Oppn urges government to take state govt into confidence
New Delhi: A bill empowering the government of India to collect statistical data from Jammu and Kashmir was passed by the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday even as various Opposition parties said the move was not proper in view of Article 370 which grants special status to the state.
Members of a number of Opposition parties urged the government to take the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly into confidence before getting The Collection of Statistics (Amendment) Bill, 2017 passed.
Responding to the issues raised by various members regarding the special status of J&K, Statistics Minister D V Sadanand Gowda said the provisions of the bill do not infringe upon the rights of Kashmiris and the Centre was not overriding Article 370 or encroaching upon the powers of the state government.
The bill, which was passed by the Lok Sabha in April this year, will facilitate in organising data collection under the provisions of the principal act throughout the country including Jammu and Kashmir.
While moving the amendment bill in the Rajya Sabha for passage, said it had been brought to address the “legislative vacuum” as collection of statistical data from Jammu and Kashmir was not possible.
He noted that the statistical data and information is an important element for planning as well as implementation of various projects.
“…In the large interest of the country and the state, is it not fair on our part to go ahead,” the Minister asked.
Earlier, participating in the debate on the bill, Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad, who hails from J&K, said the question was not of merit of the legislation but of the Constitution which accords special status to the state.
Referring to a statement by his colleague in the Congress party Jairam Ramesh, Azad said the party is not opposed to the bill but everyone knows that Jammu and Kashmior has special status under Article 370 of the Constitution.
He said the Centre should understand the implications as the situation is Kashmir is really bad since the last 30 years.
Azad alleged that the Centre had not consulted the state government or the Opposition in the matter.
“Neither the ruling party in Kashmir (PDP) nor the Opposition here is with you. The (bill’s) provisions are fine but it should not be imposed without the consent of the state government,” he said.
Azad alleged that the BJP had differing views on the Article 370 and wanted to abolish it.
He said young girls were being tutored for spreading misinformation through WhatsApp regarding the special status accorded to Jammu and Kashmir.
He appealed to the government to understand the sensitivity of the matter, warning that otherwise it will have to face the consequences.
Jairam Ramesh wanted to know what exactly was the legislative vacuum and what were the difficulties in getting data.
He said the state government had not been consulted by the Centre before bringing this Bill.
Responding to him, the minister asked, “If I get more statisitical data from the state, is it not possible for the Centre to assist the state more?”
He added, “When it does not infringe upon the rights of Kashmiris, when we are not overriding Article 370 or we are not encroaching upon the powers of the state government, and in the large interest if the country and the state, is it not fair on our part to go ahead?”
Gowda said the Centre had written to the state government in 2009 after the earlier bill, in which J&K had been kept out, was passed here.
Inspite of that, in 2010, the state enacted its own law where certain areas they can’t enter and “we are also restrained from entering certain areas.”
He said there are so many statistical data not available regarding Kashmir “which hurts the development of the nation and Kashmir”.
After the Minister finished his reply, Azad shot back, saying: “We have warned you, cautioned you. Inspite of the Opposition requesting you, the ruling party has gone ahead. So it will be squarely responsible if anything goes wrong.”
According to the statement of objects and reason of the bill, “the amendments proposed in the bill, inter alia, seek to extend the Statistics Act 2008, to the state of Jammu and Kashmir in so far as it relates to any Statistical survey relating to any matter falling under any of the entries specified in List I (Union List) or List III (Concurrent List) in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution as applicable to that state”.
It will empower the central government and each state government to designate one of its nodal officers as nodal officer to coordinate and supervise the statistical activities and to exercise such other powers and perform such other duties as may be made by the rules.
Ramesh said the Finance Minister of Jammu and Kashmir was not aware about this bill till it was passed by the Lok Sabha.
Noting that J&K enjoys special status under the Constitution, Ramesh said the atomosphere and environment in Kashmir was “sensitive”.
The sensitivities need to be understood, he said, adding Parliament should not be seen doing this unilaterally.
Ram Kumar Verma of BJP said J&K is an important part of the country and asked why the state was excluded when this law was passed in 2009.
He said the amendement bill has been brought to remove the deficiencies in the earlier law.
AIADMK member S R Balasubramaniam said it is not proper to pass this bill without the concurrence of J&K government.
Harivansh of JD (U) also said this bill should have been passed after taking concurrence of the state government.
C P Narayanan of CPI (M) stressed that data and statistics should be dealt scientifically.
Sarojini Hembram (BJD) agreed with the doubts raised by Jairam Ramesh and said it would not be good to pass this bill without taking concurrence of the state government.
She also asked the government to ensure data security so that the same is not misused. Vijaysai Reddy (YSR Congress) expressed concern over possibility of misuse of data and information by parties in power at the Centre and States. He spoke about the need to ensure privacy of data.
D Raja (CPI) asked the government whether there was any engagement with the J&K government in this whole exercise.
He said the amendment bill should be in accordance with Article 370 of the Constitution.
K Rahman Khan (Cong) said the consent of J&K government is necessary and it was not right to meddle with Article 370.
He said power to make rule under this bill can be misused. He also said the power of nodal officers should be defined under this Bill. Vikas Mahatme (BJP) said the situation in J&K could be improved through data and statistics.