than they are now being offered with a pistol to their temple.

To quote Gupta again, the proposed constitution “envisaged equality of citizens irrespective of ‘religion, race, nationality of birth’, freedom of conscience and worship, (as well as) of speech, of the press, of assembly and meetings, and of street processions” and the “right to work”, “equal rights to men and women” and even children, besides “cheap, quick, impartial justice”. In particular, there was a huge emphasis on women’s rights with separate sections detailing women’s rights in the political, economic, social, legal, and educational spheres. Modiji, Shah Sahib, they were there long before us. So, who are we to teach Kashmiris the virtues of democracy?

Instead of achhe din, what Parliament has ensured is a long, dark night in the Valley, and perhaps even the rest of the country, with simmering communalism, rising political tensions, unending hit-and-run terrorism, asymmetric armed struggle, and guerrilla insurrection. This is what happened in East Pakistan in 1971. We are now bringing a similar disaster upon our heads. Be warned.

 

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What is Article 371?

Source: By the Indian Express

Home Minister Amit Shah told Lok Sabha that the government had no intention of removing Article 371 of the Constitution, which includes “special provisions” for 11 states, including six states of the Northeast. His assurance came after Congress leaders expressed apprehension that having rendered Article 370 irrelevant, the government might unilaterally move to abrogate or modify Article 371.

Articles 369 through 392 (including some that have been removed) appear in Part XXI of the Constitution, titled ‘Temporary, Transitional and Special Provisions’. Article 370 deals with ‘Temporary Provisions with respect to the State of Jammu and Kashmir’; Articles 371, 371A, 371B, 371C, 371D, 371E, 371F, 371G, 371H, and 371J define special provisions with regard to another state (or states). Article 371I deals with Goa, but it do not include any provision that can be deemed ‘special’.

Articles 370 and 371 were part of the Constitution at the time of its commencement on January 26, 1950; Articles 371A through 371J were incorporated subsequently.

Article 371, Maharashtra and Gujarat: Governor has “special responsibility” to establish “separate development boards” for “Vidarbha, Marathwada, and the rest of Maharashtra”, and Saurashtra and Kutch in Gujarat; ensure “equitable allocation of funds for developmental expenditure over the said areas”, and “equitable arrangement providing adequate facilities for technical education and vocational training, and adequate opportunities for employment” under the state government.

Article 371A (13th Amendment Act, 1962), Nagaland: This provision was inserted after a 16-point agreement between the Centre and the Naga People’s Convention in 1960, which led to the creation of Nagaland in 1963. Parliament cannot legislate in matters of Naga religion or social practices, Naga customary law and procedure, administration of civil and criminal justice involving decisions according to Naga customary law, and ownership and transfer of land without concurrence of the state Assembly.

Article 371B (22nd Amendment Act, 1969), Assam: The President may provide for the constitution and functions of a committee of the Assembly consisting of members elected from the state’s tribal areas.

Article 371C (27th Amendment Act, 1971), Manipur: The President may provide for the constitution of a committee of elected members from the Hill areas in the Assembly, and entrust “special responsibility” to the Governor to ensure its proper functioning.

Article 371D (32nd Amendment Act, 1973; substituted by The Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014), Andhra Pradesh and Telangana: President must ensure “equitable opportunities and facilities” in “public employment and education to people from different parts of the state”. He may require the state government to organise “any class or classes of posts in a civil service of, or any class or classes of civil posts under, the State into different local cadres for different parts of the State”. He has similar powers vis-à-vis admissions in educational institutions.

Article 371E: Allows for the establishment of a university in Andhra Pradesh by a law of Parliament. But this is not a “special provision” in the sense of the others in this part.

Article 371F (36th Amendment Act, 1975), Sikkim: The members of the Legislative Assembly of Sikkim shall elect the representative of Sikkim in the House of the People. To protect the rights and interests of various sections of the population of Sikkim, Parliament may provide for the number of seats in the Assembly, which may be filled only by candidates from those sections.

Article 371G (53rd Amendment Act, 1986), Mizoram: Parliament cannot make laws on “religious or social practices of the Mizos, Mizo customary law and procedure, administration of civil and criminal justice involving decisions according to Mizo customary law, ownership and transfer of land… unless the Assembly… so decides”.

