Reddy heads Special Cell on J&K in MHA to look into host of issues

Will monitor works, examine diversion of funds
73rd, 74th Amendments; ‘One Nation, One Tax’ to be examined

Sanjeev Pargal
JAMMU, July 2: Union Home Minister Amit Shah has set up a Cell headed by Union Minister of State for Home GK Reddy to maintain regular liaison with the State Government on host of issues including monitoring of developmental works and extension of more powers to Panchayats and Urban Local Bodies in Jammu and Kashmir like possible implementation of 73rd and 74th Amendment of the Constitution of India, installation of three-tier Panchayati Raj in the State and go into the reasons for non-implementation of ‘One Nation, One Tax’ formula in the State with continuation of toll collection at Lakhanpur.
The Special Cell in the MHA will monitor works in the State especially those which were being executed under the Prime Minister’s Development Package.
Sources told the Excelsior that some Departments were under scanner of the Union Home Ministry for “misutilization and diversion” of funds in the past sanctioned for specific Central schemes but diverted for other works at their own whims and fancies.
“The Special Cell headed by Reddy will be in regular touch with the State Government and top bureaucrats to take feedback on the status of developmental works and monitor them. Apart from the development, it will also take report on other issues to brief the Home Minister,” sources said.
They added that the Central Government was of the view that though some powers mentioned in 73rd and 74th Amendments have been incorporated in the Panchayati Raj Act of Jammu and Kashmir, ways should be found for implementation of the two Amendments in the State. However, a final decision has to be taken by the Union Cabinet headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi but the Special Cell will explore possibilities as to how these two Amendments can be implemented, what would be their benefits and whether it would be feasible to implement them.
A top functionary of the Central Government had recently targeted the Congress for not implementing 73rd and 74th Amendments of the Constitution of India in J&K, which empowered Panchayats and Municipalities though they were conceived by late Prime Minister and Congress leader Rajiv Gandhi.
Sources were of the view that since the Legislative powers were vested with the Governor during the President’s rule, the State Government can implement the Amendments followed by approval of the Parliament.
In addition to this, the Central and State Governments were also keen to implement three-tier system of Panchayats in the State, which have never been done in the past. While the State Government has already initiated the exercise for conduct of Block Development Council (BDC) elections in the State, which will be second tier of Panchayats, the third tier-i.e. the constitution of District Development and Planning Boards (DDPBs) can be established only after the second tier is in place.
“The Home Ministry’s Special Cell will monitor developmental works in Jammu and Kashmir mainly those which are being executed under Rs 80068 crore worth Prime Minister’s Development Package as there were reports that some of the projects were facing various hurdles and have either missed or were set to miss the deadlines,” they said.
They added that the Central Government also has reports that some Departments had “misutilized and diverted” funds in the past sent specifically for the identified projects especially those meant for Jammu and Ladakh regions.
“All these Departments were under scanner of the Centre and the Special Cell would keep monitoring the Departments to ensure that not only the previous mistakes aren’t reported in future but action is also taken against the bureaucrats responsible for illegal diversion of funds,” the sources said.
They added that the Central Government was also of the view that whatever be the reasons ‘One Nation, One Tax’ formula should also be studied for application in J&K. Though Goods and Services Tax has been implemented in the State, toll is still being levied at Lakhanpur, which hasn’t gone well with the Centre.
The State Government, however, has its own logic which included that it would suffer revenue loss running into several crores every year if toll tax was abolished at Lakhanpur.