India’s first home minister and the deputy Prime Minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel is probably remembered by every citizen for his way of uniting 562 princely states in India after its Independence. Today, being his 144th birthday the country is celebrating it as ‘National Unity Day’.
It is also a day that nullifies the implication of Article 35A and Article 370 of the constitution. This changes the status of Ladakh and Jammu & Kashmir as a separate Union Territory (UT). This is the first instance in India where a full-fledged state (Jammu & Kashmir) is converted into Union Territory. This is a long-time wish come true for the people of Ladakh.
There is an interesting narration on how Vallabhbhai Patel started integrating the princely states one by one. An audio clip of Patel’s speech from 1948 was played today at the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Sardar Patel’s birthday celebration function near Patel’s statue which is also referred as ‘Statue of Unity.’
At this event, PM dedicated the nullification of Article 370 to the ‘Iron Man of India’ to mark his 144th birth anniversary as a Unity Day.
The audio clip is a part of Patel’s speech from the State Advisory Board Meeting at Nagpur on 4th November 1948 where he said, ‘I want to put forth before you how I thought of uniting the princely states and merging them with India.’
The key changes of laws and institutions following this declaration over Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir are as follows:
– J&K will have its legislative assembly with an increased number of seats. The tenure of each government will be of 5years earlier which was six.
– Lok Sabha will have two MPs from Ladakh and five MPs from Jammu and Kashmir. Four members will continue to be the upper house members as it was earlier.
-A delimitation process will be carried out by the Election Commission in J&K to balance out the assembly seats. It is expected that this process will help to enhance seat count to 114 from 107 seats ( including 24 vacant seats of PoK).
-Laws that are passed by the parliament will apply to both Ladakh and J&K as earlier article 370 used to prevent the automatic application of parliament laws over the state.
-The other institutions that would have jurisdiction over the two newly declared UTs are:
- Scrutiny of the government expenditure by the Auditor General
- Rights of Sikhs and Hindus as minority communities
- Reservation of seats for SCs and STs in education, jobs, and legislature
- Panchayati Raj Institutions
- Indians from other states now have the right to own property and settle down in Ladakh or J&K
Most importantly with this new constitutional arrangement, Kashmiri women got freedom from Sharia which means they will not be denied from the right to inheritance if they marry a person from other parts of the country. Moreover, a Pakistani national will not be eligible for Indian citizenship just by marrying a Kashmiri woman.
In a nutshell, scrapping of article 370 and declaring Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh as new UTs will help to bring reforms and strive for better India.