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CIVIC POLLS: Govt counts rewards, says ready for risks ; elected Bodies to get Rs 4335 cr for development

Srinagar, Sep 25: Amid poll-boycott, the government on Tuesday claimed that people are “enthusiastic” for participating in the civic elections in the state.

“People are enthusiastically waiting for urban local bodies and panchayat elections in the state. Over 700 nomination forms have already been issued for municipal polls. People want to participate in polls for strengthening of the grassroots level,” Chief Secretary, B V R Subrahmanyam, told a press conference here.

 

The government has announced holding of 4-phase urban local bodies and 9-phase panchayat elections in the state. The Urban Local Bodies (ULB) polls would be held on October 8, 10, 13 and 16 while panchayat polls would be held on November 17, 20, 24, 27, 29 and December 1, 04, 08 and 11.

Two main regional parties, the National Conference (NC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have decided to boycott the elections as they have asked the Government of India to clear its stand on the issue of Article 35A. The Hurriyat has also called for poll-boycott.

Over threats by militants, the Chief Secretary said that government would make adequate security arrangements for the polls.

“Around 400 security companies are being brought from outside for the polls.  There are security issues in few areas of south Kashmir but government will take care,” he said.

Subrahmanyam said that state would face a huge loss of centre’s grant; if the polls are not held. “Under 14th Finance Commission, the panchayats will lose Rs 3,029 crore and urban local bodies Rs 1,306 between 2015 and 2020, if the elections are not held in the state,” he said.

Similarly, he said that there are 79 urban local bodies and 1200 wards.

“Each panchayat has to get around Rs 22 lakh, smaller ones Rs 15 lakh and bigger ones Rs 30 lakh. Under 14th Finance Commission, each panchayat will get Rs 50 lakh to one crore each.  Similarly, each municipality will get Rs 2 crore and even larger municipalities like Srinagar and Jammu will get Rs 15 crore. They will be more powerful bodies,” he said.

The Chief Secretary also announced one month additional salary to all the government employees who will be on poll duty.

Over safety of candidates, he said that government has booked 300 hotel rooms in Srinagar and similar arrangements would be made in other districts too. “We will provide them all facilities like vehicles and security,” he said.

He said each Panchayat will have an accountant for keeping books while an Ombudsman will be appointed for transparency and accountability.

Chief Secretary said there are 4,490 Panchayats in the state and as many Sarpanches are to be elected. The total number of Panchs in the state will be 35,000. There will be around 39,500 elected representatives in these Panchayats, he said.

Subrahmanyam also said that there are 79 urban local bodies and about 1200 wards — 600 each in Kashmir and Jammu region.

On the poll-boycott by NC and PDP, he said, “Governor Rule cannot decide the Article 35A. It is a complex issue and has to be discussed after government is elected in JK. The hearing is in January and the elections will be over then.”

“As far as Article 35-A is concerned, the Governor (Satya Pal Malik) has gone on record multiple times and he has clearly said that this is not an elected government and it would be right if an elected government within the state actually fights the case in the Supreme Court,” he said.

He said there was no link between the timing of holding panchayat elections in the state and deferment of hearing of the PIL challenging Article 35-A before the Supreme Court.

“There have been multiple postponements of the hearings of Article 35-A in the Supreme court before and after the panchayat elections were announced. It is just accidental that the case is listed in January and the panchayat elections are to be completed before that,” he said.

The Chief Secretary said the Governor’s administration is going to be consistent in its stand before the apex court that an elected state government should fight the case.

Asked when the assembly polls will be held in the state, the Chief Secretary said let higher authorities decide it.

The Urban Local Body (ULB) polls will be conducted in four phases starting October 8, whereas the Panchayat polls will be held in 9-phases from November 17. He said the notifications for all the eight Phases of Municipal Polls have already been issued by the Chief Electoral Officer, J&K which would be now followed with notifications for Panchayat Polls.

 

Another Panchayat ghar set on fire; 8th such incident in valley

Srinagar, Sep 25: A panchayat ghar was set on fire in Bandipora district of Jammu and Kashmir, taking the number of such government buildings being torched since the announcement of the local bodies polls in the state to eight, police said Tuesday.

“Unknown miscreants tried to set ablaze a panchayat ghar at Matrigam Tikri in the Pehthkote area of Banipora district in north Kashmir Monday,” a police official said.

He said the fire resulted in partial damage to the building.

Fire tenders were rushed to the spot as soon as the news of the incident was received, the official said.

He said this was the eighth such incident in which a panchayat ghar has been set on fire since the polls for municipal bodies and panhcayats were announced in the state.

Most of these buildings were set on fire in south Kashmir, the official said, adding that the police have registered cases in all the incidents and investigations were on.

Separatists and militants have asked people to stay away from the polls, which have also been boycotted by the state’s two main political parties – the National Conference and the PDP – and also by the CPI(M).

The violence has also cast a shadow on the polls, scheduled to be held in October and November, respectively.

Three cops were abducted and later killed by militants in Shopian district of south Kashmir, following which several special police officers (SPOs) of Jammu and Kashmir announced their resignation on social media.

Director General of Police Dilbagh Singh and the valley’s top army official Lt Gen A K Bhatt Monday reviewed the security situation ahead of the polls at a meeting at Handwara in Kupwara district of the state.

The senior security officials emphasised that the existing cooperation and synergy between different forces is to be further strengthened to combat militancy and also to ensure smooth conduct of the local governance elections. (PTI)