The wall of special status accorded to State of J&K is being demolished brick by brick. The latest in the series of New-Delhi’s demolition drives is to amend Collection of Statistics Act, 2008 (hereinafter referred to as Central Act )so as to apply it to the State of Jammu and Kashmir. The Union Cabinet has already approved the proposal for amendment and going by the numbers enjoyed by BJP in the parliament, its safe passage is a foregone conclusion. Once amended, New-Delhi will be able to collect & process data relating to statistical subjects falling in the Union and concurrent List as applicable to Jammu and Kashmir State under the Constitutional (Application to J&K ) Order 1954. Unfortunately the State Govt. has remained a mute spectator to New-Delhi’s wicked move.
It may be noted that J&K State has its own law on the subject titled “The Jammu and Kashmir Collection of Statistics Act, 2010” (hereinafter referred to as State Act ). It was passed after two years of the passage of the Central Act. Obviously much thought & deliberations must have gone into the process of finalising the two acts. So what is the need to amend the central Act now? Union Ministry of Statistics & Programme implementation, which is responsible for implementing & monitoring the Central Act, has furnished following justification for the proposed amendment.
“The Collection of Statistics Act, 2008 is not applicable to the State of Jammu and Kashmir. The Jammu and Kashmir Collection of Statistics Act, 2010 enacted by the Jammu and Kashmir State Legislature extends to the whole of the State of Jammu and Kashmir. The Jammu and Kashmir State Legislature has legislative powers to enact laws on ‘statistics’ which fall under the concurrent and residuary powers reserved for the State under the Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order 1954. The Central Act and the Jammu and Kashmir Collection of Statistics Act, 2010 are not applicable to the statistical subjects falling in the Union List, as applicable to Jammu & Kashmir under the aforementioned 1954 Order. This has created a legislative vacuum. Moreover, the concurrent jurisdiction to be exercised by the Centre has also not been provided for, in the Central Act. The proposed amendment is intended to address this vacuum.”
Now whatever be the justification furnished by the Concerned Union Minstry, the proposed amendment, which apparently looks very innocuous, has far reaching implications for the people of Jammu & Kashmir and to assess these, one has to have to look at the contents of Union & Concurrent lists of the Indian constitution.
Union List contains 97 subjects or entries while concurrent list contains 52. While it is not possible to reproduce here all these entries, mention needs to be made of few relevant entries about which New-Delhi will, henceforth be the sole authority to collect statistics without any interference of State Govt. or its officials. The first & foremost entry in the Union list pertain to defense. It also includes management of borders & cantonment areas. After the amendment goes through, New-Delhi will be legally armed to enter into every household falling in border or cantonment areas under the guise of collecting statistics. Since section 4 of the Central Act gives sweeping powers to New-Delhi to appoint any person or agency to carry out the statistical collection process under the supervision & command of its own officials, one can only imagine as to who these persons will enter our households? Section 5 of the said Act also envisages creation of a class of informants who will be legally bound to divulge such information & statistics as will be required by the statistical officer directly appointed by New-Delhi. Though it is provided that such information will be used only for Statistical purposes, but as every one of us knows how the laws are used or more appropriately misused in J&K to haul & maul its citizens? Other instances of subjects to which the amended central Act will apply are:
- Deployment of anyarmed forces of the Union or any other force subject to the control of the Union or any contingent or unit thereof in any State in aid of the civil power.
- Delimitation of [cantonment] areas,local self-government in such areas, the constitution and powers within such areas of cantonment authorities and the regulation of house accommodation (including the control of rents) in such areas.
- Vital statisticsincluding registration of births and deaths.(Entry 30 of concurrent list)
As will be seen New-Delhi will henceforth be empowered to collect & keep the data like number, location etc. not only of armed forces but also of ‘any other force’ deployed in borders to itself to the entire exclusion of State Govt. Recently voices have been heard to settle ex-army personnel in border areas of the State with economic benefits & perquisites to change the demographic character of the State . Since this force of ‘Ex-Servicemen’ comes under the definition of ‘any other force’, there are genuine apprehensions that the proposed amendment is a pre-cursor to the of implementation of that nefarious design.
For political parties of Kashmir, the obnoxious amendment is also something to worry about, unless they have accorded their consent to the amendment before hand. With nearly one third of the legislative seats located in border areas, New-Delhi will get an absolute power to influence the voters in these constituencies under the garb of data collection but in reality telling them ‘whom to vote’.
(The author is a practicing chartered Accountant. E mail: email@example.com)