Article 371H (55th Amendment Act, 1986), Arunachal Pradesh: The Governor has a special responsibility with regard to law and order, and “he shall, after consulting the Council of Ministers, exercise his individual judgment as to the action to be taken”.

Article 371J (98th Amendment Act, 2012), Karnataka: There is a provision for a separate development board for the Hyderabad-Karnataka region. There shall be “equitable allocation of funds for developmental expenditure over the said region”, and “equitable opportunities and facilities” for people of this region in government jobs and education. A proportion of seats in educational institutions and state government jobs in Hyderabad-Karnataka can be reserved for individuals from that region.

 

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&K Assembly — like, unlike Delhi

Source: By Kaunain Sheriff M: The Indian Express

The Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill, 2019, just passed by Parliament, paves the way for formation of the Union Territory of J&K. It will join two other Union Territories — National Capital Territory of Delhi and Puducherry — which, through Article 239 A of the Constitution, have a Legislative Assembly to enact laws on certain subjects and a Council of Ministers headed by a Chief Minister to aid and advise the Lieutenant-Governor on subjects related to such legislation. For subjects outside the purview of the Assembly, the Lieutenant-Governor does not need the aid and advice of the Chief Minister.

Some key subjects where the model proposed for Jammu & Kashmir is similar to that of Delhi, and where there are variations between the two:

Extent of legislative power

Section 13 of the Bill states that the provisions contained in Article 239 A of the Constitution that are applicable to Union Territory of Puducherry shall also apply to the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. The UT Assembly has the power to enact laws on matters under the State List and the Concurrent List, barring subjects that are exclusively under the ambit of the Union Government.

The Seventh Schedule has 61 subjects in the State List — law & order, health, land, local government etc — and 52 in the Concurrent List such as forests, wildlife protection, social security, employment, etc.

In the J&K Bill, Section 32 proposes that the Assembly can make laws on any subjects in the State and Concurrent lists except on state subjects relating to “public order” and “police”. Therefore, all laws on these two subjects will be directly under the Centre. This is the case in Delhi, too.

In Delhi, by insertion of Article 239AA and by virtue of the Sixty-ninth Constitutional Amendment passed by Parliament, the Assembly cannot legislate on matters in entry 18 of the State List, which is land. In J&K, the Assembly can do so.

Anti-Corruption Bureau

Control of the ACB, which has the power to register FIRs on corruption cases and make arrests, was a contentious issue between Delhi’s AAP government and the Centre. In February this year, a two-judge Supreme Court Bench held that the ACB will be under control of the L-G and the Delhi government has no police powers.

For the proposed UT of Jammu & Kashmir, the Bill is very clear. Section 53(2)(iii) states that the Lieutenant Governor shall, in the exercise of his functions, act in his discretion, in matters related to “All India Services and Anti-Corruption Bureau”. Therefore, all appointments and other administrative matters related to the ACB will be directly under the Lieutenant-Governor.

Services

In Delhi, another bone of contention has been services. A Bench of Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan differed on the issue of transfer of officers posted in Delhi, and referred the matter to a three-judge Bench.

For J&K, Part XIII and Section 88(4) of the Bill make it clear that the Lieutenant-Governor will have discretionary powers relating to composition, strength and allocation of officers of the Indian Administrative Service, Indian Police Service and Indian Forest Service

Section 92 deals with provisions relating to “other services”. It states: “Every person who, immediately before the appointed day, is holding or discharging the duties of any post or office in connection with the affairs of the existing State of Jammu and Kashmir in any area which on that day falls within one of the successor Union Territory, shall continue to hold the same post or office in that successor Union Territory, and shall be deemed, on and from that day, to have been duly appointed to the post or office by the Government of, or other appropriate authority in, that successor Union Territory.” It adds: “Provided that nothing in this section shall be deemed to prevent a competent authority, on and from the appointed day, from passing in relation to such person any order affecting the continuance in such post or office.”

