SRINAGAR: Governor N N Vohra has returned to state government for clarification a bill which was passed by both houses for an amendment to Panchayati Raj Act, allowing indirect election of Sarpanches by Panches instead of a direct election.
“Regarding Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj (Amendment) Bill, 2016, as certain issues of vital importance to the decentralized democratic framework are involved, the Governor has asked the State Government to furnish certain clarifications,” an official spokesman said here.
A political storm broken out over passage of the amended Panchayati Raj Bill in state legislature with opposition mainstream parties accusing the PDP-BJP government of making all-out efforts to weaken the panchayati raj system in the state.
Largest opposition party, National Conference (NC), even petitioned the Governor NN Vohra, urging him to withhold his assent to the amendment to the Panchayati Raj Act, 1989.
In a memorandum to Vohra, the NC had claimed the amendment shall “trample the spirit of people being real masters of their destiny” as the indirect mode of electing sarpanches (village heads) would amount to “murder of democracy”. The state Congress had already opposed the amendments to the Bill, saying that it “will bring drastic changes in the panchayati Raj system, which will go against the spirit of the 73rd Amendment of the Indian Constitution.”
State president of the All Jammu Kashmir Panchayat Conference (AJKPC) too described the Bill as a “black law to weaken and eventually crush democracy at the grassroots.”
“The indirect election of sarpanches instead of being elected by the people will only encourage money and muscle power, besides giving birth to several malpractices. This is a black law and will be opposed tooth and nail,” the AJKPC had said.
PDP-BJP alliance minister for Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Abdul Haq Khan had maintained that such a system was in place till 1996 and the system never failed.
“The election of sarpanches by electorate has created a problem in the field as it has been found that in larger number of cases there is a rift between panches and sarpanches.
“Sarpanches get elected directly and there is lack of confidence from the panches on him and vice-versa which hampers the process of implementation of various schemes on the ground level and accordingly it has been felt to amend the provision of the Act.”
Meanwhile governor N.N. Vohra has accorded assent to the following Bills passed by the State Legislature: these include: (i) Jammu and Kashmir Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupation (Amendment) Bill, 2016; (ii) The Jammu and Kashmir Civil Laws (Special Provisions) (Amendment) Bill, 2016; (iii) The Jammu and Kashmir State Commission for Backward Classes (Amendment) Bill, 2016; (iv) The Jammu and Kashmir Brick Kilns (Regulations) (Amendment) Bill, 2016; (v) The Jammu and Kashmir Chit Funds Bill, 2016; (vi) The Jammu and Kashmir General Sales Tax (Amendment) Bill, 2016.