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Polls will restore grassroots democracy in JK: Rajnath

State’s PHCs, primary schools, anganwadi centres under panchayats now

Press Trust of India

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New Delhi, Sep 28: Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh Friday said elections to panchayat and urban local bodies in Jammu and Kashmir, boycotted by the two major parties in the state, will be of “historic significance” in many ways and help “re-establish grassroots democracy”.

The home minister said in a statement that the central government will provide all support, including central forces, to help in the smooth conduct of the elections.

“These local body elections will have a historic significance in many aspects. The local bodies elections in Jammu and Kashmir will re-establish the long overdue grassroots level democracy in the state,” he said.

 

The polls to elect 4,130 ‘sarpanches’ (village headmen), 29,719 ‘panches’ (panchayat members) and 1,145 ward commissioners will be held next month.

The National Conference and the People’s Democratic Party have decided to boycott the elections, saying the central government is yet to clear its stand on Article 35A of the Constitution, which was challenged in the Supreme Court.

Urban local body elections were last held in 2005 and panchayat elections in 2011.  The home minister said the Jammu and Kashmir government has taken a number of decisions following a review meeting during his visit to the state on July 4-5. The most significant of them is the conduct of local body elections.

“The central government is providing all possible support to the state government for smooth conduct of these elections including deployment of central forces in sufficient numbers,” he said.

Singh said the elections will also pave the way for making available nearly Rs 4,335 crore of 14th Finance Commission central grants to the duly constituted local bodies.

“But for these elections, people of Jammu and Kashmir would have been deprived of these funds meant for their welfare,” he said.

According to Singh, local bodies are also being vested with significantly enhanced devolution of powers in line with best practices in the country and the polls will enable them to address most of the local issues in their jurisdictions.

The minister said the functions and functionaries of all 29 subjects transferred to panchayats under the 73rd amendment of the Constitution will also be transferred to the panchayats of Jammu and Kashmir. These include institutions like primary health centres, primary schools and anganwadi centres.

The home minister said financial powers of panchayats are being enhanced 10 times from Rs 10,000 to Rs 1 lakh.

Similarly, from Rs 25,000 to Rs 2.5 lakh for block councils, every panchayat will now get around Rs 50-80 lakh per year at its disposal for implementation of development schemes, the minister said.

To further strengthen the panchayats, additional posts are being sanctioned for accountant, data entry operator, block panchayat inspector and the like, he said.

The home minister said the Leh and Kargil Autonomous Hill Development Councils (LAHDC and KAHDC) have been strengthened and empowered to become the most autonomous councils in the country to address various issues being faced by people living in the remote areas of Ladakh region.

Article 35A was incorporated in the Constitution by a 1954 Presidential Order and accords special rights and privileges to Jammu and Kashmir citizens.

The Article has been challenged in the Supreme Court and the matter is still under its consideration.


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LOK SABHA ELECTIONS: Tight security in central Kashmir as Srinagar seat goes to polls today

Firdous Hassan

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Srinagar, Apr 17: Three central Kashmir districts have been put on high-alert and there is tight security bandobast for the polls for Srinagar Parliamentary seat to be held on Thursday. 

The government forces, both police and paramilitary, have been put on high alert particularly in Srinagar district, where 857 polling stations in 408 locations have been declared “hypersensitive”.

On Wednesday, government forces in huge number were deployed in Srinagar city, where many areas were sealed with barricades and barbed wires.

 

Throughout the day, heavy movement of forces’ vehicles was seen in the capital city as they were heading towards different locations for guarding the polling booths.

Adjacent to the Sher-i-Kashmir International Cricket Stadium here, a huge number of the forces was deployed, who had closed the road leading towards the city centre.

At Karanagar, the road was also sealed by the forces as the polling staff in Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) office was deployed to other areas.

In downtown’s Nowpora, Rajbagh in uptown, the forces laid the barbed wire on the road to prevent people using the route in view of the election related arrangements.

A police officer said a multi-layer security has been already put in place for Srinagar city in particular, which has many volatile areas.

“We have put all our installations and security forces personnel deployed on the ground on a high alert. They will continue to remain so until the general elections are over in Srinagar,” he said.

“Senior officers too will be deputed on ground to prevent any sort of protest or untoward incident,” the police official said.

Many check-points have been placed in Srinagar outskirts as well, where vehicles entering the city are being thoroughly checked.

“Area domination and night patrolling has been already there in the city for the last three days,” he said.

Deputy Commissioner Srinagar Shahid Iqbal Chaudhary said the police and CRPF personnel have been deployed in polling booths in Srinagar district.

“There are 1,710 polling stations in Srinagar and sufficient deployment of forces is done to guard the booths. Besides Macro-observers are deputed in all the polling booths and one zonal magistrate will be heading 10-12 booths,” he said.