The “competent authority” mentioned, therefore, can alter the posting of an officer currently employed with the Jammu & Kashmir government. However, as in Delhi, it is unclear whether the transfer of officers will be under the exclusive domain of the Lieutenant-Governor.

Other matters

Section 55 of the J&K Bill states that the Lieutenant-Governor shall make rules on the advice of the Council of Ministers for the allocation of business to the ministers, for the more convenient transaction of business with the ministers including the procedure to be adopted in case of a difference of opinion between the Lieutenant Governor and the Council of Ministers or a minister. The same rule applies to NCT of Delhi.

Section 36(3) states that if a Bill which, if enacted and brought into operation, would involve “expenditure from the Consolidated Fund of Union Territory”, it shall not be passed by the Legislative Assembly of the Union Territory “unless the Lieutenant Governor has recommended to the Assembly, the consideration of the Bill”. The same rule applies to NCT of Delhi.

 

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The state has its reasons

Source: By Sanjaya Baru: The Indian Express

For over seven decades, the status of the state of Jammu and Kashmir has been masked in ambiguity and deceit. Successive governments of both India and Pakistan had tried but failed to arrive at an amicable “final solution” because of the play of vested interests on both sides. These attempts over time shaped two potential routes to a resolution. One may be termed the “hard” option and the other the “soft” option. Pakistan tried the hard option of occupying the territory as early as in 1947 when it sent troops into the erstwhile kingdom of Jammu and Kashmir and grabbed territory. It tried the hard option a second time but failed, in 1998 when it crossed the Line of Control (LoC) at Kargil.

It was only after these attempts at a military solution on the part of Pakistan failed that the two countries began considering the “soft” options. Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee took the first step in defining a final “soft” solution when he gave currency to the idea that the LoC could be defined as the “international border” (IB). Picking up the baton, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pursued that option through the longest uninterrupted dialogue with a Pakistani head of state. The dialogue with President Pervez Musharraf conducted largely through a back channel yielded an outcome that came to define the “soft option”. Singh’s aide diplomat Satinder K Lambah offered a glimpse of that option in a lecture delivered in Srinagar on May 14, 2014, at the tail end of Singh’s tenure.

The Manmohan-Musharraf formula was based on the premise that terrorism and cross-border attacks would cease, and the LoC would become the IB. In Kashmir, it would be a soft border that would enable Kashmiris on both sides to travel to and fro. It advocated free trade across the border, and “self-governance for internal management in all areas on the same basis on both sides of the LoC”. Once such a benign environment was established, both sides would reduce to the bare minimum the presence of their respective militaries on their side of the border.

All those ideas belong to a distant past. First, Musharraf in Pakistan and then Singh in India lost whatever little support they may have had at home to pursue this “soft” solution. The Mumbai terror attack in November 2008 and the reaction at home to the joint statement that Singh penned along with his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gillani at Sharm El Sheikh in July 2009, queered the pitch for the burial of the soft solution. It was, however, Pakistan’s military and hardline political leadership that fired the first salvo against the soft solution. In India, the BJP followed suit by rejecting the Manmohan-Musharraf formula.

Since 2014, there have been no takers for the soft solution both in India and Pakistan. On the contrary, attitudes began to harden on both sides. Consequences followed. Relations worsened. In a bizarre display of competitive immaturity, Imran Khan and Donald Trump brought up the issue of Kashmir in a manner that seemed completely oblivious to the new reality of a “New India”. The BJP has had a consistent stand on the future of Jammu and Kashmir and after its massive victory in May 2019; its views ought to have been taken seriously.

More to the point, no credible political leader in Pakistan or India seems interested any longer in turning the clock back to pursue the now abandoned soft solution. Faced with the prospect of a renewal of bonhomie between Rawalpindi and the Pentagon, the Pakistani political and military elite have sought to up the ante with sharpened rhetoric on Kashmir. The BJP leadership, buoyed by a landmark victory, was in no mood to indulge their pretence. As one perceptive BJP politician put it to me, India tried all options to resolve the Kashmir issue but nothing yielded a convincing result. The bull had to be taken by its horns and this was an opportune moment.

