CSC on autonomy seeks another extension27 December 2011
The Daily Excelsior
Jammu: The Cabinet Sub Committee (CSC) on Justice Sagheer Ahmed report (Working Group No. 5) pertaining to autonomy today sought yet another extension of three months from the Government as it failed to evolve a consensus on recommendations of the Group. The much awaited meeting of the CSC couldn't take place today due to lack of quorum as four out of eight members of the Committee didn't turn up as they had to attend last rites of veteran Congress leader and MLC Yash Pal Khajuria, who passed away last night. Finance Minister Abdul Rahim Rather, who heads the CSC, Revenue, Relief and Rehabilitation Minister Raman Bhalla, Industries and Commerce Minister Surjit Singh Slathia and Transport & CAPD Minister Qamar Ali Akhoon turned up for the meeting at 11 am today. Four other members of the Committee including Law & Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ali Mohammad Sagar, Tourism Minister Nawang Rigzin Jora, PHE, Irrigation and Flood Control Minister Taj Mohi-ud-Din and Health Minister Sham Lal Sharma were not present as they had gone to the house of Khajuria. The meeting was deferred in the absence of quorum, official sources said, adding that since extended term of the CSC is expiring on December 30, the Committee has decided to approach the Government for another extension before holding its next sitting. The Government had granted a three months extension to the CSC on September 30, which expires in next four days. 'It was not possible for the CSC to meet and finalise recommendations in next four days due to sharp differences on autonomy between National Conference and Congress, whose Ministers were divided on party lines', sources said, adding that, therefore, the CSC has decided to seek another extension. It may be mentioned that out of eight members of the CSC including its chairman, four each belonged to National Conference and Congress. While the National Conference outrightly stands for grant of autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir, the Congress Ministers were opposed to it. The Government has already extended term of the Committee four times. The Committee had now sought fifth extension. It has met 15 times during its term. The CSC had been citing that it required extension to evolve consensus on the report. Sources said the Cabinet Sub Committee has held threadbare discussions on Sagheer Ahmed Working Group report. However, they added, since the report was voluminous and very sensitive involving sentiments of all three regions of the State, the Committee members had to tread very cautiously to draft its report and make recommendations to the Government especially when both the parties had serious differences on grant of autonomy to the State. Justice Sagheer Ahmed Working Group had touched various sensitive subjects as it had been mandated by Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh to submit a report on strengthening Centre-State relations and other subjects of discrimination and problems faced by refugees. It had recommended autonomy for the State and a full and final decision on Article 370 of the Constitution of India, granting special status to the State. It had also made a host of other recommendations as per its mandate. Since the Congress, the major coalition partner of National Conference in the State Government had reservations over grant of autonomy to the State, the Cabinet had set up a Cabinet Sub Committee of eight Ministers, four each from National Conference and Congress to study the report and make its recommendations. Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh during first sitting of United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government had in March 2006 set up five Working Groups in the Second Round Table Conference on Jammu and Kashmir held in Srinagar. They include 'Working Group on Confidence Building Measures Across Segments of Society in the State', 'Working Group on Strengthening Centre-State Relations', 'Working Group on Ensuring Good Governance', 'Working Group on Strengthening Relations Across LoC' and 'Working Group on Economic Reforms'. Four out of five Working Groups had submitted their reports in April 2007 to the Prime Minister during third Round Table Conference on Kashmir held in New Delhi. However, report of fifth Working Group headed by Justice Sagheer Ahmed was delayed due to completely divergent opinions given by its members and was submitted by Mr Ahmed to Chief Minister Omar Abdullah in December 2009. The Chief Minister had later submitted the report to the Prime Minister.