J&K polls can happen anytime, Assembly has to be reconstituted: G C Murmu, first Lieutenant Governor, J&K

We have to promote Kashmiri identity. We are making a political system in a way that everyone has his or her say in it. The number of youngsters joining militant ranks is coming down, says Lieutenant Governor of J&K.

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File photo: G C Murmu, first Lieutenant Governor of the UT of Jammu and Kashmir
It is one year since the central government revoked the special status granted to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Constitution through a presidential order on August 5, 2019. On the same day, the government introduced the J&K Reorganization Bill that bifurcated the erstwhile state into two union territories of J&K and Ladakh. G C Murmu, who took over as the first Lieutenant Governor of the UT of Jammu and Kashmir on October 31, talks about the current situation in the region, work done, and future course of action in an interview with ET’s Hakeem Irfan Rashid. Edited excerpts:


On J&K Reorganization Bill:

August 5 is immaterial for me. It is a day when a historical decision was taken. Now for me the priority is to see J&K as a developed, progressive, growth oriented and vibrant economy. We have to plug all the deficiencies. We shouldn’t allow limited vision around August 5.



On promotional events on the anniversary:
We want to disseminate certain things to ground-level workers. We want to tell what has been done and what is required. Officers have been asked to remain available in the second week of August. We will also invite some block development council members. We are making promotional videos in different sectors for a different audience (outside the union territory). With social distancing in place we will do some sort of an event. We have to promote Kashmiri identity and uniqueness like Kashmiri saffron, Kashmiri apple and Kashmiri Basmati. Some journalists have come from outside on their own to see ground situation and we are just facilitating them.


On political process and elections:
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The J&K assembly was dissolved before August 5, 2019…so politicians here have been sitting idle since. Later, they were detained as well. Naturally they feel left out of the process. Earlier, they used to be part of every process. But we have to understand that this is a UT with the legislature. The assembly has to come back. President’s rule is no solution, and these politicians know that very well. But when will the assembly resume, the situation will determine. It can happen any time.

On Rumors of being called back to Delhi:
I am ready all the time. I just cannot say when will that happen and how will that happen. But yes, I am happy and satisfied so far. I have done so many things. Unfortunately, it hasn’t come into the notice of people. With facts and figures I can prove each and every point. I can debate with any stalwart or bigwigs.

On detention of politicians:
In a certain circumstance certain action is taken. It is dynamic and the situation keeps changing. You see they are being released now. I meet MLAs cutting across the party lines. They also know elections will happen. They are politicians and they understand when to say what.

On restoration of 4G and internet connectivity:

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It was restricted in a particular situation and circumstance. As the situation will be appropriate things will be decided accordingly. We are not giving freehand to Jio fibre and it cannot reach everywhere. We are also trying to upgrade BSNL. Decision would be taken on 4G at the right time.

On ground situation and encounters:

Years of indoctrination, misleading and mischievous activities would not vanish overnight. People have majorly cooperated here. Because of misleading narrative, some youngsters go astray. This kind of misleading propaganda has no future and all of them should assert their rights within the system. Those who feel left out, they should take destiny in their own hands. We are making a political system in a way that everyone has his or her say in it.

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The number of youngsters joining militant ranks is coming down. It is not just because of the operation of forces, but also due to a realisation and hope they are seeing around. They are seeing light around the corner. Earlier there was no transparency and only few families were deciding the course of things here.

On raids, arrests, barricades and people being thrashed:
If this kind of thing is happening without reason, we will take action. This is not the writ of the government. There could be some mischievous and rogue element within the government as well. All over India and across the world these elements are there, but it is not normal.

On Rs 40,000-crore business losses since August 5, 2019:
I accept that there was a setback and disruption since last August, but we have to verify these numbers. And then Covid-19 amplified these problems. We have already formulated a package to revive and restart the local business. Incentives, subsidisation, and certain direct and indirect benefits have also been kept in the package so that the businesses are not stressed. We can postpone the deadline for payment of pending electricity pending charges and interest subvention on loans.

On the Global Investment Summit:
If pandemic subsides it may happen in October. We have to announce 14 promotional incentive policies soon. We have already created a land bank of 6,000 acres for investors and transferred 4,000 acres to the industries department for immediate development. I will allow companies that won’t disturb the nature and environment here. Tata, Torrent, and Adani have already shown interest to invest here. From Bollywood, Feroz Nadiadwala and Madhur Bahandarkar have shown interest in coming to Kashmir soon with projects.

