With Center’s nod to DDCs, J&K to have three-tier panchayati raj system first time since 1947

Abid Bashir

Srinagar (NVI): The stage is all set for the District Development Council (DDC) polls in J&K that will complete the three-tier Panchayati Raj System in the UT, for the first time since 1947.

Yesterday, the Central government amended Jammu and Kashmir’s Panchayati Raj Act, 1989, to establish District Development Councils (DDCs) in all districts in the union territory.

Last time, Panchayati polls were held in the UT in 1975 but the process remained incomplete as elections remained confined to Panchayati Raj act only. Reliable sources told NVI that consultations are on between J&K administration and are on to finalise dates for DDC polls.

The two-tier panchayati elections stand completed in J&K already and DDC polls will complete the three-tier panchayati raj system in the UT.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) last night issued an order under “The Jammu & Kashmir Re-Organisation Act-2019” to amend the Panchayati Raj law.

Under the new mechanism, each district in Jammu & Kashmir will have 14 territorial constituencies for electing members of the district development councils, which will pave the way for establishing three-tier Panchayati Raj system in the Union Territory.

These territorial constituencies will be spread over the areas other than those falling within the limits of municipal corporations, councils and committees.

“For each district there shall be a district development council, having jurisdiction over the entire district excluding, such portions of the district as are included in a municipality or municipal corporation constituted under any law for the time being in force,” read the amendments in the law.

As per the amendments, only elected members of territorial constituencies will have voting rights to elect or remove chairmen of district developments, even as MLAs of J&K UT and chairpersons of block development councils will be members of DDC.

“All members of district development council, whether or not elected by direct election from territorial constituencies in the district shall have the right to vote in the meeting of the district development council,” the law states.

The term of DDCs shall be five years except for holding common elections to all the tiers of the Panchayats simultaneously so that all the tiers have co-extensive terms in the district.

The provision of disqualification for elected members of DDCs shall be similar to those applicable to members of Halqa Panchayats.

According to the law, chairperson or vice-chairperson shall be deemed to have vacated his office forthwith if a resolution expressing want of confidence in his favour is passed by a majority of not less than two third of the directly elected members of the district development council at a meeting specifically convened for the purpose in the prescribed manner on the grounds of gross misconduct, neglect of duty and few other reasons.

The amendments further state every district development council shall comprise of standing committee for finance, standing committee for development, standing committee for public works, standing committee for health and education and standing committee for welfare.

The law further states that every district shall also have a district planning committee comprising of the members of parliament representing the area, members of the state legislature representing the areas within the district, chairperson of the district development council of the district, chairpersons of the town area committees/municipal committees of the district, president of the municipal council/municipal corporation, if any, district development commissioner, additional district development commissioner, district statistics and evaluation officer, chief planning officer and all district level officers shall be ex-officio members of the committee.

The Member of Parliament representing the area shall be the chairperson of the committee, the amendments further reveal. Commissioner Secretary Rural development department J&K Sheetal Nanda said that this will be for the first time that J&K will have a three-tier panchayat raj system in place. “We will get the dates soon as consultations are on. This is a historic step to take the governance at the door steps of people in districts, blocks and panchayats  across J&K,” she said.

-ARK