Clearing the decks for introduction of a three-tier system of local body governance in the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir, the Union Cabinet Wednesday approved an amendment to the Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Act, 1989.
The amendment to the law, effected by the Ministry of Home Affairs on October 16, will lead to the establishment of District Development Councils (DDC), members of which will be directly elected by voters of the Union Territory. The DDCs will be the third-tier — at the district level, over the block and village levels.
In another decision, the Cabinet approved immediate disbursal of productivity-linked bonus (PLB) and ad hoc bonus for its non-gazetted employees. This is expected to benefit a total of 30.67 lakh employees. The total financial implication, the government said, will be Rs 3,737 crore.
While PLB for 2019-2020 will be disbursed among “16.97 lakh non-gazetted employees of commercial establishments like Railways, Posts, Defence, EPFO, ESIC, etc”, non-PLB or ad hoc bonus, the government said, will be paid to 13.70 lakh non-gazetted central government employees.
Hailing the announcement of bonus for central government employees, Union Home Minister Amit Shah said it will bring joy ahead of the festive season.
“Modi government is synonymous with prosperity. I congratulate PM @narendramodi ji for bringing joy in the lives of about 30.67 lakh central government employees before this festive season by approving the immediate payment of bonus into their accounts in today’s cabinet meeting,” Shah said in a Twitter post.
Announcing the Cabinet decisions, Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar said approval of the amendment to the Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Act will facilitate the holding of elections soon.
He said, “the three-tier Panchayati Raj system is now operational in Jammu and Kashmir” which was not there earlier.
Before the abrogation of Article 370, Javadekar said people elsewhere in the country elsewhere had the right to elect local representatives, but in Jammu and Kashmir “that was not happening”.
“Now, we have a three-tier system in Jammu and Kashmir also,” he said, naming the Gram Panchayat, Block Development Council and District Development Council as the three tiers.
“This was promised by the Prime Minister in Kashmir, and it was promised by the Home Minister in Parliament. Now that stands redeemed. Now there will be early elections, and the power to manage local bodies will go to the people,” Javadekar said.
Under the amended law, each district of J&K will be divided into 14 constituencies, electing a member each to the DDC. The DDC members will then elect a chairperson and vice-chairperson.
These DDCs will replace the District Development Boards which were headed by a state cabinet minister and had MLCs, MLAs, MPs as members when J&K was a State.
The erstwhile District Development Boards were at the centre of planning and development as they were responsible for approving development plans for the districts, through which all funding was routed.
In another decision related to J&K, the Union Cabinet approved the extension of Market Intervention Scheme (MIS) for apple procurement in the UT for the current season (2020-21) on the same terms and conditions as was done in J&K during last season (2019-20).
An official statement said the procurement of apple will be done by NAFED through the “State Designated Agency i.e. Directorate of Planning and Marketing, Department of Horticulture & Jammu & Kashmir Horticulture Processing and Marketing Corporation (JKHPMC), directly from apple farmers of J&K and the payment will be made through Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) into bank account of apple farmers. 12 LMT of apples can be procured under this scheme”.
The government, it said, has also allowed NAFED to utilise government guarantee of Rs 2,500 crore for this operation. “The losses, if any, to be incurred in this operation will be shared between Central Government and UT administration of J&K on 50:50 basis,” it said.