SrinagarDespite passing of one and half month after All Party Meeting on the issue, the Jammu and Kashmir government is still undecided over the holding of Panchayat polls in the state.
On February 4, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti chaired an all-party meeting to hear the views of all parties after which the government said that cabinet will take the final call.
The senior PDP leader and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Abdul Rehman Veeri had informed Legislative Assembly in Jammu that the final call on holding of panchayat polls would be taken by the state cabinet.
However sources told KNS that although, several cabinet meetings were held since then, but no decision has been taken on this important issue yet. The Panchayat elections issue did not rise in the cabinet meetings, an official in the civil secretariat told KNS and added that there is still confusion whether the Panchayat polls will be held or not.
The panchayat polls were scheduled to be held in 2016 but were deferred due to unrest in the Valley .The panchayat polls were also not held in 2017 due to tension in Valley over civilian killings and surge in encounters.
However on December 25 last year, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti made a sudden announcement that Panchayat elections in the State would be held from February 15.
Sources told KNS that the BJP was in favour of holding the panchayat polls in the State. There was a mounting pressure on the BJP leadership that polls should be across the state. Deferring polls indicate that government has succumbed to separatists and militants threats, the BJP leader had said.
However, PDP was not in favour of holding the panchayat polls in view of prevailing tension in Valley following the civilian killings in south Kashmirs Shopian district since January 24.
The opposition parties including National Conference and Congress have also questioned the government for making a sudden announcement of holding the panchayat polls.
The Panchayats completed their term in July 2016. Elections to Panchayats were last held in April- May 2011 during Omar Abdullah led National Conference-Congress regime after a gap of 37 years and record 79 per cent of voters had exercised their franchise.
J&K has 4490 panchayats with 35096 panch constituencies. The separatist leaders including Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mohammad Yasin Malik have called for boycott of the panchayat polls.
It is to mention here that the state is losing huge central funding due to non-holding of Panchayat polls. J&K will lose over Rs 4000 crore between 2015-2020, if Panchayat polls do not take place, sources said.
Sources told KNS that the Government of India has linked many grants to rural areas with elected Panchayats and it was mandatory for the Government to hold the elections to secure those grants. If the new Panchayats will be in place then the state Government can claim the grants that run into several crores and could do lot of development in the rural areas, sources maintained.
During previous Panchayat elections, there were 4098 Sarpanch and 29,402 Panch constituencies. The division wise constituencies included 2145 (Sarpanch) in Kashmir (including Ladakh) and 1953 in Jammu while there were 15767 Panch segments in Kashmir (including Ladakh) and 13,635 in Jammu.
It is also to mention here that Jammu and Kashmir Governor NN Vohra had promulgated an ordinance, by virtue of which the panchayat polls in the state were said to be held later the year. Vohra had given his assent to the promulgation of the Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj (Amendment) Ordinance, 2017. Governor had repeatedly been emphasising on the crucial importance of holding the panchayat polls for the establishment of a three-tiered framework of Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRI), had approved the promulgation of the ordinance, during the Darbar Move period, so that no time was lost in starting the preparations for the pending elections, the spokesperson had said.
Despite repeated attempts, the Panchayat Raj Minister Abdul Haq Khan could not be contacted for comments. (KNS)
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