Kashmir: GST and Article 370

Views from Srinagar

Abdul Rashid Khan

THERE was much furor over the introduction of this new indirect taxation regime known as GST (Goods and Services Tax) in the political/business circles as well as within the different trade associations of J&K state. Leaving aside the political aspect of the issue, the passing of this law in the parliament of the country was itself a big mile stone in the system of Indian indirect taxation system. The law was endorsed by all the states except JK State for having its special position under the Article 370 of constitution of India. Passing of the resolution by simple majority of votes in the state legislature was an important requirement for GST to become law of the state. GST law became applicable on first of July 2017 in all the states except JK as the law was not ratified yet by state legislature. All the mainstream political parties played politics over the issue of GST on the ground that by endorsing GST, it will encroach upon our special status granted under the Article 370.
This was nothing but to befool the poor innocent people of Kashmir to score and gain their political strength over each other. Even in the legislative Assembly the opposition members did not oppose the resolution but preferred walk out than to vote against the resolution, to show the token resentment against the GST but indirectly voted in favor of it. Actually all leaders of these political parties do not want to displease the national political party whether it is BJP or Congress as they are practically subservient to the wishes of the central Government. All the political parties and its leaders are and have been taking shelter under the cover of article 370 just for their individual and party’s interest by exploiting it to the hilt.
The leaders of these political parties know it better that the article 370 is nothing but an empty shell as it has already been robbed of its main features by the Kashmiri political leaders during their successive regime. whether it is Congress, N.C or PDP, all are responsible for erosion of the article 370. If we go by the brief history of article 370, we can understand how this powerful article has been reduced to mere husk by our own leaders. Constitution of India came into effect on 26th January 1950. Article 1 of the constitution of India, where under the entire state of J&K became the part of the territory of India and article 370 giving a Special Status, were applied to J&K in 1950. The constitution (Application to J&K) Order 1950 was issued under article 370 in 1950.
This order applied 39 entries of the union list to J&K corresponding to the terms of the “Instrument of Accession” and enumerated the related provisions of the constitution which would apply to J&K with or without modifications.
The leaders of National Conference discussed centre state relations with the central government in 1952 and arrived at an agreement known as “Delhi Agreement”. The Constituent Assembly was formed and all the 75 seats were won by National conference, un-opposed by manipulation. SMA was dismissed on 8th of August 1953. During G.M. Bakshi’s rule, the constituent Assembly ratified J&K’S accession to India in 1954.
The recommendations of constituent Assembly were duly incorporated in the Indian Constitution through a Presidential Order in 1954. J&K constitution was adopted by the state constituent Assembly in 1956. And the constituent Assembly dissolved and J&K Constitution came into effect on 26-01-1957. Jurisdiction of Comptroller and Accountant General extended to the J&K and provisions relating to All India Services applied to the state. In 1959, the state assembly unanimously decided to seek amendment to the state constitution to provide for the extension of Election Commission of India and Supreme Court over the J&K State.
Accordingly in 1960, provisions relating to appeal to Supreme Court by special leave and jurisdiction of Election Commission of India were extended to the state. In December 1964, during G.M. Sadiq’s rule, Article 356 of constitution of India was applied, where under the President’s rule could be imposed in the event of the failure of the state constitution. In 1965 by virtue of Sixth Amendment of J&K constitution, the nomenclature of Sadri-Riyasat by the Governor and of the Prime Minister by Chief Minister were substituted and the constitution of J&K was reduced to mere piece of paper.
And in the following years, subsequently, all the successive governments dismantled the edifice of the article 370 and reduced it to shambles. It has breathed its last since and is now on artificial life support.
GST is non political issue largely involved with the collection of sales and service tax on uniform pattern through out the country avoiding tax war among the states.
The mainstream political leaders have never questioned application of Income Tax law which the eligible tax payers and even the retired govt. Servants of J&K are paying regularly. We must treat the GST(indirect tax) and IT as financial and fiscal matters rather than political. All the political parties have been raising the bogey of Art 370 to befool the people by exploiting and playing with their sentiments. The PDP and NC are two sides of the same coin and flourish with the blessings of the leaders of the national parties.
The other day, union Finance Minister in his address of the special midnight session of parliament on the occasion of GST launching function, made a special mention of the contribution made by A. R. Rather, N.C, Stalwart and X.F.M. in the process of making the GST possible.
The people of the Kashmir require, besides the constitution of Truth & Reconciliation Commission, also an independent autonomous Public Accountability Commission to investigate and find out how these politicians and officials of Government (retd/serving) have become rich from rags and accumulated huge assets, disproportionate to their known sources of income. The people of J&K are still dreaming and waiting for a government of their choice to come which can at least provide a transparent and good governance to ameliorate their economic condition and mitigate their sufferings.
—Courtesy: GK
[Writer is former IOK IGP]

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