August 2018 News

Panchayat Elections From Oct To December: Governor

2 August 2018
The Daily Excelsior
Sanjeev Pargal

Jammu: A day after announcing Municipal election in Jammu and Kashmir in September-October, Governor NN Vohra today declared that Panchayat elections are planned to be held in the State in October-December even as the State Administrative Council (SAC), in a major step towards devolution of more powers to the people, has approved amendments to the Panchayati Raj Act, 1989 to provide for consultations with Halqa Majlis before preparing development plan for a Panchayat. In last evening's SAC, it has been announced that the Government proposed to hold Municipal elections in September-October. Today, Vohra announced that the Government planned to conduct the Panchayat elections in October-December. An official handout said the Governor called upon the Panchayat Conference to lose no time in starting preparations for the Panchayat elections, which are planned to be held in October-December. Official sources told the Excelsior that the Government proposed to start Municipal elections by ending September or start of October. By the middle or end of October, the Panchayat elections will start and end by the middle of December well before the harsh winter sets in. 'The elections to Urban Local Bodies would take very less time as there are only 78 ULBs including two Municipal Corporations, seven Municipal Councils and 69 Municipal Committees as compared to 4490 Panchayats,' sources pointed out. In another significant decision to involve people in development works of Panchayats, the SAC which met last evening under the chairmanship of Governor NN Vohra approved amendments to the Panchayati Raj Act, 1989 to provide for consultations with Halqa Majlis, which are also known as Gram Sabhas in some States, before preparing development plan for a Panchayat. 'It has been prescribed that every Halqa Panchayat will have Halqa Majlis comprising all the persons whose names are included in the electoral roll for such Halqa Panchayat,' sources said. Describing the amendment as 'very significant', sources said this will give powers to the people directly to decide about development of their villages, which has been the case in other States, where Panchayats enjoy immense powers. 'Now the electorates, who will elect Sarpanch and Panchs of their Panchayat, be part of Halqa Majlis, which will be consulted before preparing development plan for a Panchayat,' sources pointed out and said this will give power directly to the people to decide about development of their villages. The decision is a step towards devolution of more powers to the people, who will be empowered to take decisions on their development requirement or specific activities. 'Also, in order to provide continuity to the development of Panchayats and in the absence of Halqa Panchayats, the amendment empowered the concerned Block Development Officer (BDO) to collect fee-taxes already imposed by the Halqa Panchayat. Further to facilitate the process of early Panchayat elections in the State, the SAC has approved amendment proposed by Department of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj to exclude the Sarpanch from minimum and maximum number of Panchs in a Panchayat, so that no fresh exercise of delimitation of Panchayats is required to be undertaken. There are approximately 4490 Panchayats and 78 Urban Local Bodies for which the elections are to be held. Municipal elections were last conducted in January-February 2005 and the elected Municipalities had completed their term in March 2010. Panchayat elections were last held in April-May 2011 and the elected Panchayats had completed their five-year term in July 2016. While the Municipal elections in Jammu and Kashmir haven't been held for the last eight and a half years, the Panchayat polls were pending for over two years now. There were 4490 Panchayats in Jammu and Kashmir presently as compared to 4130 in 2011, when last elections to Panchayats were held. Number of the electorates for Panchayat elections had come out at around 57 lakh after extensive exercise undertaken by the Election Department for updating electoral rolls in January this year. However, the number could go up after fresh revision of electoral rolls, which will be undertaken in the next few days. The Central grants running into several hundreds of crores have been blocked due to delay in holding of Panchayat elections as the Union Government gave certain grants only to the elected Panchayats directly. Meanwhile, Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), Shaleen Kabra, who has been designated as the Election Authority of Municipal and Panchayat elections in J&K by an act of legislation in the absence of State Election Commission has initiated the process of special revision of Municipal Electoral Rolls-2018 (with 01-01-2018 as qualifying date) as prescribed in the rules governing conduct of Municipal Elections. The draft electoral rolls for the Municipal Corporations, Municipal Councils and Municipal Committees will be published on August 4. Detailed public notices inviting claims and objections for revision of these electoral rolls, along with the details of the Electoral Registration Officers (EROs), Assistant Electoral Registration Officers (AEROs) and Polling Station Level Officers (PSLOs) will be available on the website of CEO, J&K (www.ceojk.nic.in). According to the CEO, date of publication of draft rolls will be August 4, period for filing claims and objections will be from August 4 to 13, special camp days will be held from August 5 to 12, disposal of claims and objections will be done on August 18, rolls will be updated on August 28 and final electoral rolls will be published on September 4. The claims and objections regarding addition, deletion, correction and transposition of entries can be made as per the schedule manually before the election officials as well as electronically by logging on the website http:-ceojk.nic.in- efiling. 'Only after final electoral rolls are published by the State Election Commission that exact schedule for Urban Local Bodies or Panchayat elections can be announced,' sources said, adding that the State Election Commission has braced up for conduct of Municipal elections first followed by Panchayat polls.

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