JAMMU, Feb 1: Chief Minister Omar Abdullah today announced immediate implementation of the Cabinet Sub Committee (CSC) report on administrative units, which the Committee head and Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand submitted to him this afternoon, and said the Finance and Planning Departments have been directed to prepare roadmap for creation of the new units.
Addressing a press conference at his official residence this afternoon along with Tara Chand, Omar said the Cabinet, which met today and discussed recommendations made by the CSC, has accepted the report and directed the Finance and Planning Departments of the State to prepare a roadmap for their implementation including the financial implications.
Simultaneously, the Chief Minister announced that the Government would bring a bill in upcoming budget session of the Legislature starting on February 10 to incorporate major provisions of 73rd amendment of the Constitution of India in the Panchayati Raj Act.
Describing the decision on creation of 659 administrative units as “historic’’, Omar, who was flanked by almost entire Council of Ministry at the press conference, said: “such an important decision was being taken after several years and wouldn’t be taken in many years to come. The decision would bring the people more closer to governance’’.
He announced that the CSC has recommended creation of 659 new administrative units including 46 sub divisions, 135 tehsils, 177 CD blocks and 301 niabats. Apart from this, he said, the CSC has recommended that all Panchayats in the State would be co-terminus with patwar halqas, which means that every Panchayat in the State (number 4098) would have a patwar halqa.
“The CSC today submitted its recommendations to the Cabinet. I want to announce it happily that the recommendations have been accepted. The Cabinet has asked Finance and Planning Departments of the State to prepare a roadmap for implementation of the report and creation of new units as quickly as possible so that the people benefited out of it and governance is brought more closer to the people,’’ Omar said.
The acceptance of the report of the CSC has brought to an end the little acrimony between two Alliance partners—the National Conference and Congress as Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had threatened to sacrifice the Government if the Congress created hurdles in the creation of new administrative units. On January 24, Omar has stated that he was giving a week’s extension to the CSC reluctantly and even deferred the Cabinet meeting saying no agenda would be taken up till the CSC recommendations were discussed.
Omar expressed his gratitude to Congress high command including AICC (I) president Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, vice president, Ambika Soni, general secretary and Incharge Jammu and Kashmir, two Union Ministers from Jammu and Kashmir—Ghulam Nabi Azad and Dr Farooq Abdullah, PCC (I) chief Prof Saif-ud-Din Soz, CSC head Tara Chand and all other six members of the Panel for their support and co-operation in creation of new administrative units.
Replying to a question on his reported threat to resign if the Congress delayed report on creation of new units, the Chief Minister said: “this is now a hypothetical question as to what he was planning to do in the event of delay in the report. Let is now leave the past behind. The CSC has given the report. The Cabinet has approved it. I think what is important for us is the result. It’s a historic decision to create such a large number of administrative units, which has neither been taken in past nor it would be taken in next decades’’.
“What I would have done or would not have done (if these were not approved) that is a matter of speculation. It is now hypcothetical question. What is important is today we have a report approved by the cabinet which will go a long way to address the people’s demand for a more responsive Government,” Omar said.
“Yes’’ was his only reply to a question as to whether he has identified the persons, who was hurdles in creation of new administrative units. He didn’t elaborate and switched over to another question. He was asked whether he has identified the persons, whom he had earlier blamed for creating hurdled in the setting up of new administrative units.
To a question of huge financial implications for creation of new administrative units, the Chief Minister said: “we will implement the decision as it would benefit the common man. It would reduce the distance between the people and the Government. It would add to the responsive Government. We will bear out the cost, which would be worked out by the Finance and Planning Departments’’.
He denied that the State Government was looking at the Centre for financial implication of the implementation of the report.
“We are not looking at the Centre. We have asked the Finance and Planning Departments to look into the financial implications’’, Omar said and denied that there was any twitter war between him and Congress on the new units.
“I had not posted any comment on twitter pertaining to administrative units. If the people start following me I would stop twitter. As the people follow and seek answers, I have to take the twitter route,’’ he added.
Asked whether he would set any timeframe for creation of new units, Omar said he has asked the Finance and Planning Departments to prepare the roadmap for creation of units in the minimum possible time. He noted that eight districts created in 2007 still lacked staff and his Government had to keep posting officers there till sometime back.
He clarified that the creation of new administrative units has nothing to do with delimitation.
Replying to a question about differences between NC and Congress and his threat to resign, Omar said: “what is important is not so much of method but the result.
“The result is today we have approved setting up of new administrative units in the State which resulted in a historic decision”.
He denied that the decision to create new administrative units in the State was taken keeping in view the political considerations like upcoming elections for Lok Sabha and Assembly in the State.
Omar said he was not going to dilute the status of Jammu & Kashmir by “automatically implementing” all central acts and amendments.
“I am not going to dilute the status of Jammu and Kashmir by automatically implementing them (central laws and amendments),” Omar told reporters in reply to a question about the demand of his party’s ally Congress to implement the 73rd constitutional amendment on Panchayati Raj Institutions.
