VDC Members in Jammu Up in Arms, Demand Salary

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Jammu- Members of Village Defence Committees (VDCs), which serve as security arch to defend remote and hilly villages in Jammu and Kashmir on Saturday staged a protest demonstration outside the BJP headquarters here demanding the release of their pending salaries.

The VDC members claimed that they were not given salaries for the last three years.

The protesters, who have come from different districts, threatened to boycott the District Development Council (DDC) elections, scheduled to be held in eight phases beginning November 28, if their pending salaries were not released by then.

As many as 4,125 VDCs exist in J-K and their work is to ensure the safety and security of the identified villages along the borders as well as in interior areas besides guarding the infrastructural installations in and around the villages.

The VDCs were set up in the mid-1990s with an aim to strengthen the security of those living in remote and mountainous areas of Doda, Kishtwar, Ramba, Rajouri, Reasi, Kathua and Poonch districts.

We are holding a peaceful dharna in support of our demand for release of our salaries which are pending for the last three years. We have raised the issue with the BJP leadership about a month back but nothing happened till date our families are facing starvation, Ajay Kumar, one of the protesters, said.

He said they had come to the BJP office to meet the party leaders but were denied entry by the security staff on the pretext that the leaders are busy in connection with the DDC elections.

We want to convey to the government and the BJP that we will boycott the DDC polls if our pending salaries were not deposited in our bank accounts by November 28. We also want the administration to adjust us as Special Police Officers (SPOs) whose wages have been increased to Rs 18,000 from Rs 5000, Jagdesh Singh Thakur, a resident of Doda, said.

Ashok Singh, a resident of Kathua district, said it is unfortunate that the BJP-led government at the Centre is ignoring the community which has served the country over the past three decades to fight militancy

We have guns provided by the government but no wages. The government should come out with a proper policy for our rehabilitation, he said.

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Press Trust of India

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