Home Minister Rajnath Singh said on Friday that the current municipal and panchayat elections in Jammu & Kashmir will re-establish the long overdue grassroots level democracy in the state.
Ruling out any impact of some parties’ boycott of the polls, he said the Centre is providing all possible support to the state government for smooth conduct of the elections, including deployment of Central forces in adequate strength.
He said the elections will help provide Rs 4335 crore to the duty constituted local bodies, as per the recommendations of the 14th Finance Commission.
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.
The urban bodies’ elections are being held after 2005 and Panchayat elections after 2011. Direct election for Sarpanches of the Panchayats is being restored to ensure accountability.
But for these elections, people of J&K would have been deprived of the panchayat funds meant for their welfare, Singh said in a statement. He said the local bodies are vested with significantly enhanced devolution of powers in line with best practices in the country.
This will enable them to address most of the local issues in their jurisdictions. The functions and functionaries of all the 29 subjects, transferred to Panchayats under the 73rd Amendment of the Constitution, will also be transferred to the Panchayats of J&K. These include institutions like Primary Health Centers, primary schools, and Anganwadi Centres, he said.
The financial powers of Panchayats are being enhanced 10 times from Rs 10,000 to Rs 1 lakh for Panchayats and from Rs 25000 to Rs 2.5 lakhs for Block Councils. Powers for “Own fund generation” are also being given to Panchayats. These will include building permission fee, taxes on entertainment, advertisement, hoardings, various kinds of businesses & profession.
The Central and State government funds will further supplement “Own funds” of the Panchayats under various schemes such as Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act ( MGNERGA) , Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY), Integrated Child Development Services ( ICDS) and Mid-Day meal, etc.
On an average every Panchayat will now get around Rs 50-80 lakh per year for implementation of the schemes. Considering the crucial role being played by Special Police Officers in anti militancy operations, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has enhanced their honorarium from the existing Rs 6,000 per month to Rs 9,000 on completion of five years and Rs 12,000 on completion of 15 years. There are 4000 vacancies of SPOs for which candidates are now invited to apply.