Jammu: Cutting across party lines, the newly elected district development council (DDC) members on Tuesday boycotted a two-day training-cum-workshop here and staged a protest in support of their demand for better status and monthly honorarium.
The protest came a day after the Jammu and Kashmir administration amended its warrant of precedence, placing the DDC chairpersons equivalent to administrative secretaries, vice chairpersons to vice-chancellors of universities and the DDC members to district magistrates.
The members, affiliated with different political parties including the BJP, the National Conference, the Congress, the PDP, the CPI(M) and independents from across the Union Territory, gathered as per the schedule at the Convention Centre here for the training programme, scheduled to be inaugurated by Lt Governor Manoj Sinha.
However, they boycotted the programme and staged a massive protest in the lawns against the administration demanding better protocol and monthly honorarium, including ministerial status for the DDC chairperson and minister of state (MoS) status for vice chairperson.
As per the government order, the DDC chairpersons would get monthly honorarium of Rs 35,000 including Rs 1,500 travel allowance and Rs 500 telephone charges. Vice chairpersons will get Rs 25,000 including Rs 1,500 travel allowance and Rs 500 telephone charges and members will get Rs 15,000 including Rs 1,500 travel allowance and Rs 500 telephone charges.
Secretary Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Sheetal Nanda made repeated attempts to hold dialogue with the slogan-shouting protesters, who termed the government order as “crude joke” with them and sought the intervention of the central government and the Lt Governor.
“We have unanimously decided to boycott this programme and lodge our protest. We want the administration to review its wrong decision and accord ministerial status to the chairperson, MoS status to vice-chairperson and members to a status as given to MLAs,” DDC chairperson and senior BJP leader Bharat Bushan told reporters.
DDC chairperson from Budgam Nazir Ahmad Khan said the government has played with their honour by lowering their status and left them red faced before their electorate.
“The Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC) chairpersons are conferred with the cabinet status and members are enjoying MOS status. The Srinagar and Jammu mayors also enjoy the MoS status, while as we are representing the entire district and given a status of an administrative secretary,” he said.
Khan said the government issued the order of precedence deliberately ahead of the training programme to put a seal on it.
“We will not accept it…the situation in Kashmir is grave where we have to live under constant threat and accompany by our personal security officers (PSOs) and feed them as well. We spend Rs 3,000 to Rs 4,000 per day,” he said, adding this is not an issue of any party but “we have joined hands to protect our honour”.
Another DDC chairperson Ghulam Mustafa Khan said, “If we were not given our rights, how come we protect the rights of our people who have voted for us. The government has disgraced us and by this order of precedence conveyed a message that we have no importance which is not acceptable to us.”
He said the monthly honorarium announced by the government would encourage corruption.
DDC member Taranjeet Singh demanded the immediate intervention of the central government and the Lt Governor in addressing the issue.
“We will continue our protest till our demands are met, he said.