Municipal polls from Oct 1-Nov 5, Panchayat from Nov 8-Dec 4

SAC approves Group Insurance Policy

Excelsior Correspondent
JAMMU, Aug 31: The State Government today announced schedule for Municipal and Panchayat elections, which will be held in four and eight phases respectively, in the State beginning October 1 and culminating on December 4.
Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Shaleen Kabra, who has been designated as the Election Authority for conduct of both Municipal and Panchayat polls in the absence of State Election Commission, will issue dates of all phases shortly, official sources told the Excelsior.
The election schedule was announced in the meeting of the State Administrative Council (SAC), chaired by Governor Satya Pal Malik, his first after assuming charge.
The Municipal elections will be held in four phases from October 1 to November 5 while Panchayat polls will be conducted in eight phases from November 8 to December 4.
The SAC asked the Chief Electoral Officer to adjust the election schedule taking into account security, operational and polling requirements.
The election phases have been cut to half when the Municipal and Panchayat elections were last held in the State. In 2005, Municipal elections were conducted in eight phases and their number has been reduced to four this time. Similarly, Panchayat polls were held in 16 phases in 2011 and their number has also been reduced to eight.
Only a day before, Excelsior had exclusively reported that phases of Municipal and Panchayat elections were proposed to be cut to half taking into account the security considerations.
Sources said before finalizing dates for the elections, the SAC held extensive deliberations on various aspects and feedback received from the Departments of Housing & Urban Development, Rural Development & Panchayati Raj and Home. Thereafter, it decided to commence the formal process for conducting Municipal Body and Panchayat elections in the State and take all other consequential action as per law.
As the Central Government has promised additional para-military forces to the State for conduct of Municipal and Panchayat polls, the Government has decided to reduce their phases to avoid any increase in militancy-related violence to sabotage the polls.
The Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) will be used for Municipal polls while Panchayat elections will be conducted using ballot papers as per the provisions of Municipal and Panchayati Raj Acts, sources said.
The SAC decided to grant one month’s extra salary/wages/remuneration in favor of the staff to be engaged for the conduct of elections besides insurance cover to mitigate risks.
“Voter education will be given special focus. For this purpose, the Government will launch a sustained campaign to sensitize the voters about the importance of these elections in the socio-economic development at the grass root level,” sources said.
The SAC observed that Panchayat and Urban Local Body elections will enable people to take decisions at their own level, without having to go to the State capital or the district headquarters for their basic requirements.
“Local Bodies will handle a substantial amount of funds and truly empower people all over the State,” it said.
Municipal elections were last held in the State in January-February 2005 and elected Municipalities had completed their five-year term in March 2010. For the last eight and half year, the Urban Local Bodies elections haven’t been held in the State. Panchayat polls were last held in 2011 and the Panchayats had completed their term in July 2016. Panchayat polls were pending in the State for last two years.
An official handout said:- In a major decision for the welfare of Government employees and their family members, the SAC accorded sanction to the implementation of the Group Mediclaim Insurance Policy for all State Government Employees including Employees of PSUs/ Autonomous Bodies/ Universities on mandatory basis; and, Pensioners, AIS Officers, Adhoc, Contractual, DRWs, Work charged/ Contingent paid, workers and their dependant family members on optional basis w.e.f. October, 2018, for a period of one year and extendable annually for three years, based on claim settlement ratio and satisfactory performance of the Insurer.
Advisors to Governor, B B Vyas, K Vijay Kumar & Khurshid Ahmad Ganai, Chef Secretary, BVR Subrahmanyam and Principal Secretary to Governor, Umang Narula were present in the meeting.
The policy will include medical insurance cover of Rs 6 lakhs for individual employees up to 5 family members with a Corporate Buffer of Rs 10 crore, the cost whereof is loaded in the quoted premium. The premium to be paid by the employee annually would be Rs 8776.84 minus Rs 3600 (Medical allowances currently admissible annually) equal to Rs 5176.84. For pensioners, this amount would be Rs 22,228 minus Rs 3600 (Medical allowances currently admissible annually) equal to Rs18,628, annually.
Further, the deduction of the annual premium will be made from the salaries of the employees in four installments, as shall be notified separately by the Finance Department.
This policy would allow treatment in almost 5000 hospitals across the country. It represents a significant step up over the previous policy in that it covers domiciliary hospitalization and day care procedures also. There is good news for women employees too as the expense cap on maternity cover has been enhanced to Rs 30,000 within State and Rs 70,000 outside the State. Further, pensioners would not be required to undergo pre-policy tests and all their pre-existing diseases would receive immediate coverage, much to their relief. There is also a new provision for the insurance coverage of the dependent family member’s upto 100 years as compared to 80 years in the previous policy.
In what will benefit a large number of employees and pensioners, a dedicated Corporate Buffer of Rs 10 crore each will also be in place in the policy to cover the expenditures incurred by the employees and pensioners on identified illnesses over and above the expenditure coverage provided in the Policy.
For the first time, the insurer will provide a Management Information System (MIS) report regarding enrolment, admission, preauthorization, claim settlement and other information about the services as required by the government on a regular basis.
Further, the website designed by the insurer will have district-wise/state-wise enrolment status, claims, treatments rendered and hospitals data. Stage wise tracking facility for claims and grievances shall also be available to the beneficiaries.
Also, for the first time, the services of a professional consultant have been hired to set up a robust grievance redressal system for employees and pensioners. The consultant has already set up grievance redressal offices in all districts and these offices can be accessed by the employees and pensioners in case they have any grievance regarding implementation of the policy.
The SAC also approved the proposed amendment in the J&K Forest Act, 1987, to facilitate cultivation, harvesting, transportation, trade and processing of bamboo which has an important role in the rural economy.
The amendment will boost and encourage the farmers to cultivate bamboo as a cash crop, which could play a pivotal role in poverty alleviation and spread of bamboo cultivation to other parts of the State, too. This shall be an important milestone for the holistic development of bamboo in J&K.