First time in J&K: Govt to hold elections to 316 BDCs in J&K

Sarpanchs, Panchs to form Electoral College
Another step towards 3-tier system

Sanjeev Pargal
JAMMU, Nov 6: After completion of electoral exercise for Panchayat elections on December 11 followed by publication of the names of winners, both Sarpanchs and Panchs, the Government proposed to hold elections to 316 Block Development Councils (BDC), which will create second tier of the Panchayati Raj System in Jammu and Kashmir.
This will be for the first time that elections will be held to second tier of Panchayats. Omar Abdullah Government’s attempt to hold elections to the BDCs, which were 143 in numbers then, in October 2012, didn’t materialize as the process was shelved even after issuance of notification (for the polls) by the State Election Commission following then Union Minister and veteran Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad’s statement that the elections shouldn’t be held without reservations in the Councils. No fresh attempt was made by the then Government to reserve the Councils and hold elections.
This time, however, official sources told the Excelsior, that the Government would complete all formalities like reservations etc before announcing schedule for the elections after completion of process for 9-phase Panchayat elections on December 11.
“The election will be held for a total of 316 Block Development Councils across all three regions of the State,” sources said, adding that 4490 Sarpanchs and 35096 Panchs would comprise Electoral College for election of the BDC chairpersons. However, numbers of the Electoral College could be less amidst apprehensions that some segments of Sarpanchs and Panchs might go uncontested in the Kashmir valley.
However, they said, the Electoral College will be exactly defined once the Panchayat election process is over.
Though the State Government was committed to establish three-tier Panchayati Raj System in the State for the first time, it will take a decision on election and constitution of District Planning and Development Boards (DPDBs) only after the process for elections to the Block Development Councils is completed early next year.
“Since extreme winter session will set-in after completion of Panchayat elections on December 11 in Kashmir and Ladakh regions, the election process for the Block Development Councils might get delayed by couple of months,” sources said.
As against 143 Block Development Councils at the time of last Panchayat elections held in the State in 2011, present number of the BDCs has gone up to 316.
Official data revealed that maximum number of 26 BDCs will be in Baramulla district of Kashmir and minimum four in Srinagar district. Jammu will have 20 BDCs.
Rajouri will have 19 BDCs, Poonch 11, Samba 9, Kathua 19, Udhampur 17, Rajouri 12, Ramban 11, Doda 17 and Kishtwar 13 while in Ladakh region; Leh will have 16 BDCs and Kargil 15.
In Kashmir, Anantnag district will have 16 BDCs, Kulgam 11, Shopian 9, Pulwama 11, Budgam 17, Ganderbal 7, Bandipora 12 and Kupwara 24.
The three tier system in other States includes Gram Panchayats at village level, Panchayat Samitis at block level and Zila Parishads at the district level. In Jammu and Kashmir, the Panchayat Samitis will be named as the Block Development Councils and Zila Parishads as DPDBs. The functions will almost remain the same as the Government had recently vested the Panchayats with immense powers.
About three months back, the State Government had amended the Act to set up Halqa Majlis, known as Gram Sabhas, in the State, which will comprise voters of that Panchayats with powers to take decision on developmental works of the area, giving powers to the people in deciding the works to be carried out by the Panchayats.
Sources said the Block Development Councils and DPDBs will have massive powers pertaining to developmental works. Once constituted, the DPDBs were likely to replace the District Development Boards (DDBs). The persons elected from the grass root level in the Panchayat elections will take over the posts of the chairpersons of the Block Development Councils and District Planning and Development Boards and will have massive say in developmental works of their areas.
In his Independence Day Address from the ramparts of Red Fort, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had stated that Central funding will be released directly to the Panchs to give powers at the grass root level for developmental works.
Sources pointed out that even some of the legislators used to indirectly oppose elections to the Block Development Councils and constitution of District Planning and Development Boards earlier as they felt that their powers would be curtailed with majority of powers pertaining to the developmental works going into the hands of Panchayats and other institutions elected from the Panchayat members.
However, with both Central and State Governments now serious in giving powers to the people at grass root level, this will be for the first time that Jammu and Kashmir would have the Block Development Councils followed by the District Planning and Development Boards.