SRINAGAR: The State Administrative Council (SAC) led by Governor NN Vohra on Thursday directed the Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Department to begin the process for holding panchayat polls in Jammu and Kashmir. The department would have to consult the J&K Chief Electoral Officer for the poll process.
During the PDP-BJP government, the governemnt had made a sudden announcement to conduct panchayat elections from Feb 15 following a meeting between then chief minister Mehbooba Mufti and Governor NN Vohra. The polls are pending since July 2016.
The state has 35,096 panchayat constituencies and they elect an equal number of panchs. Of the total constituencies, 18,785 are in Kashmir, where additional deployments of security forces would be required given the situation of anti-government unrest.
An official spokesperson said that Vohra told the SAC that holding of elections to panchayats, the institution of local self-governance at the village level, will be revived in the state and it would result in inclusion and percolation of benefits of decentralised planning at the grassroots level. “It will also ensure greater participation of people in planning and formulation of area-specific policies and programmes and hence their involvement in decision-making process,” the spokesperson quoted the Governor as saying.
Vohra along with his advisors BB Vyas, K Vijay Kumar and Khurshid Ahmad Ganai, besides Chief Secretary BVR Subrahmanyam, also cleared the proposal for amending the Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Act 1989, for conducting elections of Sarpanches of Halqa Panchayats directly by the electorate of Halqa Panchayats and not by indirect method of electing Sarpanches from among the Panches themselves.
“This will restore the original position in the Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Act, 1989, which provided for direct elections of Sarpanches, a position altered by an amendment passed in 2016,” the official statement said.
It said that the amendment was necessary to restore the primacy and importance of the Sarpanches in the Panchayati Raj system and giving them the necessary legitimacy to be able to discharge their functions.
“This provides stability in the Panchayati Raj System and ensures accelerated development which meets local needs. Direct elections also make the Sarpanches accountable directly to the people rather than to an intermediate group. Further, this amendment brings the spirit of the 73rd Constitutional Amendment to the Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Act,” it added.