“A voter helper, cameraman and videographer will be deputed in every polling booth to report adherence to Modal Code of Conduct,” Chaudhary said.

Similarly in Ganderbal and Budgam districts, district SPs, the commandants of armed police battalions have been also engaged with the security arrangements.

In Budgam, heavy contingents of forces have been deployed outside polling stations and highway to facilitate the movement of polling officials.

“Additional companies of central armed forces have been deployed at polling stations throughout these three districts,” the police official said.

In Ganderbal, an equal number of forces personnel have been deployed to prevent any untoward incident during the poll day.

The police and paramilitary contingents, as per officials, have already reached the polling stations at the time of filing this report.

Srinagar LS seat has 12, 90,318 electorates who will cast their votes at 1,716 polling stations set up in the constituency.

In 2017 by-election, only seven percent voters turned up to exercise their franchise. The day witnessed large scale violence in which nine civilians were killed.

Director General Police Dilbagh Singh on Wednesday said that all security and balloting arrangements are in place in both Srinagar and Udhampur parliamentary constituencies going to polls Thursday this week.

DGP said, “Contingents of police and paramilitaries as required for peaceful conduct of polls have reached the concerned areas in both Srinagar and Udhampur parliamentary constituencies where polling is scheduled to be held Thursday this week.”

Saying that security has been tightened in sensitive areas of Udhampur, Marwa, Dachan and Kishtwar areas of Udhampur parliamentary constituency, Singh said, “Polling parties have also reached their concerned areas and security contingents are taking care of their security.”

Saying that security arrangements have been beefed up in Srinagar parliamentary constituency comprising three central Kashmir districts of Srinagar, Ganderbal and Budgam, DGP said, “Though some posters have appeared in some areas of Srinagar parliamentary constituency but those creating fear among voters by pasting posters on walls and buildings will be strictly dealt under law and voters are appealed to come out to vote at their polling stations without any fear.”

‘Elaborate arrangements put in place to prevent bogus voting’

Srinagar, Apr 17: In order to ensure smooth conduct of polls in Srinagar Parliamentary Constituency which is going to polls under second phase of polling on April 18, the authorities have put in place elaborate arrangements across the district.

The multilayered arrangements including flying squads, micro-observers and videographers besides zonal and sector magistrates have been deployed to ensure fair, free and transparent polling. District Election Officer, Dr Shahid Iqbal Choudhary said that to ensure complete transparency and fairness in polling is the foremost effort of the authorities and for this elaborate arrangements have been put in place everywhere.

The DEO said that instances or complaints of bogus voting can be reported to squad heads for 18-Hazratbal segment at 9419010054, 19-Zadibal segment at 9419019289, 20-Eidgah segment at 9622449422, 21-Khanyar segment at 9797212195, 22-Habba Kadal segment at 9419016652, 23-Amira Kadal segment at 9419434432, 24-Sonwar segment at 9419068011 and 25-Batamaloo segment at 7006974031.

The complaints can also be reported to zonal magistrates for Zakura at 9419009340, Rainawari at 9070974669, Baspora at 9419008823 and Nigeen at 9419633666; Nowhatta at 9796999398, Zadibal at 9419159339 and Lal Bazar at 9419044770; Nawakadal at 9419045450 and Safakadal at 7006443327; MR Gunj at 9622876267 and Khanyar at 7006094410; Kralkhud at 9906816800 and Fateh Kadal at 9419751664; Kothi Bagh at 7006217048, Barzulla at 9419087712 and Rajbagh at 9419033244; Sonwar at 9596046111, Pantha Chowk at 9419032508 and Harwan at 9419004325; Karan Nagar at 9419089442, Tengpora at 9419181030, Bemina at 9419002450 and Parimpora at 9906704683.

DM Srinagar issues traffic advisory

Srinagar, Apr 17: In view of the Lok Sabha Elections-2019 in Srinagar scheduled on 18th of April 2019, District Magistrate Srinagar has issued traffic advisory for facilitating hassle free movement of polling staff to SKICC Srinagar & following route plan has been chalked out for 18th April-2019.

Traffic movement will be restricted from Nishat, Shalimar, Harwan & adjacent areas via Badyari Chowk & Gupkar. Similarly traffic movement shall be restricted from Nishat, Shalimar, Harwan & adjacent areas via SKICC.

Motorist intending to travel from Harwan, Shalimar, Nishat and adjacent areas towards Lal-Chowk are requested to travel via Foreshore Road &Hazratbal.

Motorists intending to travel from Dalgate, Lal Chowk and adjacent areas towards Harwan, Shalimar, Nishat shall adopt Nowpora-Khayam-Rainawari route to reach their respective destinations.

