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New amendments in PR Act would only weaken and dis-empower the existing local bodies: Harsh Dev

Strongly denouncing the central govt for effecting bizarre amendments in the existing PR Act, Harsh Dev Singh JKNPP Chairman and Former Minister said that the modifications and newly incorporated provisions in the said Act would have the effect of dis-empowering the entire edifice of the existing Panchayati Raj and Municipal structure in the J&K UT. “It was dumbfounding to note that rather than holding elections to ‘District Planning and Development Boards’ as repeatedly announced by the govt, it had chosen to split the said Board into two parts and created a divide between the Urban local bodies and Rural local bodies. And while the Rural local Bodies would be part of District Development Councils headed by a member to be chosen by the members elected from 14 territorial constituencies, the Urban local bodies would be part of District Planning Committee to be headed by the concerned Member Parliament as per the newly amended Act.

 The elected Chairmen of BDCs and Presidents of Municipal bodies have been divested of their rights to elect the concerned Chairman of the District Board which were conferred upon them under the existing Act. And by announcing to create 14 territorial constituencies in each District so as to elect new members of the newly proposed District Development Council the govt has sought to denigrate and downplay the role and significance of existing Panchayats and BDCs. What for, after all, the said Panchayats, BDCs and Municipal bodies were created if the govt had to make the existing local bodies redundant by disempowering the existing Panchayat bodies and duly elected members of said institutions. He was addressing a press conference in Jammu today.

Expressing his dismay over the decision of the govt to divide each District into 14 territorial constituencies and holding District Council elections in respect thereof, Mr. Singh said that the govts proposition had not only evoked cynicisms but also triggered outrage amongst the existing Municipal bodies that were being rendered irrelevant. “The govt has not been able to conduct Assembly elections. It is facing security problems in holding elections to local bodies in Kashmir Valley where majority of the seats continue to remain vacant in Municipal bodies as well as Panchayats. It has not been able to complete the elections to the second tier of PR system as the elections of Vice Chairmen of BDCs have not been held. It has not been able to ensure the appointment of ombudsman at state and District level to monitor the functioning of local bodies despite repeated announcements in this regard. It has not been able to provide a separate Finance Commission which is the cardinal principle enshrined in 73rd and 74th constitution Amendments. It has not been able to provide even basic infrastructure and facilities to the Panchayats and Municipal bodies despite oft parroted claims. Under such circumstance, the latest amendments, had only made the confusion worse confounded. It seemed that the only objective of the govt in bringing the said amendment was to avoid Assembly Elections and to further make way for outsiders to contest elections for local bodies in J&K.The doors had already been opened by the govt for people from Bihar, UP, Chhattisgarh, M.P etc who had obtained domicile certificates in J&K and thereby become eligible”, observed Singh.

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