“We do not need to take on board automatically all those amendments which are made in New Delhi without considering which are beneficial to us or not,” he said, “We have always maintain that one of the advantage Jammu and Kashmir has is that we have our own constitution.”
The Congress leadership, including party vice president Rahul Gandhi and Union Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, has been strongly batting for implementation of the 73rd amendment in Jammu and Kashmir. Even Youth Congress activists had held demonstrations against the Chief Minister in the past.
Omar, however, today said, “They are not being unreasonable. They are not saying that you have to make the 73rd amendment applicable to Jammu and Kashmir.”
“They are saying that you modify the Panchayati Raj Act to bring those provisions in the 73rd amendment beneficial to the people of Jammu and Kashmir in which NC has actually no objection,” the Chief Minister said.
“We are convinced about the provisions of the 73rd amendment which is beneficial for the State. We have already included some provisions like finance commission and election commission,” he said.
“The bill in this direction is ready. It will be brought in the next cabinet meeting before the Assembly session. In the Assembly, these amendments will be passed and it will further strengthen the Panchayati Raj System in the State,” he added.
“I will disagree with you with regard to creation of strong Panchayati Raj System. The first tier is very strong. We will bring amendments to the Panchayati Raj Act in the upcoming Assembly session to make it more vibrant and bring it at par with those amendments which are introduced in the 73th amendment which do not find place in our Panchayati Raj Act to strengthen the democracy at grassroots level,” Omar said.
“We hope to have elections to the second and third tiers. We have a heavy schedule of Parliament and Assembly but we have to decided how to go about it,” he said.
“We have a very strong elected representative at the grassroots level. We have already functional blocks and niabats. This is not something new has been created. They are already there,” he added.
“What we are doing is reducing the pressure on old units by widening the base and creating such more units as per geographical distances and quantum of population,” he said.
“Every new creation (with regard to new administrative units), there is a financial involvement there. It is nobody’s claim that there would be no financial involvements in it but you have to see what are the gains and losses in it,” he said.
On pre-poll alliance, he said the coalition is strong and working well. “This coalition withstands difficulties and comes out of them from time to time. It is premature to say on pre-poll alliance,” he said.
“It is left to the respective high commands of the two parties. NC’s working committee has authorised its president to take a decision appropriate for the party,” he added.
He said that the NC-Congress alliance has reiterated time and again that “we see the coalition Government running to the last day of its tenure”.
On the issue of corruption, he said, “We have taken one more major decision in today’s cabinet to amend our Prevention of Corruption Act to further strengthen it.”
“We are taking all necessary steps to strengthen the Accountability Commission, the Vigilance Commission, and to modify the Prevention of Corruption Act to make it stronger. We have already introduced the Right to Information (RTI) Act,” he said.
Responding to Delhi Chief Minister and Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal’s decision to field candidate against National Conference president Farooq Abdullah after describing him as “corrupt politician’’, Omar said: “let them (the AAP) field their candidate against the NC patriarch. We will send him (the candidate) packing with his deposit forfeited’’.
On Farooq Abdullah’s meeting with DMK supremo M Karunanidhi, Omar said both Farooq and Karunanidhi are friends and there was no need to create political storm over their meeting.
“Why you take every think in negative aspect? Why do you think the NC is going to leave UPA? May be Farooq Sahib had gone to meet Karunanidhi to bring him back to UPA fold to strengthen it,’’ he said.
Replying to a question of Pakistan keeping Indian drivers hostage in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) after the arrest of one of the PoK drivers in Kashmir for smuggling narcotics, Omar said: “it was very unfortunate that Pakistan has been holding our drivers as hostage for a criminal. A criminal, who has smuggled narcotics, is a criminal. He has no diplomatic immunity. Pakistan is holding our drivers hostage illegally. There is no reason for holding our drivers hostages’’.
The Chief Minister, however, said that the ball now is in the court of Ministry of External Affairs and Commerce Ministry, who were trying to find out an amicable solution to the standoff between the two countries. He made it clear that the drug smuggler can’t be spared.
Omar declined to take questions on Rahul Gandhi and 1984 anti-Sikh riots.
The process for setting up of new administrative units had begun after the formation of eight new districts when Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad was the Chief Minister, Omar said.
The people had been demanding new administrative units in Jammu, Ladakh and Kashmir regions for a long period, and a committee, first headed by S S Bleoria and then by Mushtaq Ganai, was set up to look into the matter, he said, adding it had presented its recommendations to the government.
Last year the Mushtaq Ganai panel report was submitted before the Cabinet for approval and the CSC was constituted after points were raised that the report did not include some areas, the Chief Minister said.
The CSC, led by Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand, went to all districts in the State, met people and delegations and recorded their demands. Later they prepared those demands in the shape of a report based on recommendations and presented it before the cabinet, he said.
“Creation of new administrative units like this will perhaps not again take place for several decades, a lot of hard work went into this final report by the CSC, Revenue and GAD Secretaries,” he said.