J&K to have 3-tier Panchayati Raj System for first time in history

BDCs, DPDBs to be elected after Panchayats

Sanjeev Pargal
JAMMU, Aug 18: For the first time in the history of Jammu and Kashmir, the State is now all set to have three-tier Panchayati Raj System after conduct of Panchayat elections in the State in October-December this year with plans afoot to hold polls to Block Development Councils followed by District Planning and Development Boards (DPDBs) to strengthen democracy at grass root level.
While majority of States in the country have switched over to three-tier system, which has proved very effective in giving powers at the grass root level, Jammu and Kashmir, never in the past, had held elections beyond Panchayats. Even elections to Panchayats were held in 2011 after nearly about four decades.
Official sources told the Excelsior that the process for holding elections to the BDCs and constitution of DPDBs was likely to be set in motion after completion of Panchayat elections and constitution of the Panchayats as the Government now seems determined to have 3-tier Panchayat system in the State, to bring it at par with other States of the country, where such system was prevalent and functioning very successfully.
“Necessary formalities required for converting the State into 3-tier Panchayati Raj System are being discussed and once preparations for Panchayat elections are finalized, which are scheduled to be held between October-December, the Government was likely to set into motion the process for conducting elections to the BDCs followed by constitution of DPDBs,” they said.
The three tier system in other States includes Gram Panch-ayats 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.
Few days 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 Panchayat and Municipal elections will be held shortly in Jammu and Kashmir and Central funding will be released directly to the Panchs to give powers at the grass root level for developmental works.
Sources recalled that it was in November 2012 that then Omar Abdullah led National Conference-Congress coalition Government had initiated the exercise to hold elections to the Block Development Councils for the first time in history of the State. While the process was on, senior Congress leader and then Union Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad had objected to holding of elections without reservation of seats in the Councils. In view of the objections, the process was shelved and it was never initiated again even as the Panchayats completed their five-year term in July 2016.
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 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.