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Rival parties take on NC leader: Farooq over-confident, we will sneak a win

Mudassir Kuloo

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Srinagar, Apr 17: Spanning over three districts–Srinagar, Budgam, and Ganderbal–the central Kashmir parliamentary constituency goes to polls on Thursday.

Although NC’s Farooq Abdullah seems the strongest candidate, his political opponents are not ready to accept that it is a one-sided contest.

Farooq has dominated the poll campaigning in the central Kashmir seat with his speeches in the rallies but his opponents claim they have an upper hand since they conducted door-to-door campaigns to woo the voters.

 

People Democratic Party chief spokesperson Rafi Ahmad Mir said the party’s candidate was “no less than Farooq”.

“We have tried our best to reach out to people so people vote for our candidate. He has a clean image. He is the best choice for voters who can raise Kashmir issue in the parliament,” Mir told The Kashmir Monitor.

PDP has fielded Agha Mohsin, who in 2014 contested the Lok Sabha elections from Srinagar as an Independent candidate and could only bag 16,050 votes. Farooq in this election polled 1,15,643 votes while Tariq Hamid Karra got 1,57,923 votes and emerged as winner.

The PDP chief spokesperson said that they were sure of their party’s candidate win. “He will defeat Farooq Abdullah,” he added.

The Peoples Conference-led by Sajad Gani Lone has fielded Irfan Raza Ansari.

Talking to The Kashmir Monitor, Irfan said that Farooq was “overconfident” of winning the elections.

“He is over-confident because his party is known for poll-rigging. We are confident because of our voters. We got immense response from voters during our poll campaign,” he said.

Irfan claimed they could not hold big rallies in Srinagar because of the “situation created by the NC”.

“But we did door to door campaign. The voters assured us they will vote for our candidate,” he added.

Irfan has a stronghold on Zadibal assembly constituency of Srinagar district, where his uncle Abid Ansari has been the MLA. It has also footings in other parts of Srinagar after its leader Junaid Azim Mattuu became the city mayor.

The BJP has fielded Khalid Jehangir. Khalid recently raked up a controversy by using green colour in his campaign advertisements in local dailies and billboards instead of the BJP’s saffron colour.

National Conference General Secretary Ali Mohammad Sagar said there was “no comparison of Farooq with candidates of other parties”.

“Only he can raise Kashmir issue in the parliament,” Sagar said.

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Youth taking arms as Mehbooba fails in ‘Chowkidari’: Omar

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Srinagar, Apr 17: National Conference (NC) vice president and former chief minister Omar Abdullah Tuesday said the reason behind youth picking up arms was the failure of PDP Chief Mehbooba Mufti’s ‘Chowkidari’ in the State.

Talking to reporters at Shangus area of South Kashmir’s Anantnag district, Omar said that after Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Mehbooba Mufti is claiming to have done Chowkidari for the people of State in last over four years, adding that it was failure of her Chowkidari that the youth are picking up guns in Kashmir.

“If she has done Chowkidari for the State then why current situation prevails in Jammu and Kashmir. Mehbooba has herself claimed that her party workers are feeling helpless, in case she has done Chowkidari then why is this happening,” he asked, adding that she has failed to do Chowkidari in last over four years.

 

Omar further stated that prevailing situation including the loss in tourism and anger among people is the outcome of her failure in doing Chowkidari. He hoped that people of Anantnag Lok Sabha constituency will teach a lesson to them.

Furthermore, NC leader also hit at ‘Chowkidar’ (Prime Minister Narendra Modi), saying whether an attack in Sunjwa or Pulwama, he has failed everywhere. “Chowkidar has failed in saving economy of the Country. After demonetization, it was said that black money will be removed, but in elections the seizure of money indicates that demonetization has also failed. We don’t say ‘Chowkidar Chor Hai’ (Watchman is burglar) but he has failed,” Omar told reporters.

Asked about allegations levelled against him by Peoples Conference (PC) Chairman Sajad Gani Lone wherein he had stated that ‘Omar after culmination of 2014 elections had met BJP leader in Delhi’, NC Vice president told reporters that, “ask this question to Ram Madhav, not me.”

About highway ban, Omar said, “the decision was a ‘Tuglaki Farmaan’. We have already urged Governor to reconsider the decision. I don’t know what Governor is doing as even after a patient has died due to highway ban, the order still exists.”

He added that Governor has also claimed that the government will not be formed in the State and the Governor rule will continue. “I don’t know how come the Governor has made such claims. Either his intentions are not good or he wants to ruin the State by ruling it for a long,” he said.

Omar added that they demand the ban on highway be revoked at an earliest and the assembly elections be held soon after the culmination of parliamentary polls.

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