Bill to supersede JK’s 2010 Act; Eyes direct access to data in Kashmir
Srinagar: The Government of India is trying hard for direct access to the data gathered or compiled in Jammu & Kashmir by introducing a new Act to supersede the one existing in the state.
The New Delhi’s Collection of Statistics (Amendment) Bill 2017, which will supersede the Jammu and Kashmir Collection of Statistics Act 2010, was introduced by Minister of Statistics and Programme Implementation D V Sadananda Gowda in Lok Sabha on March 20, Business Standard reported.
The Bill seeks to amend UPA government’s Collection of Statistics Act 2008, which had excluded J&K from it. At present, all the data on Jammu & Kashmir and its residents is collected under the J&K Collection of Statistics Act, 2010.
Given its special status, the J&K is the only exception in India where New Delhi does not have complete control on the data collection pertaining to subjects under the Union and Concurrent lists of the Constitution.
The introduction of the Bill is baffling, given that the GoI already has access to the vital Census data of the state.
Not just census, it has been regularly conducting various surveys in the state including the National Sample Survey (NSS), National Health Survey, Socio-Economic Caste Census, and the Annual Survey of Industries.
Also, army has been collecting information in several areas, an exercise that has drawn criticism from the resistance groups and public.
Interestingly, if the bill is cleared, a number of rules as mentioned in Collection of Statistics Rules 2011 will automatically be implemented in J&K.
One such rule gives the government forces the right to “assist” a concerned statistical officer in collecting the data.
“In case of statistics in disturbed areas, the police, the paramilitary, and the armed forces shall provide such assistance as would be required by the concerned statistics officer,” reads section 10 (3) of the official copy of Collection of Statistics Rules 2011.
As per the Business Standard report, the Bill was discussed in the Parliament with several opposition MPs raising concern over its contents.
“It is still pending in Lok Sabha where the BJP-led NDA has the numbers to ensure its passage,” says the report.
The GoI has justified amending the law, saying that it doesn’t cover matters listed in the Union and Concurrent list for J&K which has led to a “legislative vacuum in respect of the statistical matters in the Union List or Concurrent List applicable to Jammu and Kashmir”.
The Collection of Statistics Act 2008 states that it would be the responsibility of the head of the family to provide the information sought by the field statistics officer.
The Act states that the government of India cannot order the same statistical survey commissioned by a state government.
With BJP in power in New Delhi and in a coalition with Mehbooba Mufti’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP), a lot of data from Kashmir, which was unexplored till now, could potentially flow to the government.
“It is a historic bill. No other government in the past has introduced a bill that includes Jammu & Kashmir from legislative matters in the country.
“Earlier, only the state government had the power to commission surveys. Now the Centre will also have the power to commission any survey it wants and ensure that correct data is received from the state,” Business Standard quoted BJP MP Jugal Kishor Sharma as having said.
Now as New Delhi taking full control over all of it after to be implemented Act, has been extended to Kashmir, people and other independent organisations might look sceptical towards data which would be compiled by people hired by New Delhi.
For instance, a look at the census data shows that the proportion of Muslims in J&K’s population increased from 64.19% in 1981 to 68.31% of the population in 2011. The proportion of Hindus, meanwhile, declined from 32.24% to 28.43%.
According to the report of BS, the above data had prompted rightwing groups to raise alarm bells. One of them, Centre for Policy Studies (CPS), a right-leaning think-tank, having RSS ideologue S Gurumurthy and BJP vice-president Balbir Punj as trustees, did a study on the religious census titled ‘Jammu & Kashmir: Hindus No More Have a Place in the Valley’.
The study notes, “An analysis of religious census data shows that Hindus in the Kashmir Valley are mainly adult males. In their population of 1.68 lakh persons, there are only 15,764 women and less than 5,000 children, forming 9.34 and 2.95 percent of the population, respectively. The data also shows that in the total Hindu population of 1.68 lakh, 1.48 lakh are workers.”
Similarly, Hurriyat (G) chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani raised concerns when the census exercise was started in Kashmir. In 2010, Geelani is reported to have said, “There are concerted efforts under a pre-planned conspiracy to reduce the Muslim majority status of the state.”
“The Census is being carried out by the employees from outside the state and they have been tasked to erode the Muslim majority status of the state. Muslims were 85% of J&K’s population before 1947 but in the subsequent censuses of 1961 and 1981, the Muslim population was put at 69% and 64.5% respectively,” he had said.
Advocate, Zaffar Shah, says that after implementation of new Act, there would be very less credibility in data that would be conducted and compiled by outsiders.
“We have a big problem of identification of people here. The move may be to induct West Pak Refugees or other non-State subjects as permanent residents of Jammu& Kashmir by modifying data compiled by them (people hired by New Delhi),” Shah said.
While the bill cleared in cabinet led by Modi is yet to be cleared in Parliament, its implementation would send alarms to Kashmir that enjoys a special status under Article 370.