Critics of the government’s action have said it was motivated by a desire to secure land rather than its inhabitants. Every state has to be as mindful of its territory as of its inhabitants. More wars have been fought between nations over land than only over the interests of its peoples. Even Abraham Lincoln did not wage a civil war only to define the rights of US citizens but to also define the territorial limits of the US state. A state that cannot define its borders and protect them has no reason to survive. Forget distant history, in the post-War period we have seen states appear and disappear, acquire and lose territory. There are still those who imagine the Indian state will not be able to keep and defend all of the territory it possesses. Books have been written on the eventual balkanisation of India.

While the BJP may have had its own political reasons to take the steps it took this week, the Indian state too has its reasons. Having exhausted soft options, a hard solution has been opted for. It is significant that most political parties, including many senior leaders of the Congress, have backed the government’s action. They are not necessarily defending the government but are defending the interests of the Indian state.

It is said India is an ancient civilisation but a new nation. The Republic of India has had all the anxieties of an adolescent nation. It has tried both soft and hard solutions to define its borders. The only remaining unresolved issues are with Pakistan and China. With China a negotiated settlement is still possible since its leadership has demonstrated greater maturity in dealing with India. Pakistan too could have secured a peaceful resolution by ceasing to make India more anxious about its security. In choosing not to do so it opened the door to BJP’s hard solution.

 

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The Department of Administrative Reforms & Public Grievances (DARPG), in association with Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology (MeitY), Government of India and the State Government of Meghalaya organized the 22nd National Conference on e-Governance (NCeG) 2019 on 8-9th August, 2019 at Shillong, Meghalaya. The theme of this Conference was “Digital India: Success to Excellence”. At the valedictory session , ‘Shillong Declaration’ on e-Governance was adopted after intensive deliberations during the sessions held over two days. Over the two days, discussions were held on six sub-themes in Plenary sessions:
 
India Enterprise Architecture (INDEA)
  1. Digital Infrastructure
  2. Inclusion and capacity building
  3. Emerging Technology for Practitioners
  4. Secretariat Reforms
  5. National e-Governance Service Delivery Assessment (NeSDA). 
Breakout Sessions were held on sub-themes
  1. One Nation One Platform
  2. Engaging with Innovators and Industry
  3. End-to-End Digital Services: IT initiatives of State Governments.
Flashpoint
  1. An Exhibition was also organized during the event to showcase India’s achievements in the field of e-Governance.
  2. NCeG 2019 provided a platform for the delegates, including senior government officers from across the country, industry stalwarts and researchers, to share best practices, latest technology developments and leveraging them for achieving effective governance and public service delivery. 
  3. The focus of all the sessions was on learning with each other’s experiences to ensure effective e-governance for citizen satisfaction and achieve Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi’s vision of ‘Minimum Government, Maximum Governance’.
Shillong declaration
  1. Improve the citizen’s experience with Government services by promoting timely implementation of India Enterprise Architecture (IndEA) and implementing a single sign-on for interoperability and integration among e-Government applications throughout the country
  2. Consolidate the plethora of successful State level e-Governance projects and domain-based projects with a focus to replicate them as a common application software with configurable features
  3. Ensure improvement in ease of living and ease of doing business by making a big shift in the role of government from Service Provider to Service Enabler, thus moving from development of applications to making available public digital platforms where multiple competitive applications can be developed
  4. Take steps to further improve connectivity in North Eastern States by addressing the issues and challenges of telecommunications connectivity at grassroot level and formulate and implement a comprehensive telecom development plan
  5. Take steps to enhance the activities of Electronics Sector Skill Council in North Eastern States and explore the possibility for opening an electronics skill center in Shillong
  6. Promote use of e-Office and move towards less paper State Secretariats in the North-Eastern States and in the District level offices
  7. Improve the quality of delivery of e-Services in the North East to fulfil the vision of improved citizen experience
  8. Develop India as a global cloud hub and facilitate development of Government applications and databases on Cloud by default
  9. Adopt emerging technologies for finding e-Governance solutions
  10. Promote the Digital India Projects with focus on Smart Cities and Smart Villages through Startups and Smart Entrepreneurship 

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