October 20, 2020

Re-organisation of the Divisions; Criterion & benefits

Before October 22.1947 the State of J&K comprised of 12 Wazarats ( Distts) apart from 02 Jagirs of Punch & Chenani & 02 Governorates one each at Srinagar and Jammu ( Divisions ) spread over an area to the extent of 222236 Sq. kms, as cartographed by Britishers, & inhabited by a population of 40.21 lakh(1941) which by now in all the 04 parts of the erstwhile State has risen to 46 Districts & 09 Divisions for combined population of 180 lakhs.The institution of Governor subsisting till fifties was replaced by Commissionerate & from 1963 it got the nomenclature of Divisional Commissioner. While the areas across LOC have witnessed exponential accretion in the no of administrative units the position on our side of LOC is at best a steady one but can’t & doesn’t stand in comparison with the other side both on the basis of population and the terrain.Gilgit Baltistan has 14 Distts & 03 Divisions servicing a population of 15 lakhs ( 2017) spread over 72971 Sq kms, Muzafferabad- Punch- Mirpur Jhelum Basin 10 Distts & 03 Divisions with 40.5 lakh (2017) population on the territory measuring 13297 Sq. kms, Ladakh 01 Division & 02 Distts with 59146 Sq kms area for population of 02.74 Lakhs ( 2011) & the remaining JK with population of over 122 lakhs covering territory measuring 42241 Sq kms left with 02 Divisions & 20 Distts. The readers may find discrepancy in the quantum of territorial jurisdiction of the 04 units of administration exhibiting 72971+ 13297= 86268 Sq kms with Pakistan as against 78114 Sq kms in JK Digest of Statistics 2015-16 & 38850 Sq kms claimed in possession by China viz 37555 Sq kms in aforementioned Digest excluding 5180 Sq kms of Shaksgam tract.
Having developed in dialects, customs and visible minor climatic variations, the three divisions should be carved out from existing Kashmir Division and these could be Maraz Anantnag (5382 Sq kms) consisting of Distts Anantnag, Kulgam, Shupyn and Pulwama- Srinagar(3599 Sq kms) with Srinagar, Budgam & Ganderbal Distts – and Kamraz Baramulla (6967 Sq kms) having Distts of Baramulla Kupwara &Bandipora- by including territories from Maraz & Kamraz situated on Southern & Northern sides of Srinagar in close proximity of Srinagar Division in public interests.
Region & regional entities: Geographic region entails commonality in physical, cultural and human characteristics especially ethno-linguistic grouping within the territory inhabited by it besides religion, cuisine, social habits, population distribution, music & arts and political system. Geographically J&K consists of plains, the foothills, the peer Panchal range, the Valley of Kashmir, the Great Himalayas, the upper indus river Valley & Karakoram range.within the above Zones/ranges the Experts have sofar carved out 04 regions by amalgamation for technical and practical reasons and on the basis of popular aspirations,intra-regional mobility & natural features. These regions are 1)sub-mountane & semi- mountainous loop, 2)the outer Hills, 3)the Jhelum Valley and 4)indus Valley. The Distts of Kathua, Samba, Jammu & Udhampur & Sub- Division Reasi fall in the first- Kishtwar, Doda, Ramban & Mahore & Dharmadi sub-Divisions of Distt Reasi in second- entire Kashmir Valley and Punch- Rajouri as Jehlum basin in third and Leh & Kargil in fourth but by according pre-eminence to ethnicity and language, within the natural geographical features, the regions emerging are Jammu, Chenab Valley and Peer Panchal in existing Jammu Division.Jammu comprises of sub-mountane and semi mountainous Loop measuring 8385 Sq kms + Reasi sub-Division,,chenab Valley (Outer Hills) spread over 11885 Sq kms+ Mahore & Dharmadi sub-Divisions of Reasi Distt&Peer Panchal (Jehlum basin of Punch & Rajouri Distts) on area to the extent of 4034 Sq kms. Kashmir Valley (Jehlum Valley) formed on 15948 Sq kms & Ladakh( Indus Valley/ Himalyian Hinterland) spread over 59146 Sq kms are another 2 regions in geographical connotations. The Divisional set-up in JK was/is neither regional nor sub- national entity oriented. The Jammu Division consists of three distinct geographical regions having nothing in common except Gulab Singh, the feudatory of Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Sikh Empire, holding Jammu as Vassal of the Sikh empire invaded the two regions of Chenab Valley and Peer Panchal and occupied them as part of expansionist policy pursued ruthlessly by the Punjab Empire and on conclusion of the Treaty of Amritsar these two regions were annexed formally as part of Jammu by Gulab Singh, the Maharaja.Chenab Valley (Doda) is temperate with 65.74% Koshur population, 11.24% Gojer, 5.56% Dogra, 4.45% Pahari and remaining others.Peer Panchal (Rajouri) partly temperate and partly sub-tropical is inhabited by 56.10% Pahari population, 38.46% Gojer, 3.78% koshur & 1.07% Dogra.Historically these two regions have more often than not been paying tributes in cash & kind to the kings and Queens of Kashmir as their Principalities except during the integrenum of Sikh rule.However in 3rd region known as Jammu including sub-Divisions Mahore, Dharmadi and Aknoor the Dogras constitute 79.38%, Koshur 5.79 %,Gojer 6.51%, Punjabi 5.11% & Pahari 2.55% and the entire Loop falls in sub-tropical zone except Lohi Malhar areas in Kathua bordering Bhaderwah sub-Division of Doda & the sub-Divisions of Mahore and Dharmadi otherwise falling in proposed Chenab Valley on geographical grounds. Earlier Kashmir Division included Leh & Kargil Distts of Ladakh despite geographic, ethnic & linguistic diversities & the State Govtt in mid eighties of twentieth century had formulated a plan for carving this region out of Kashmir Division but for disagreement between the leadership of Kargil and Leh about the headquarters of the proposed Division. The elected Govts in the past moreso in JK used to be sensitive to public opinions and interests& therefore weighing options for policy decisions resulting into minimum public outcries and it is in this background that the grant of Divisional status to Ladakh remained in limbo. In principal the Kashmir Valley is a homogeneous