Panchayat Polls: J&K Govt Sets Ball Rolling

Srinagar: The Jammu and Kashmir government has set the ball rolling for Panchayat polls in the state by approving promulgation of an ordinance that empowers the Chief Electoral Officer to hold elections.

The Cabinet in its meeting chaired by Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti yesterday accorded sanction to the promulgation of the Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj (Amendment) Ordinance to amend the state Panchayati Raj Act, 1989, an official spokesman said.

The elections to the Halqa Panchayats were held in 2011 and its 5-year tenure expired in July 2016.

For conducting fresh elections of the Halqa Panchayats, the process has been initiated; hence the need had arisen for promulgation of an Ordinance, as it related to elections to panchayats and delimitation of Halqa Panchayats, the spokesman said.

“For the purpose of holding general election under this Act in the year 2017, the superintendence, direction and control of the preparation of the electoral rolls and conduct of, all election in accordance with this Act shall vest in the Chief Electoral Officer”, he said.

Under this act, the power to determine and delimit Halqa Panchayats in accordance with this Act shall vest in the Chief Electoral Officer, he added.

NC Demands Delimitation Commission

Jammu: Rejecting the on-going delimitation of panchayats in Jammu and Kashmir as a politically motivated process, Provincial President National Conference Mr Devender Singh Rana  on Tuesday sought an empowered Delimitation Commission headed by a retired judge of the High Court to reorganize the Panchayats and their Wards in a time bound manner.

“The current process being carried out by lower rung officials of the rural development is just a farce and mockery of democracy”, Mr Rana said while addressing a press conference at Sher-e-Kashmir Bhavan this afternoon. He said the government should go ahead with the conduct of Panchayat elections as per schedule but the hush hush manner in delimiting these units would be strongly resisted.

He blamed the PDP-BJP combine for trampling the spirit of three-tier democracy by weakening the grass roots level decision making institutions as per a sinister political strategy. Not only the Panchayats and wards are being redrawn as per political expediencies of the ruling alliance but the ultimate decision has been left to lower level functionaries of the rural development department, he said, adding that this move has evoked immense resentment in rural areas.

Elaborating on the clandestine delimitation of panchayats, the Provincial President said the composition of wards is being manipulated to suit the political interests of the coalition partners. He said such an exercise will defeat the purpose of empowering village communities, who hold key to rural development and emancipation. He expressed surprise over seven-day time frame allocated for completing the so-called delimitation process, saying this will really be a Herculean task for the agency charged with this responsibility, especially as most of the areas remain land-locked due to weather vagaries. He sought immediate rescinding of the government circular issued in this regard and reiterated the establishment of Delimitation Commission that could undertake the exercise in a fair, transparent and rational manner in true democratic spirit.

The Provincial President also referred to illogical reference point of 2011 Census for carrying out delimitation of Panchayats even as 2017 legal and duly notified voter lists were available. He called for making 2017 voter lists as referral point for redrawing Panchayats and Wards by way of delimitation. “We vociferously demand that 2017 base datum to be made referral point”, he said.

Rana questioned the intent of PDP-BJP dispensation with regard to strengthening the grass root level democratic institutions in the state and referred to the measure of indirect election of Sarpanches by undertaking amendment to &K Panchayati Raj Act 1989 last year. “The amendment was totally unwarranted as the Act of 1989 was introduced in the Legislative Assembly after studying various models in various states across the country”, he said, adding that this piece of legislation had withstood test of times and was widely acclaimed as a model Act worth emulation. He blamed the coalition partners for demolishing institutional mechanism due to their myopic political understanding and lack of support at ground zero.

Expressing concern over dispossessing the farmers of their meagre holdings, under their possession for decades, the Provincial President urged the government to represent the case in appropriate judicial forum by putting it in a right perspective. He said the holders, having girdawaries for decades, cannot be uprooted overnight and denied of their sustenance.  He said those with a few marlas of land were being dispossessed while such of the holders in possession of big chunks of holdings were enjoying impunity. Mr Rana referred to the concern among poor farmers and hoped that the gravity of the situation will be appreciated and necessary steps take to safeguard their interests.

On the linking of Aadhar with distribution of food grains through CAPD outlets, the Provincial President questioned the rationale behind such move when most of the people in Jammu and Kashmir are yet to get their cards due to non-payment of dues to the agency designated to issue unique identification numbers.

He said the government should first ensure every citizen to get Aadhar Card and then only implement its ‘imaginary’ plans. “Linking Aadhar with utility services without covering the population under the scheme is hilarious”, he maintained.

“Keeping in view the efficacy of Aadhar for availing of various benefits like opening of bank accounts, direct transfer of funds on LPG subsidy, Jan Dhan Yojna, seeking of passport, digital lockers, linking of voter cards, drawl of pensions, provident fund and various insurance covers, the government should take measures on war footing basis to ensure issuance of cards to every citizen”, he said adding that he had raised this issue in the Legislative Assembly as well.

The Provincial President cautioned the coalition government against anti-people and anti-poor measures, saying the patience of the masses should not be taken for granted. He said National Conference will remain in the forefront to fight for the just cause of people, irrespective of caste, creed or colour.

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