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As Govt prepares for BDC polls: 61% of panch, sarpanch berths vacant in Kashmir

Monitor News Bureau

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Srinagar, Oct 1: For the first time since the 2018 Panchayat elections in Kashmir, the government has revealed that 61% of the total Panch and Sarpanch berths across the valley are lying vacant.

Last Sunday when the state chief electoral officer Shailendra Kumar shared the details of the upcoming Block Development Council (BDC) polls, he also mentioned about the vacant panchayat seats.

The Jammu and Kashmir government held panchayat elections in Kashmir last December for which the Centre complimented the state administration for the “successful” polls.

 

However, number show that approximately 61% of panch and sarpanch seats across 10 districts of Kashmir are lying vacant.

In the Valley’s 137 blocks, there are a total of 19,582 panch and sarpanch seats. But only 7,528 of these positions were contested and subsequently, according to the data Kumar revealed at a press conference her on Sunday. Kumar said that 12,054 (61.5%) of panch and sarpanch berths – almost double the number of elected representatives – are still empty.

The number of vacant seats in Kashmir is far more than in Jammu and Ladakh, where just 103 and 24 positions, respectively, are vacant.

In Jammu’s 148 blocks, of the 181,82panch and sarpanch positions, 18,089 were contested and subsequently filled. Similarly, in the 31 blocks of Ladakh, of 1,630 positions for panchayat representatives, 1,606 were filled.

In response to a question, Kumar said a decision on filling vacant positions will be taken after polls for constituting block development councils (BDCs) are completed. Interestingly, the electoral college for the BDC polls comprises those holding panch and sarpanch positions.

The nine-phase elections were held in November-December 2018, amid unprecedented security arrangements after militants threatened participants with dire consequences. The elections, which began on November 17 and concluded on December 12, did not see any violence.

The electoral exercise was held seven years after the last panchayat polls in J&K, and nearly a month after urban local body elections in the state last year.

Kashmir had recorded 44.4% electoral participation in the panchayat polls, compared to 86% participation in Jammu.

During the entire election process, there was a complete information blockade about candidates and the political parties they belonged to. The candidates were non-existent on the ground, and in official communications each of them was identified by a number instead of a name. There was no canvassing and the contestants in the fray didn’t hold a single rally.

Meanwhile, during the press conference, Kumar said the BDC polls and counting of the votes will take place on October 24. This will be the first electoral exercise to be held in Kashmir after the Centre read down Article 370 of the constitution and approved the bifurcation of the state into two union territories.


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Reorganization of JK: Legislative Council abolished after 62 years

Monitor News Bureau

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Srinagar, Oct 17:  Curtains came down on 62-year-old Legislative Council after Jammu and Kashmir government issued formal orders for its abolition and asked 116-member staff to report to General Administration Department.

The order was issued on Wednesday night, less than a fortnight before the state is divided into two union territories –Jammu Kashmir and Ladakh.

 

Jammu and Kashmir will be a union territory with Legislative Assembly. Ladakh will be a union territory without legislature.

According to the order, the 116-member staff of the council has been asked to report to the General Administration Department (GAD) by October 22.

The Centre had on August 5 abrogated the provisions of Article 370 of the Constitution which granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir.

In his order, Secretary of GAD Farooq Ahmad Lone directed transfer of all vehicles purchased from time to time to the director state motor garages and handing over of the building of the council along with furniture and electronic gadgets to the director estates.

The 36-member state council was established in 1957 after an act was passed by the Parliament. The council functioned was an upper house for the 87-member state assembly.

“Consequent to the abolition of the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Council in terms of Section 57 of Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Act, 2019, it is ordered that all the staff of the state legislative council shall report to the GAD by October 22,” the order said.

All records pertaining to the Council Secretariat including related legislative business shall be transferred to the Department of Law, Justice Parliamentary Affairs by the secretary, the order added.

Earlier in February this year, the State Administrative Council (SAC) under the chairmanship of Governor, Satya Pal Malik approved taking up the matter with the Election Commission of India (ECI) regarding the proposal for holding of elections to vacant seats in the J&K Legislative Council.

