India

Indian media: Row over Kashmir's special status

Jammu and Kashmir's chief minister has slammed suggestions that the state's special status could be revised Image copyright AFP
Image caption Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has slammed suggestions that the state's special status could be revised

Newspapers are discussing a row that has erupted over the special status of the restive state of Jammu and Kashmir which borders Pakistan after a senior government official suggested that it could be revised.

"Jitendra Singh, Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office, dropped a clanger on Day Two of his job when he talked about the need to rethink Article 370 of the constitution - the article that gives Kashmiris the right to decide which laws legislated by India's Parliament will apply to them," says the Firstpost website.

This has caused "a political storm" in Kashmir Valley, with the state's Chief Minister Omar Abdullah saying that "either the article will remain on the statute book, or Kashmir won't be a part of India", it adds.

The Hindustan Times reports that his words prompted an immediate reaction from Ram Madhav, a senior leader of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a powerful Hindu nationalist organisation that provided crucial support for PM Narendra Modi's election campaign.

Mr Madhav said that Jammu and Kashmir would always be an integral part of India with or without the provision.

Opposition Congress, on the other hand has termed the call for a debate on the issue "a cheap political stunt" by the BJP-led government, aimed at making "electoral gains in the forthcoming state elections", says a report in The Tribune.

But commenting on the row on the Firstpost website, columnist R Jagannathan argues that "article 370 is an anachronism in today's globalising world, where people and capital move freely pursuing their best interests. The law acts as an impediment to Kashmir's economic and social integration not only with the rest of India, but the world."

Fighting 'black money'

Media in India welcome the creation of a special investigation team (SIT) to track down "black money" as a long overdue measure.

The Times of India underlines the fact that setting up a task force to seize illicit funds, most of which are deposited in tax havens abroad, was "the first move" of the new BJP-led administration.

"The last few governments, in fits and starts, have tried to move towards a simpler tax policy supported by moderate tax rates. Any serious fight against black money needs to be built on this foundation," the paper advises.

According to the Hindustan Times, "the size of the black money economy is estimated to be one-third of the current GDP".

"A crackdown… has been long overdue," says the paper.

The cabinet of Narendra Modi has "scored a major political point", writes the Deccan Chronicle. It adds, however, that "it is natural to be cynical about what the SIT can achieve".

The daily recalls that a committee headed by MC Joshi, a former chairman of the Central Board of Direct Taxes, "indicated two years ago that the two big parties (presumably Congress and BJP) spend between them about $7bn in election expenses alone every year".

"Can a satisfactory account be given of where such monies come from, and where they are parked, if leading parties are under suspicion?" the paper asks.

The Tribune is also unconvinced about the new task force. "It is easier to curb tax evasion at home by simplifying taxes than going after black money abroad," the daily argues.

"Discourage nepotism"

Meanwhile, "in a move seen as a bid to clean up the administration", Prime Minister Modi has asked members of his administration "not to have their relatives as personal staff in the ministry" in order to "discourage nepotism", The Hindustan Times reports.

"Mr Modi wants his team to practice probity in public dealing. He is leading from the front. He even did not invite his family members for the swearing in ceremony," a cabinet minister tells the Hindustan Times.

"This is unprecedented and shows Modi's intent to ensure that none of his ministers fancies a 'hidden agenda'. It also proves that Prime Minister Narendra Modi runs a tight ship," DNA newspaper comments.

BBC Monitoring reports and analyses news from TV, radio, web and print media around the world. For more reports from BBC Monitoring, click here. You can follow BBC Monitoring on Twitter and Facebook.

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