VDCs who took on militants in tough times dumped by Govt

Not given honorarium for last 4 years

Avtar Bhat

JAMMU, June 10: Adding further agony to already agonized Village Defence Committee (VDC) members, the UT Government has failed to provide justice to them by not releasing their honorarium for the last four years due to certain complicacies in the procedure for salary distribution adopted by the authorities while constituting the Committees way back in 1996 when terrorism was at its peak in the erstwhile State of J&K.
According to sources, hundreds of VDC members in the erstwhile State of J&K who did a heroic job in fighting terrorism especially in hilly reaches of Jammu region during over 20 years are in great distress as authorities have failed to provide justice to them by not releasing their pending honorarium of last four years.
Sources said these VDC members are running from pillar to post and they have taken up the issue with everyone in the Government but to no avail. The authorities are unable to settle their issue as due to a complication that existed in the procedure at the time of constitution of the VDCs of which the then Government seemingly was unmindful, sources added.
Sources said hundreds of VDCs are without honorarium for the last four years in the UT due to flaws in the basic rules under which the honorarium was paid to one VDC Special Police Officer (SPO) and the amount was distributed among the remaining members by him in the village equally.
Later the amount of honorarium was paid through three VDCs to be equally distributed among remaining members. Initially this amount during constitution of VDCs in 1996 was Rs 3000 which was received by one VDC SPO from concerned Police Station and then distributed equally among other eight members of his team. Later it was enhanced to Rs 6000 then to Rs 12000 and presently this honorarium is Rs 18000 and it was paid to three VDCs by their concerned police stations to be equally distributed among remaining members, sources added.
They said the process continued smoothly upto 2017 when the online system of salary payment was started. After the process of online system came into being, the honorarium was deposited in the account of the three VDC SPOs of every VDC who were earlier collecting the amount from the concerned Police Station. As the amount was deposited in the account of VDC SPOs they refused to pay the same to other members on the plea that the money has been deposited in their account ,hence they can’t distribute the same among other members of the VDC, sources added.
This has created an awkward situation for the other members of the VDCs who since then are running from pillar to post for justice but to no avail, sources said, adding that this way the Government has totally negated the yeoman’s service and sacrifices rendered by them in elimination of terrorism from the hilly ranges of Jammu region.
Sources said out of Rs 18000 as honorarium to eight VDC members each one was getting Rs 6775 per month and with this amount they were feeding their families as source of livelihood are meager in the hilly belt. But not considering their services rendered for last over 24 years, the VDC members in the hilly belt of erstwhile Doda district are at the verge of starvation with Government totally maintaining stoic silence over the issue, sources added.
They said that former Union Ministers Prof Chaman Lal Gupta and Ghulam Nabi Azad had played a key role in framing of VDCs in hilly belt of Doda during nineties when the minorities had also planned mass migration from this belt after the selective killings and massacres of their community members and other nationalist people by the terrorists. To prevent the migration of the minorities and other nationalist people from the hilly belt the authorities constituted VDCs and allotted guns to them for the protection of their fellow villagers.
Many VDC members laid down their lives over the years in fighting the terrorism from the hilly belt and with their as well as supreme sacrifices of police personnel and security forces the terrorists were neutralized from this belt and normalcy restored. But after rendering over 24 years service the fate of these VDCs has been totally uncertain as on the one hand they were denied the salaries for last four years and on the other hand they are being disengaged after the age of 60 years and asked to deposit their guns in concerned Police Stations.
Sources said earlier the Police Department had decided to disengage the VDCs attaining the age of 60 years in the year 2015. However, the issue was taken up by their representatives and local leaders of the erstwhile Doda district with Union Minister Dr Jitendra Singh, who is also MP of Kathua –Doda Parliamentary constituency seeking his immediate intervention in the matter. The Minister took up the issue with then Union Home Minister, Rajnath Singh at that time who issued instructions of not disengaging them and allowed their continuation further.
But after the change of guard in Home Ministry and Amit Shah taking over as new HM after 2019 general elections the UT Government failed to pursue the issue with him with the result the problem of disengaging the VDCs has again cropped up, sources said, adding there are various opinions suggesting as the life span has increased considerably over the years, the age of VDC members for retirement be increased to 65 years or after their retirement the guns be handed over to their sons or brothers for self protection as threat of terror is not fully over yet.
The VDCs are demanding that they are not opposed to their retirement but they be given some amount in lump- sum for their services to the society besides their four years honorarium be also released.
Showing serious concern over non payment of honorarium to VDCs for last four years, Rattan Chand Sharma president VDCs said it is a conspiracy that the money was not deposited in the account of every VDC member. He said after adopting of the online salary system by Government the Police Department was supposed to deposit the amount in the account of all eight VDC members of the village which they did not do for unknown reasons.
He said the VDCs are protesting for last four years but no body is ready to consider the demands and provide justice to them, and made an appeal to Lt Governor, Manoj Sinha, Union Minister in PMO, Dr Jitendra Singh and Home Minister, Amit Shah seeking their immediate intervention in the matter.
The Government should deposit the balance honorarium in the account of every VDC member, said Suresh Sharma general secretary VDC Union and local BJP leader Basant Raj Thakur. They said earlier in 1996 the payment was given on the name of one VDC SPO by the Police Department and later it was given on the name of three VDC SPOs who are now reluctant to distribute the same among others.
Highly supporting the cause of VDCs and eulogizing their role in fighting terrorism in the hilly belt of Jammu region, Ravi Thakur a local leader from Dachan area said that the Government should release pending honorarium without further delay in view of the role played by them in fighting terrorism. He said the threat has not still eliminated as over two years back Parihar brothers were killed by the militants which was followed by killing of veteran RSS leader Chander Kant in Kishtwar. He warned against the disbanding of VDCs and stressed on their regularization.