JAMMU, Nov 8: As the State Government braced up to hold Panchayat elections in Jammu and Kashmir this winter, number of the Panchayats has been raised to 4500, an increase of 334 over 2011 when last elections were held to the rural bodies while number of voters has gone up to 57 lakh.
Official sources told the Excelsior that majority of formalities required on behalf of the Election Department and Rural Development Department for holding the Panchayat elections have been completed with electoral rolls for Panchayats updated and number of Panchayats notified.
“Electoral rolls will be published in next four to five days after which the State Government would take a call on timing of the Panchayat elections,” they said.
Number of the Panchayats, where elections will be held, have gone up to 4500 as compared to 4166 in 2011. Last elections to Panchayats were held in 2011 and the elected Panchayats had completed their term in June 2016. Presently, there were no elected Panchayats.
Official data available with the Excelsior revealed that out of 334 newly carved out Panchayats, 165 have been increased in Jammu division and 169 in Kashmir division. With this number of Panchayats in Jammu division has increased to 2121 as compared to 1956 in 2011, Number of the Panchayats has gone up to 2379 in Kashmir division as against 2210.
Panchayats of Ladakh region are included in Kashmir division.
As per the new arrangement, the people will only elect Panches as there will be no direct election of Sarpanches, like 2011. Sarpanch will be elected by Panches of that Panchayat, sources said, adding that the Government had decided to do away with the process of direct election of Sarpanches.
Sources said the Election Department has also finalized voter lists for the Panchayat elections. Number of the electorates for Panchayat elections has come out at around 57 lakh after extensive exercise undertaken by the Election Department for updating electoral rolls.
“The electoral rolls have been finalized for the Panchayat polls, which was a pre-requisite for holding the elections,” sources said, adding that process for final publication of the rolls has been initiated which would be completed in next four to five days.
“The Government can take call on holding Panchayat elections anytime after publication of electoral rolls,” they said.
According to sources, though the State Government was under intense pressure from the Centre Government for holding Panchayat elections in Jammu and Kashmir, which have been pending for last more than one and a half year, it would take into account the law and order situation and weather conditions before taking a call on holding Panchayat elections in the winter.
A day before, Governor NN Vohra had promulgated an Ordinance designating the Chief Electoral Officer of Jammu and Kashmir as the State Election Commission for conduct of Panchayat elections. As per the Panchayati Raj Act, the Panchayat polls have to be conducted by an independent State Election Commission of the Panchayats. However, in the absence of any such Commission in the State, The Government has designated powers of the SEC to the CEO.
Sources said that newly carved out Panchayats and Panch segments have already been added to the existing list. The SEC and the Rural Development Department had undertaken comprehensive exercise for delimitation of Panchayats in March-April this year.
The Panchayat elections were last held in March-April 2011 after a gap of near four decades. The Panchayats were constituted in May-June 2011 and they completed their term in June 2016. However, the Government didn’t initiate the process to hold elections to Panchayats in time, which led to completion of their tenure. Nearly one and a half years have already elapsed without any elected Panchayats in the State.
Due to delay in the elections to Panchayats, the Central Government has stopped certain funding to Jammu and Kashmir especially the amount that has to be spent only through the elected Panchayats.
The Rural Development Department was also in the process of publishing list of Wards reserved in the Panchayats for different categories including women.