In an attempt to placate chairpersons of the District Development Councils (DDCs), Jammu and Kashmir’s Lt Governor Manoj Sinha on Friday assured the members that the government would reconsider its recently issued ‘warrant of precedence’ and look into their issues.
The assurance came during a meeting between the Lt Governor and representatives of DDCs in Jammu.
“I can say that the Lt Governor sahib and the chairpersons of the DDC were on the same page,” said Bari Andrabi, chairperson of Pulwama DDC. Andrabi belongs to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that is part of the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD). “Let me make it clear, we have not made demands like the ones being talked about in the media — about protocol and honorarium. What we say is that we don’t foresee our objectives enshrined under Panchayati Raj being achieved after the recent government orders. To achieve our objectives, we need supporting infrastructure.”
Andrabi said the Lt Governor had hinted towards a change in the ‘warrant of precedence’ announced last week.
The ‘warrant of precedence’ had put DDC chairpersons on a par with administrative secretaries and Divisional Commissioners. The DDC chairpersons, however, demanded a position higher or equivalent to the Mayors of Srinagar and Jammu. The members also want a change in the structure of the District Planning Committee (DPC). While the DDC would be headed by the Chairperson, the DPC is headed by a and the DDC Chairperson is its member. The DDC chairpersons want to head the DPC as well. Some members have also demanded a separate district-level planning commission.
“He (Lt Governor) assured that the government wants to make the DDCs very powerful and that all district-level works should come under it,” Andrabi told The Indian Express. “He said that they want to make DDC the number one authority in the district.”
The meeting was also attended by Chief Secretary B V R Subrahmanyam, J&K administration’s official spokesperson Rohit Kansal and Secretary, Rural Development and Panchayati Raj, Sheetal Nanda. Sources said that after the outcry from the DDC chairpersons, Sinha went to Delhi. Immediately after his return, he called the meeting with DDC representatives.
BJP leader and Jammu DDC chairperson Bharat Bhushan said, “Though he did not promise what will be the protocol of DDC chairpersons, he hinted that they too will be empowered like Mayors of the Municipal Corporations at Jammu and in Srinagar.”
Mayors of the Jammu and Srinagar municipal corporations enjoy the status of a cabinet minister. Members of DDCs, including vice-chairpersons and chairpersons, on Tuesday boycotted the two-day training programme-cum-workshop to be inaugurated by the Lt Governor in protest against the administration’s new ‘warrant of precedence’. They had accused the administration of insulting
them by lowering the stature of DDCs.
In its official release, the administration said that the Lt had assured the members of “safeguarding” their interests. “Reiterating J&K Government’s commitment to safeguarding the interests of DDC representatives, the Lt Governor observed that the three-tier Panchayati Raj system was established to empower the grass-root democracy.”
Meanwhile, All Jammu and Kashmir Panchayat Conference president Anil Sharma has said that if the demands of DDC members are accepted, the facilities extended to elected panches, sarpanches and block development council chairpersons should also be enhanced.
“If Lt Governor’s administration accepts the demand of DDC members then it will have to increase the honorarium and protocol of nearly 40,000 elected panches, sarpanches and BDC chairpersons as well,’’ said Sharma, sarpanch of Jandrah panchayat in Jammu district’s Dhansal block.
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