Lok Sabha Passes J&K Official Languages Bill, Rajya Sabha Passes FCRA

Parliament of India. Image - YinYang, Getty Images/iStockphoto

The Lok Sabha on Tuesday passed the Jammu and Kashmir Official Languages Bill, 2020 with voice vote, allowing Kashmiri, Dogri and Hindi, apart from the existing Urdu and English, to be official languages in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.

Speaking on the Bill, Union Minister of State for Home G. Kishan Reddy said that it was a demand of the people of Jammu and Kashmir that the languages they speak should be official languages of the UT.

Since 53.26 per cent of people in Jammu and Kashmir speak Kashmiri, there was a need to include it as the official language of the state, he said.

The minister added that people in Jammu and Kashmir speak as well as write Kashmiri, so there is no problem in including it as an official language.

As per the Bill, Kashmiri will be the official language along with four other languages — Dogri, Hindi, Urdi and English.

Reddy said that 26.64 per cent of the people in the UT speak Dogri, while Urdu, which is currently an official language, is spoken only by 0.16 per cent the population.

The minister said while the government is not against any regional language, the Bill gives importance to those 70 per cent people who speak Kashmiri and Dogri in the UT.

For the last 70 years, Urdu has been the official language of Jammu and Kashmir, he said, adding that 2.36 per cent of the population in the UT speaks Hindi.

Opposing the Bill, Hasnain Masoodi of National Conference said the Central government did not have the legislative competence to frame a Bill in this regard.

He said it is not a fact that only 0.16 per cent of the population in J&K speaks Urdu which is a link language between the Jammu region and the Kashmir Valley.

Masoodi asked that if only 0.16 per cent people in the UT speak Urdu, why would the government include it as an official language. No other state has five official languages, he added.

Participating in the discussion, Union minister Jitendra Singh said that he was surprised as the National Conference is opposing the inclusion of Kashmiri as an official language because his party ruled in the region for almost 60 years on the name of “Kashmiriat”.

“You have exposed yourself in front of Kashmiris by going against the language,” he said.

The Bill was later passed by a voice vote with Masoodi as the only Opposition member who objected to the draft legislation.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah later said in a tweet that it was a momentous day for the people of Jammu and Kashmir. “With this historic Bill…Long-awaited dream of the people of J&K comes true! Kahmiri, Dogri, Urdu, Hindi and English will now be the official languages of J&K.”

Under the Bill, Shah said that special efforts will be made for the development of major regional languages like Gojri, Pahari and Punjabi.

Along with this, the Bill will also strengthen the existing institutional structure for the promotion and development of regional languages.

Lauding the efforts of Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his commitment towards restoring the culture of Jammu and Kashmir through this Bill, Shah said that he wants to assure his sisters and brothers in Jammu and Kashmir that the Modi government will leave no stone unturned to bring back the glory of the erstwhile state.

The Rajya Sabha on Wednesday passed a Bill sans opposition making Aadhaar mandatory for registration of organisations receiving foreign funds, and also to give the government powers to stop utilisation of foreign funds by an organisation through a “summary enquiry”.

The Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2020, which seeks an amendment to the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010, proposes to include “public servants” in the prohibited category and decrease administrative expenses through foreign funds by an organisation to 20 per cent from 50 per cent earlier.

“The Bill ensures that the NGO has to open mandatory an account in the SBI FCRA branch to receive funds and then one more account to another bank of choice, for this they don’t have to travel to Delhi but the nearest SBI account will facilitate the opening of account in New Delhi,” said Minister of State of Home Nityanand Rai.

It has also sought to prohibit any transfer of foreign contribution to any other association or person. Amendment of section 17 of the Act has sought to provide that every person who has been granted a certificate or prior permission under section 12 shall receive foreign contribution only in an account designated as ‘FCRA Account’.

There was a need to streamline the provisions of the earlier Act by strengthening the compliance mechanism, enhancing transparency and accountability in the receipt and utilisation of foreign contribution worth thousands of crores of rupees every year and facilitating genuine non-governmental organisations or associations who are working for the welfare of the society.

He gave an example of the amendment made in 2010 when administrative expenses were reduced to 50 per cent, then also a demand was made to reduce it up to 10 per cent. He said P. Chidambaram had then mentioned that 10,000 crore of the foreign contribution is not even audited.

The Minister said the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010 was enacted to regulate the acceptance and utilisation of foreign contribution or foreign hospitality by certain individuals or associations or companies and to prohibit acceptance and utilisation of foreign contribution or foreign hospitality for any activities detrimental to the national interest.

Criminal investigations also had to be initiated against dozens of such non-governmental organisations which indulged in outright misappropriation or mis-utilisation of foreign contribution, he said. Seeking to amend clause (c) of sub-section (1) of section 3 of the Act, the government has proposed to include “public servants” within its ambit, to provide that no foreign contribution shall be accepted by them.

Earlier, it was restricted to Legislators, election candidates, journalists, print and broadcast media, judges, government servants or employees of any corporation or any other body controlled or owned by the government.

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