In a landmark decision, the State Cabinet gave its nod to creation of new 659 administrative units across the State. Flanked by his cabinet colleagues, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah announced in a press conference that the Cabinet had considered and accepted the recommendations of the Cabinet Sub-Committee (CSC). This Committee had been created under the orders of the Cabinet which had previously considered the recommendations of the Ganai Committee for creating additional administrative units of different categories across the state. At that time the Cabinet had some reservations in accepting the Ganai Committee recommendations, and, in order to further discuss the matter objectively, the Cabinet Sub-Committee had been constituted under the chairmanship of Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand.
There were some differences between the coalition partners on the subject of creation of new administrative units. However, after long debates and point-counter-point discussions, finally the report prepared by CSC did the balancing act and resolved the matter amicably.
Indeed, as the Chief Minister has said, it is a historic decision which was never taken before and will never be taken hereafter. The new administrative structure is perhaps the widest possible framework that could be construed by any Government. The ultimate purpose of this stupendous exercise in the words of the Chief Minister is to bring the people of the State closer to the Government and give them a feel that Government authorities and agencies are close at hand to listen to their grievances and provide them solutions. We have no doubt that this purpose will be met to a large extent once the work of creating new units is brought to completion and the system begins to function normally.
The recommendation is to create 659 new administrative units in all, 46 sub divisions, 135 tehsils, 177 CD Blocks and 301 Niabats. All 4098 Panchayats across the State will be co-terminus with equal number of Patwar halqas. It is noteworthy that except for the Patwar halqas, the CSC report has included almost all the recommendations made by Ganai Committee but added more to it what it thought would be just and equitable. By and large, the CSC report is fair and just. In particular, Jammu region has not been discriminated against in any way as has been the complaint from the region in the past. All the three regions of the State have got their due share. This is a good deal and the cabinet has done the right thing of giving it immediate green signal. Not only that, the Chief Minister without wasting any time directed the Planning and Finance Departments to prepare the roadmap for implementation of the report. But how much time will its implementation take, is something which the Chief Minister was unable to state. We know that new districts were created way back in 2007 and even after six years of their creation, they do not have the requisite staff and infrastructure as yet and have to borrow officers from other departments.
It is evident that creating such a huge new administrative structure requires enormous funds. According to one rough estimate the new administrative units will need 10,521 officials and its financial implication is estimated to be in the neighbourhood of Rs.1510.22 crore.
Creation of new administrative units does not really mean that something new by way of administration is going to be inducted into the State. When looked at very closely, one will find that the creation of new units is only extension of existing units. It is to lessen the burden of workload on them because the quantum of work has substantially increased in recent years. Moreover increase in population also demands that problems of the people shall have to be solved without forcing them to travel long distances for seeking redress of their grievances. Some observers will be disposed to link this far reaching decision of the State Government with the impending assembly and parliamentary elections in the country. We think that such hypothesis is out of place. The issue of creating new administrative units has been hanging fire for many years. Actually if the Ganai Committee report had not been sent by the Cabinet to the Sub-Committee for reconsideration and had accepted it, the matter would have ended there and then. As such it is clear that the matter has nothing to do with elections and it is a pure administrative exercise which coincidently has happened at a juncture when the country is making preparations for the elections also.
We congratulate the State Government for taking a decision of far-reaching consequences. It is a decision that will go in the interests of the people of the state especially those living in remote and far off places. Justice will come to their doorsteps. We would also like to implore the Government, especially the Chief Minister, to see to it that the roadmap for implementation of the recommendations is made available by the concerned within the shortest possible time and its implementation on the ground also begins simultaneously. If its implementation has to wait for years at end, this would leave bad taste in the mouth and that should never be allowed to happen.
Incidentally the Chief Minister disclosed in the cabinet meeting that the Government was going to introduce a bill in the forthcoming session for amending the Panchayat Act to make room for 73rd amendment. This, too, is good news and will fill the blank that was there in regard to empowerment of Panchayats.