Jammu And Kashmir Budget
On February 5, 2024, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented the Jammu and Kashmir budget in the Lok Sabha. This marked her fifth consecutive budget estimate for the Union Territory (UT) of Jammu and Kashmir since the transformative reforms of August 2019. The budget reflects the government’s commitment to accelerating and inclusive growth, empowering its citizens, and fostering socio-economic development.
One of the key focuses of the Jammu and Kashmir government is strengthening good governance and grassroots democracy. In 2020, the 73rd Amendment to the Constitution was adopted, amending the Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Act 1989. This amendment aimed to decentralize governance in rural areas, providing three crucial ‘F’s – funds, functions, and functionaries – to the Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs). Additionally, 27 subjects were transferred to these institutions, empowering them in local planning, decision-making, and supervision.
Strengthening Public Outreach
Since the re-organization, Jammu and Kashmir has embarked on the ambitious Back to Village (B2V) program. This program aims to reach out to people at the grassroots level, understand their needs, and address their grievances. Five rounds of the B2V program have been conducted from 2018-19 to 2023-24. Administrative Secretaries, Heads of Departments, Gazetted Officers, and other Government Officers have regularly toured all 4291 panchayats, engaging in detailed interactions to redress the grievances of the common people.
Comparison of Economic Commitments
The disparity in financial commitments between India’s budget for Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan’s IMF bailout highlights the contrasting approaches to economic development and support. India’s investment in Jammu and Kashmir is part of a broader strategy to promote decentralized governance, inclusive development, enhanced revenue generation, and infrastructure development within the Union Territory. These efforts have been made possible due to the path-breaking reforms undertaken since 2019.
Pakistan’s IMF Bailout
Meanwhile, Pakistan is navigating through its economic difficulties with the help of the IMF. In January, the Washington-based financial body approved a $3 billion bailout package for Pakistan, struggling with financial constraints. A recent tranche of $700 million was released under this bailout package after the IMF completed its first review of Pakistan’s economic reforms. This review focused on the country’s performance during the initial three months of the fiscal year, from July to September 2023, allowing for continued support from the IMF.
Significance of the Budget Announcement
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman unveiled the interim budget on a symbolic day, as Pakistan observed “Kashmir Solidarity Day.” The timing of the announcement not only reflects India’s resolve to prioritize the economic upliftment of Jammu and Kashmir but also serves as a message of commitment to its integral territories.
Legal Reforms for Social Justice
Prior to the constitutional reforms of 2019, the people of Jammu and Kashmir were deprived of the benefits of important central legislations. These legislations include the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009; the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013; the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006; the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1954; the Whistle Blowers Protection Act, 2014; and the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015. The government has taken steps to ensure that these legislations are now applicable in Jammu and Kashmir, promoting social justice and inclusivity.
The Jammu and Kashmir budget for 2024 reflects the government’s commitment to the accelerated and inclusive growth of the Union Territory. Through decentralizing governance, strengthening public outreach, and implementing legal reforms for social justice, the government aims to empower its citizens and foster socio-economic development. These initiatives are crucial in shaping the destiny of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and opening doors to new aspirations.