geographical entity inhabited by 88.34% koshur population, 6.45% Gojer & other tribals, 3.97% Pahari and 0.72% Punjabi but since the reorganisation of the Divisions has public services as the ultimate target the size of population would demand delineation of portions for the purpose of carving out the Divisions. The inhabitants of Valley do subscribe to the effectiveness of the administrative system of the gone by era when it was regulated by its division into two territories namely Maraz and Kamraz and in changed scenarios, more so due to the trilateralness, not easily discernible. Having developed in dialects, customs and visible minor climatic variations, the three divisions should be carved out from existing Kashmir Division and these could be Maraz Anantnag (5382 Sq kms) consisting of Distts Anantnag, Kulgam, Shupyn and Pulwama- Srinagar(3599 Sq kms) with Srinagar, Budgam & Ganderbal Distts – and Kamraz Baramulla (6967 Sq kms) having Distts of Baramulla Kupwara &Bandipora- by including territories from Maraz & Kamraz situated on Southern & Northern sides of Srinagar in close proximity of Srinagar Division in public interests.
Sense of belonging: Post Independence the identities surviving the vivisection from times immemorial are under threat of extinction from Centralists who pursue an agenda for laying down a new social order targeting the Unsubsumable identities, an impediment in evolving by coercion an unscientific pan India identity of their liking. J&K is no exception to the pattern in vogue in rest of the country and infact has been a victim of impositions by deceitful methods resulting into emergence of Buddhist identity to Ladakh alienating remaining 52% population whose Balti, Purkhi & muslim moorings they are disinclined to part with. Like Jammu as a Dogra Desh; Kishtwar, Bhaderwah, Rajouri, Punch & others as constituents of Chenab Valley and Peer Panchal do figure in their respective historical records as Principalities/ independent entities but a mythological narrative about a king in Jammu imposed on them under a devious administrative hierarchy forcing them to relinquish their glorious past linked with their commonalities in culture, history and geography.Just as the Indus as identity is fast depleting the exotic landscape introduced in the nation & State debates in Pakistan the creation of another four Divisions and their nomenclatures deep rooted in history and geography of the respective regions shall undeniably be a catalyst for rediscovering their respective past leading to emergence of a new layer in the multiple scripts of identities with far reaching political & social positivities for a peaceful sub-continent. The rural- Urban ( two Capitals) centric migration coming to halt is a veritable reality, thereby the imaginary threats of demographic assaults getting buried substantially for a long time, should not escape the attention of policy formulators. The new structure for rugged and distanced terrains in most of the territories, situated as they are beyond the gaze of officialdom ensconced in Capital cities, shall additionally display more in terms of monitoring, proper & timely utilization of funds, optimal & productive exploitation of human resources and above all services & availability of Govtt functionaries far nearer than the existing artificiality besides being in sync with the Survey & Land Records Divisions. The cumulative output of the fusion of geography, history, local bureaucracy at least at cutting edge levels and political set-ups concentrated at their respective areas, instead of being saddled in the Capital cities, shall prove a catalytic deterrent against forces of anarchy. One knowing and acquainted with JK can well imagine what the adoption of the proposed rationalisation would mean, simply put- monumental otherwise sooner or later the demands in Chenab Valley and Peer Panchal atleast for UT status on the analogy of successful campaign of Buddhist Association in Leh Distt of Ladakh.
Funding & the substitutes: The spectre of funding can be surmounted to a great extent by adopting the substitutes available from a staggering 4.20 lakh Govt employees except one time allocation of funds for creation of infrastructure and other logistics centrally at each of the four places for proposed commissionerates and other regional offices. The size & composition of offices need not be on the analogy of the country wise positions where the average population at Divisional & Distt level is 40 to 110 lakhs & 10 to 26 lakhs respectively. UP has 18 Divisions,75 Distts and 20 lakh employees for a population of 19.95 Crores, Gujarat 33 Distts & 5.28 lakh employees for population of 6.03 Crores & Haryana with population of 2.53 crores for 3 Divisions & 22 Distts serviced by 2.5 lakh Govtt employees. An ideally suited parallel is Himachal Pradesh having 3 Divisions & 12 Distts with 2.20 lakh employees for 68.64 lakh population @ 23 & 5.5 lakh population approximately at Divisional and Distt level respectively.once normative base is fixed for staffing of all Divisional & District offices in the entire UT the manpower requirements for 4 new Divisions can be met with by integration & merger of sister Deptts and deployment of surplus staff & other assets including re-designation of posts customized for the new set-up which shall be a landmark in optimum use of all resources for generating a new administrative system with minimum financial inputs.
Advisory: The rationalisation in administrative set-up can’t materialise overnight and as such the stakeholders together could meanwhile lend operability to the concept by forming regionally Bar Associations, Traders Federations, and Industries & Commerce Chambers, Employees &Workers unions, Cultural fora and Student Unions. The Political parties’ particularly State level may also constitute regional units in conformity with the proposed reorganisation plan.

(The author a retired senior IAS officer of J&K cadre is former Chairman of erstwhile J&K State Public Service Commission -J&K SPSC. Views are exclusively his own) aaluzdeva_221256 @ymail.com

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