Explaining importance of the Legislative Council, former Congress MLC GN Monga said the members would discuss important issues in the Legislative Council.

“Like Raj Sabha, Jammu and Kashmir had the Upper House which was called Legislative Council. This House would pass important bills, discuss yearly budget then pass it. Its members would raise public issue and were trying to resolve them,” said Monga.

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Centre kicks off process to attract private investment in JK

Press Trust of India

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New Delhi, Oct 17: Centre has formally kicked off the process to attract the private investment in Jammu and Kashmir.

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the details of government’s policy to attract more investments in Jammu and Kashmir would be available very soon.

 “We have started working in terms of making sure that the full potential of Jammu and Kashmir from various different aspects (is achieved)”, she said.

 

Sitharaman made the comments while responding to a question during an interactive session with investors at the IMF headquarters. The event was organized by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry and US India Strategic and Partnership Forum.

The minister listed out the investment possibilities Jammu and Kashmir carries in different sectors like tourism, fine arts, handicrafts, wood work, carpets, silk, production of saffron and apple.

“I think sooner the details of it (new policy) will be available,” she said.

On August 5, Centre scrapped Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and bifurcated the state into two Union Territories — Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.

In his address to the nation after revoking the special status, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said state companies as well as private companies will be encouraged to create jobs for the local youth in the region.

“So very many things are all being put together to see how best a plan can be done, “Sitharaman said.

Sooner, some kind of pattern would be worked out between the union home ministry and finance ministry and announced.

Work is on, she said, while responding to a question from a Dubai-based investor who is trying to mobilise funds to invest in Jammu and Kashmir.

“I want to know from your perspective, after the change in this state, is there any special consideration being given to a State that has historically missed out on global and international investments?” she was asked.

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History will take note of those who ridiculed abrogation of Art 370: PM

Press Trust of India

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Beed, Oct 17: Hitting out at Opposition, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday said history will have a mention of those who ridiculed the abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir.

“History will take note of every person who ridiculed the abrogation of Article 370. We removed Article 370 for the country, and not for politics. Whenever Article 370 is discussed in the future, every person who’s made fun of the decision, who has stood against and challenged it, would be discussed,” Modi said while addressing an election rally at Parli in Maharashtra’s Beed district.

 Prime Minister was addressing first of his three rallies in the state that goes to polls in October 21. His other two rallies are in Satara and Pune later in the day. Pankaja Munde, minister in state cabinet and daughter of late party leader Gopinath Munde, is locked in a tough fight from Parli against her cousin Dhananjay, who is contesting on a Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) ticket.

 

 “A Congress leader had said this decision will destroy the country.  Three months have passed, has the country been destroyed? Another Congress leader said that we’ve lost Kashmir by abrogating Article 370, have we lost Kashmir? If you want to go to Kashmir let me know, I’ll make arrangements,” he said.

Urging voters to punish the Congress for it ‘misdoings’, he said: “The country can see through their scams and their fake remarks now. The country will punish them for their misdoings when the time comes, but Maharashtra has got the first opportunity to do it.”

Pitching for the re-election of the Sena-BJP combine in the state, Prime Minister said: “Today, if the whole state is behind the BJP-Shiv Sena government, it is because of the hard work we have put in in the last five years. On one side, there is the work-ethic of the current government, and on the other is the selfishness of the Congress-NCP leaders.”

Rajnath accuses Congress of internationalising Kashmir issue

Press Trust of India

Bawani Khera, Oct 17: Lambasting Congress, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday accused the party of internationalising the Kashmir issue.

Addressing a poll rally, Rajnath said Kashmir is an internal matter.

Defence minister said a Congress leader recently met Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn in London and held a discussion on the issue of alleged human rights violations in Kashmir.       

“I want to ask Congress leaders where human rights violations are taking place. Human rights violations were taking place when terrorist activities were occurring (in Kashmir). Why did not you speak at that time?” he asked the Congress.       

“I want a reply from the Congress. Kashmir is our internal matter. Will there be a discussion on it in other countries… Will you be discussing Kashmir matter in other countries?” Rajnath asked.

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