Srinagar: In a major decision, the Administrative Council of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) under the chairmanship of Lt Governor, Manoj Sinha, on September 13 decided to conduct elections to vacant Sarpanch and Panch constituencies.
An official spokesperson said as many as 1,089 Sarpanch and 12,168 Panch positions would be filled, and all ‘non- functional’ Panchayats would be made functional.
The BJP leadership both in J&K and in the centre have always held the firm conviction that empowering the local administrative bodies was crucial to improving the situation in J&K, particularly the Kashmir Valley which has been witness to the cycle of stone-pelting protests and counter-violence.
The Administrative Council formally approved the proposal of the Department of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj to issue a notification for conducting elections to vacant Sarpanch and Panch constituencies.
“The detailed schedule will be finalised by the election authority,” the spokesperson said.
Empowering the local panchayat bodies would go a long way in bringing about necessary socio-political changes in J&K and the village-level leaders will be empowered and will have ‘freedom’ to work on developmental works as per local requirements. Of course, this would end the “monopoly” of a section of leaders who have enjoyed power in the past.
Filling of the vacant constitutional posts will ensure devolution of powers and proper grass-root planning in the 3rd-tier of the Local Self Government.
It will ensure that the non-functional Panchayats become functional.
Officials said earlier, general elections to 39,521 Sarpanch and Panch constituencies in 4,483 Halqa Panchayats were conducted in 2018 of which 13,257 positions are vacant due to resignation, removal, the election of Sarpanch as BDC Chairpersons, deaths, and non-availability of candidates at the time of the election.
The elections to the vacancies notified earlier were postponed due to security concerns and the onset of COVID-19.
Notably, the 73rd constitution amendment that gave immense functional autonomy and financial powers to the panchayats in other parts of the country could not automatically become applicable in Jammu and Kashmir because J&K previously had its “own Constitution”.
However, Article 370 was amended on August 5, 2019, and J&K was also bifurcated creating the centrally-administered Union Territory of Ladakh.
It is generally argued at the political and bureaucratic level that the local people in J&K expect the panchayats to work on drainage, village roads and other rural infrastructures. But in the absence of power and money in the past had often denied the desired results.