Panchayati Raj Amendments Divide AJKPC Leaders

Jammu: The rift within All Jammu and Kashmir Panchayat Conference (AJKPC), a premier body of elected panchayat representatives, came to light on Tuesday with its chairman and president making different statements on the recent amendments in the Panchayati Raj Act.

While a faction headed by AJKPC president Anil Sharma earlier welcomed the amendment and said the people of the union territory were waiting for over 70 years to see real empowerment of the local bodies , its chairman Shafiq Mir described the amendment as an attempt to disempower the newly established Panchayati Raj System in the Union Territory.

The Jammu and Kashmir government had on Saturday amended the Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Act to provide for setting up of District Development Councils (DDC) in each district which will have directly elected members.

The DDCs of each district shall have 14 constituencies after their delimitation by the respective deputy commissioners, an official spokesperson had said, asserting that the move marked the implementation of the entire 73rd Amendment Act in the UT.

Flanked by several Block Development Council (BDC) chairpersons including Arun Kumar Sharma, Surinder Kumar Bhagat, Sarshad Natnoo, Brijeshwar Singh and Aftab Ahmad Beig, AJKPC chairman Mir demanded a rollback of the amendments and said by such order, doors have been opened for political activists to enter this institution which is clear injustice and has demoralised the panchayat leaders .

Not only this, by this amendment, the elected BDC chairpersons will not have any right to vote or to contest the district chairman election which is against the spirit of Panchayati Raj Act, Mir, who is also BDC chairman from Bufliaz in Poonch district, said.

On the other hand, AJKPC president Anil Sharma welcomed the recent amendments in the J&K Panchayati Raj Act and said the people of the union territory were waiting for over 70 years to see “real empowerment of local bodies”.

He, however, cautioned the panches and sarpanches to remain vigilant from “negative forces who are always inimical to India and democracy and might mislead the public on one pretext or other”.

Sharma congratulated Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah for taking such historic and courageous steps to empower the panchayati raj institutions in Jammu and Kashmir.

“All the people of Jammu and Kashmir were waiting for over 70 years to see real empowerment of local bodies and it is time to celebrate when the decision is announced to give real autonomy to rural local bodies,” he told reporters here.

Calling it a “historic move”, Sharma said “with these amendments, all major provisions of 73rd Amendment of Indian Constitution have been extended to Jammu and Kashmir. This is what panchayat members had been fighting for”.

Sharma said around 40,000 elected panchayat members of the union territory are hopeful and request the union government to immediately announce the elections of the vacant panchayat seats and also hold parallel polls of the territorial district constituencies.

He also demanded that these elections must be conducted on non-party basis as panchayati raj institutions are meant for community development and must not be dragged into political issues.

“The AJKPC is also hopeful to get good news soon with regard to constitution of separate Election Commission and Financial Commission for panchayats as they have been promised that the government is mulling to constitute a separate Election Commission that would hold timely elections of panchayats without any interference from the regional government,” he said.

Sharma also paid homage to all those panches, sarpanches and Block Development Council (BDC) members who laid down their lives for strengthening this institution and demanded adequate relief to the family members of those who were killed during the last 10 years.

Without identifying anyone, he said panches and sarpanches need to remain vigilant from negative forces who are always inimical to India and democracy.

“These individuals and organisations might mislead people and panches, sarpanches or the BDC chairperson on one pretext or the other (with regard to the recent amendments),” the AJKPC president said.

Criticising the previous governments at the Centre and in Jammu and Kashmir, he said they had only made “hollow promises” with people, especially with the elected panchayat members but none of them were sincere to strengthen them.

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