Centre redefines domicile for J&K, extends it to those living in UT for over 15 years

Ghughuti Bulletin


NEW DELHI/SRINAGAR: In a major decision, the Centre on Tuesday notified changes in domicile rules for the Union Territory of Jammu and
Kashmir providing that anyone residing in J&K for 15 years or more will be eligible for government jobs, immediately raising the hackles of Kashmir parties like
National Conference and PDP which said it added insult to injury and is akin to rubbing salt into wounds.

The domicile rights are also extended to all migrants who have been registered by the Relief and Rehabilitation Commissioner in the erstwhile state whose status dramatically changed when its special status under Article 370 was rescinded on August 5 last year.

The new domicile rules, notified in the gazette and made applicable from Tuesday, further provides that anyone who has studied for a period of seven years and appeared in Class 10th or 12th examination in J&K is eligible for domicile certificate of the UT. All such people can obtain a domicile certificate from Tehsildar of their area of residence.

“Talk about suspect timing. At a time when all our efforts and attention should be focused on the Covid-19 outbreak, the government slips in a new domicile law for J&K. Insult is heaped on injury when we see law offers none of the protections that had been promised,” former CM and NC leader
Omar Abdullah said in a tweet.

The change in rules, though only for lower-end government jobs, is politically significant as state government employment was previously in accordance with the definition of permanent residents, seen as central to the Article 370 scheme. In conjunction, Article 35A had also operated to ensure that categories such as women who marry outside the state were not eligible for domicile benefits. The current notification does not include land ownership but will be seen as the thin end of the wedge by Kashmir parties with even the newly formed Apni Party voicing opposition.

The rules have been changed with regard to appointment in government services by amending the J&K Civil Services (Decentralisation and Recruitment) Act. The notification further provides that central government officials, including those working in public sector undertakings, banks and central universities, who have served for 10 years in J&K and their children will now be eligible for domicile certificates.

The announcement was condemned by political parties in Kashmir. While the National Conference (NC) called it “hollow and unacceptable”, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) termed it “frighteningly ambivalent, irresolute and akin to rubbing salt on people’s wounds”.

In a statement, PDP general secretary Surinder Choudhary said the change in rules is “ill-timed, very badly drafted and outcome of confused and chaotic bureaucracy”. Both NC and PDP questioned the timing of the notification when the entire UT, like the rest of the country, is under a lockdown battling outbreak of coronavirus.

Abdullah also demanded that the government could have instead released PDP chief and former CM
Mehbooba Mufti. “You can imagine how hollow the domicile law is.. even the new party created with Delhi’s blessings, whose leaders were lobbying in Delhi for this law, have been forced to criticisze it,” the NC leader said.

Apni Party president
Altaf Bukhari sought that the domicile order be put in abeyance till the Covid-19 pandemic is over. “It is most unfortunate that such an important order has been issued at a time when the whole country is battling for its survival and is under strict lockdown,” Bukhari said.

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