Online open, 3.7 lakh get domicile in a month, 78% of them in Jammu

In the month following the launch of the online mode for applying for domicile certificates in the Union Territory under the new rules, over thrice as many people from Jammu have been granted the same as compared to Kashmir.

While the majority of the 3.7 lakh-odd granted domicile certificates are already permanent residents of the Union Territory, a significant proportion have been given out to those who despite living or serving in the state for years were not considered residents of the state due to provisions of Artice 35A, which now stands repealed.

Sources in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said that between June 22, when the online facility was launched, and last week, over 2.9 lakh people were granted domicile certificates in Jammu against 79,300 in the Valley.

Apprehensions had been expressed by some quarters that the change in domicile rules for J&K, stripped of its special status on August 5 last year, was meant to force a demographic change in the Union territory by allowing entry to outsiders.

Sources said the domicile certificates issued are proportionate to the applications received. “There is no region-specific delay. More applications have been received from Jammu so more certificates have been issued there,” a J&K administration official said.

The domicile certificates make people eligible to apply for jobs and admission into educational institutions in the Union territory, and officials believe a majority of applicants aim for the same.

Among those who have received domicile certificates are West Pakistan refugees, numbering over 20,000, nearly all of whom are reportedly covered now, and 2,000-odd sanitation workers brought and settled in the state but never accorded basic rights like voting. “They were denied citizenship and hence access to education and jobs,” an MHA official said, adding that 700 Gurkhas too have been provided domicile certificates.

As per the new rules that came into force in May this year, people who have been living in J&K for 15 years, those who have studied in the Union territory for seven years, or appeared in Class 10 or 12 examination from an educational institution in the region, as well as their children, are eligible for domicile. Also eligible are children of officials of the Central government, all India services, banks and PSUs, statutory bodies and Central universities, who have served in J&K for 10 years.

Besides, all Permanent Resident Certificate holders are automatically eligible.

Despite the setback due to Covid-19, sources said, domicile certificates were not the only matter on which the government has kept its promise. “The most significant change has been the amendment extending the benefits of reservation to many deserving categories. Paharis had been demanding it for decades, and are now eligible for 4% reservation. Economically Weaker Sections will get 10%, the income ceiling for backward classes has been increased from Rs 4.5 lakh per annum to Rs 8 lakh, and benefits have been extended to residents along the International Border. Also reservation in the Assembly has been extended to Scheduled Tribes,” the MHA official said, adding that the government had also begun disbursing Rs 5 lakh financial assistance to West Pakistan refugees.

The official claimed there had been a 262 % increase in minority scholarships, with over 4.76 lakh beneficiaries since August last year, a 100 % jump in SC/ST pre-matric scholarships, and 20% increase in OBC post-matric scholarships with over 7.42 lakh beneficiaries overall (including minorities).

On the job front — a key concern among locals post Article 35 A, that empowered the J&K legislature to define its permanent residents and their special rights and privileges — the progress has been more tardy. At the time of the abrogation of Article 370, the administration had announced that 50,000 posts would be filled up soon. But, with over 84,000 vacancies, the government has only just begun recruitment for the first phase, for 10,000 posts.