(left) Girish Chandra Murmu being sworn-in as the first Lt. Governor of Jammu and Kashmir by Justice Gita Mittal, Chief Justice of J&K High Court, at a ceremony in Srinagar on Thursday. (PTI)
(Right) Radha Krishna Mathur (L) takes oath as the First Lieutenant-Governor of the newly-formed Union Territory of Ladakh in Leh on Thursday. (ANI)
Girish Chandra Murmu, Radha Krishna Mathur take reins of two new Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh
AS THE clock struck 12 and a new day beckoned, Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday transitioned from a State into two Union Territories with a wary Valley shutting down as it has for 88 days and Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying the “new system” is aimed at “building a strong link of trust”. President Ram Nath Kovind revoked President’s rule imposed in the restive state, long the centre of global attention, and took control of the administration of the two new Union Territories, Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.
This is the first time a State has been downsized into Union Territories, the two new entities taking the total number of Union Territories to nine and bringing down the number of States in India to 28. The move is in accordance with the Government’s August 5 announcement withdrawing the State’s Special Status under Article 370 and bifurcating the State into Union Territories. Girish Chandra Murmu in Jammu and Kashmir and Radha Krishna Mathur in Ladakh stepped into history as the first Lieutenant Governors of the new Union Territories. Jammu and Kashmir High Court Chief Justice Gita Mittal administered the oath of office to the new appointees, first in Leh and then later in the day in Srinagar.
Stepping into the record books as the first Lieutenant Governors of two new Union Territories, G C Murmu was on Thursday sworn in as Lieutenant Governor of Jammu and Kashmir and R K Mathur of Ladakh. The Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh, have been carved out of the State of Jammu and Kashmir, in accordance with the Government’s August 5 decision to revoke the Special Status of the State under Article 370 and bifurcate it into two UTs. Mathur took the oath of office in Leh and Murmu in Srinagar later in the day. Mathur, a 1977 batch IAS officer from Tripura and a former Defence Secretary, was sworn in by Jammu and Kashmir High Court Chief Justice Gita Mittal at the Sindhu Sanskriti auditorium in the Ladakh capital.
The function was attended by officials of the Leh and Kargil hill councils, army and paramilitary forces, religious leaders and the general public. The Chief Justice then flew to Srinagar to administer the oath of office to 59-year-old Murmu at the Raj Bhawan. Murmu, an IAS officer of 1985 batch from Gujarat, is probably the first official to be appointed Lieutenant Governor while he is still in active service. The expenditure secretary was due to retire at the end of the month. The warrant of appointment of Murmu was read out by Chief Secretary B V R Subrahmanyam. BJP’s Lok Sabha MP Jugal Kishore and Rajya Sabha MP and PDP member Nazir Laway were among the over 250 guests present at the function. Murmu, who belongs to Odisha, is a postgraduate in political science.
He worked closely with Prime Minister Narendra Modi as his Additional Principal Secretary during his tenure as Chief Minister. Mathur, who turns 66 next month, said a lot of development activity needs to be carried out in border areas. “Already, the Government is implementing several programmes in the region. The priorities for Ladakh will be set in the new regime in consultation with the public and hill councils,” an official spokesperson quoted him as saying. He said his experience of working in the backward and border areas in the capacity of the Chief Secretary of Tripura and the Defence Secretary will be useful. While Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir will have an elected Legislative Assembly and council of ministers headed by the Chief Minister for a period of five years, Ladakh will be directly governed by the Union Home Ministry through the Lieutenant Governor. Both the Union Territories will have a common High Court. Ladakh shall come under the ambit of the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC)for the recruitment of officers. Jammu and Kashmir will continue to have the Public Service Commission (PSC) as the recruiting agency for the gazetted services.
Government employees of the new union territories will start getting salaries and other benefits according to the recommendations of the seventh Pay Commission. This is the first time that a state is being converted into two UTs. The total number of states in the country will now be 28, while the total UTs will go up to nine. The Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir and the Ranbir Penal Code have ceased to exist from Thursday. In the Kashmir Valley, however, it was another day of shutdowns and tension with markets shut, deserted roads and children staying away from school as residents came to grips with the new identity of their homeland. “This is a decision against our interests. They have robbed us of our Special Status and our identity,” said Muzammil Mohamad, a resident of Srinagar’s Civil Lines area. Another local, Umer Zargar, described Kashmir as a disputed territory and India’s decision “illegal, immoral and unconstitutional”.