A number of chief ministers of the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir state had written to the Centre to waive off the charges, urging that the security of the region be considered a national issue

Srinagar: The massive presence of Central Armed Paramilitary Forces (CAPFs) in Jammu and Kashmir is proving to be a burden on its exchequer, as it owes more than Rs 4,600 crore to the forces on account of their deployment here for the past 11 years.

The Centre has billed the local government for the deployment charges since 2009, a year after the 2008 Amarnath land agitation that marked the return of street protests in Kashmir. Apart from the large concentration of paramilitary forces, Jammu and Kashmir also has a massive presence of Army and local police.

Deployment Bill

In a startling disclosure, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has revealed that Rs 4,648.48 crore was pending from the J&K government as on July 1, 2020, on account of the deployment of CAPFs in the Union Territory.

In its reply to an application filed under the Right to Information Act (RTI), the MHA has disclosed that Rs 1,132.89 crore has been outstanding from J&K government as on December 31, 2014.

A Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) officer patrols an empty street during a lockdown on the first anniversary of the revocation of Kashmir’s autonomy, in Srinagar August 5, 2020. Photo: Reuters/Danish Ismail

According to the ministry’s response, Rs 480.36 crore was raised from J&K administration in 2015 for the deployment of CAFPs, Rs 511.70 crore in 2016, Rs 512.88 crore in 2017, Rs 783.30 crore in 2018, Rs 869.69 crore in 2019 and Rs 357.66 crore for the first six months of 2020.

The deployment charges are raised from states and Union Territories as per the rates fixed annually by the MHA.

In the ongoing financial year, the ministry charges Rs 15.40 crore per annum for the deployment of one battalion in a normal area, Rs 26.88 crore per annum for high risk and moderate hardship zones, and Rs 35.96 crore per annum for high risk and high hardship zones.

But Jammu and Kashmir UT, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and left-wing extremism-affected states have to pay only 10% of these charges.

No Takers For J&K’s Pleas

Citing J&K’s “poor financial condition and insurgency and law and order situation” successive regimes in J&K had requested the Centre to waive off these charges, but their repeated pleas went unheeded.

In 2013, then chief minister Omar Abdullah took up the matter with then Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde. But the Centre conveyed to the state government that this cannot be done. In 2015, then chief minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed had written to Union home minister, Rajnath Singh, to do away with charges “keeping in view the volatile situation of the state”.

In the RTI reply, the MHA has also revealed that J&K government’s repeated pleas for waiving off deployment charges were turned down.

“… It is stated that requests have been made by the Government of Jammu & Kashmir from time to time for exemption from bearing the cost of deployment charges bill on account of deployment of CAPFs. The requests were examined in the Ministry, but not agreed in view of the conscious decision taken by the central government to charge only 10% of the deployment cost from Government of J&K which means 90% exemption and J&K government which is required to bear only 10 % of the cost on account of deployment of CAPFs,” reads the MHA’s reply.

Quoting its letter dated September 6, 2019, the MHA further stated that that North-East region states, J&K, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and left-wing extremism-affected areas will have to pay only 10% of the cost on account of deployment of CAPFs.

Massive Presence of Central Forces

Like Army, the paramilitary forces were deployed in large numbers in Jammu and Kashmir after the outbreak of armed conflict in the former state. The CRPF has a permanent deployment of 60-65 battalions in Jammu and Kashmir for law and order and counter-insurgency duties.

According to the report presented by the department-related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs in 2018, 26% of the total strength of CRPF was deployed in Jammu and Kashmir for maintenance of law and order and fighting militancy.

Out of 235 battalions of CRPF, 61 battalions were deployed in J&K, the report had revealed.

During disturbances and extraordinary situations, like in 2008, 2010, 2016 and 2019, thousands of additional CRPF personnel are moved in for the maintenance of law and order.

The forces from other paramilitaries like Border Security Force (BSF), Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB), Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) were also rushed to Kashmir in August 2019 when the Central government stripped the erstwhile state of its special status.

‘No Justification For bill’

Former security officials and politicians said that Centre should waive off these charges given the extraordinary situation Jammu and Kashmir has been facing since 1989. Former director general of police of Jammu and Kashmir, SP Vaid, said that Centre should waive off these charges “because terrorism is a national problem”.

“I agree with the Jammu and Kashmir government’s view on the matter as terrorism is a national problem. It is not a Jammu and Kashmir-specific problem,” he said.

Member of parliament from Anantnag Lok Sabha seat, retired Justice Hasnain Masoodi, said that there is no justification for seeking deployment charges from the Jammu and Kashmir administration.

“It is totally illogical and unjustified on part of the Centre to ask Jammu and Kashmir to pay for resolving a problem triggered by it,” he said.

He alleged that development packages announced by the Centre for Jammu and Kashmir from time to time are being utilised for deploying security personnel.

“There is hardly anything for welfare and development of common Kashmiris in these packages,” he said.