On domicile and demographic changes:
Narrative build around this is misleading. All the permanent resident certificates holders are automatic domiciles of J&K. Only certificate has to be issued. How can demography of a 90% majority population be changed? West Pakistan refugees, Valmikis and others have been living here for many decades, and they just got their due. But how can an addition of 5-10 lakh people change demography of a region with 1.5 crore people? Domicile has actually closed the doors for outsiders. Some people here are just playing with the emotions of masses.

On media policy for J&K and summoning of journalists:
Media policy has been misread and some people are playing mischief while explaining the policy. We have just asked for ground verification for the accreditation process of journalists. Information department cannot decide what is fake news. But news reports cannot be false, lies and factually incorrect. You cannot say there is no bridge on the river, when there is a functional one existing there.

Summoning journalists is not part of media policy. If sometimes police feel that they have to do that (summon journalist) they will do it even if I scrap the media policy. They can invoke their security or any other angle. Police can’t be dictators. Sometimes local official may have his own personal animosity.


On development:
For youth, nothing has been created for last seven decades. This is why they all depend on the government. All these years, youth have remained disadvantaged and disenchanted. From 2010 onwards, there were 2,300 languishing projects including electricity and roads. We completed 606 till now. During the back to village programme, around 20,000 small works were brought up and we could complete 7,000 of them. The rest are progressing. During the outreach program of union ministers, 1,066 demands were made before them and we have initiated work on 440 demands and action taken report in 200 has already come.


On jobs and disengagement of contractual staff:
I want to end this ad hoc and contractual culture here. We are straightening the recruitment rules. Chief ministers have misled people here and made them bonded labourers with a salary of Rs 2,000 or Rs 3,000 per month for many years. We are not going to fool them again... Nobody will lose their job. We will recruit around 25,000 to 30,000 people in the government in next six months.

On Delhi’s failure in Kashmir:
Delhi hasn’t failed, but locally we haven’t been able to address the issues. Delhi has sent many packages. For example, we have 38,500 kilometres of road in J&K out of which only 21,000 km are all weather with black topping. We should have given priority to problems like these. May be some ground-level realities were overlooked and things were not planned well. The government wasn’t able to address the gap that had lot of reverse effect for common people.

On political interference and meeting with the prime minister:
There is no political interference. There is a system in place, and everybody functions in that. I have met the prime minister many times since I was appointed as LG. Whenever I am in Delhi, I meet him. He wants that growth and development are fast-tracked. Deprivation should not be there in J&K.

On Election Commission of India’s criticism:
ECI is the right body to decide where to do the delimitation and where to conduct elections. I was just explaining the process. They perceived that I am doing their job, which is not right. They have their own system and authority and independence.

On strain with the bureaucracy in Kashmir:
There is no strain. When you take a policy decision in administrative council it is a collective decision. People with small brains and myopic vision within departments and the secretariat try to float these rumours. Groupism is rampant here.

On non-local bureaucrats ruling the roost:
There is nothing local and non-local. There is a technical issue that since 2013, nobody was inducted into IAS in J&K, because of the infighting in the bureaucracy, negligence and court cases against each other. There is vacuum and shortage of officers at higher level. We have finalised seniority issue now and at least 35 locals would be inducted into IAS soon. J&K police has the same issue.

On panchayats:
We tried to strengthen grass-root democracy and devolve power to panchayats. We are identifying land to build panchayat complexes and residential complexes. We have started recruiting basic staff for panchayats. We have surplus staff in the government with which we can create a cadre for panchayat system right from the secretariat to the grassroots. All those who are not getting the job would get a regular job.

On aspiration for freedom:
There is no aspiration for secession. It is only being fed. Freedom means within the overall Constitution of India and framework of law. Whatever freedoms are available under this ambit, youngsters should assert for that. Freedom meaning secession doesn’t exist. Young people are misled into believing that there is something called secession as if it is going to happen. This is false narrative and propaganda.

On Hurriyat:
Hurriyat leaders and others were jailed long before I came here. Their politics is different, and they work on a different parlance. Engagement with them happens at a different level and it should be left to that.

On Covid-19 situation:
As of now there is no shortage of any medical equipment or drugs, but a situation may arise if we go to stage three and above. We are already preparing for that. We are procuring 700 ventilators and got help from the central government to set up new oxygen plants as well. We are following ICMR guidelines. Barricades and restrictions in the wake of Covid-19 are for safety of people and there is no order to thrash people. Sometimes a low-ranking officer on ground doesn’t understand the direction.

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