Governor announces Panchayat polls, designates CEO as SEC

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Feb 26:  After Urban Local Bodies (ULBs), Governor NN Vohra today announced holding of Panchayat elections in Jammu and Kashmir on due time in June-July by clearing major formality of approving amendments in the Panchayati Raj Act under which Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), J&K, Shantmanu has been designated as the State Election Commission for holding elections.
The Governor, who chaired first meeting of the State Administrative Council (SAC) in the Civil Secretariat today, approved amendments to the Panchayati Raj Act, 1989 to the extent that the ensuing elections will be held under the superintendence, direction and control of the CEO J&K, thus, designating him as the State Election Commission for the Panchayat elections.
As reported, only the State Election Commission could hold elections to the Panchayats, which become due in June-July as term of the existing Panchayats, was ending in July this year. However, the previous Governments had not amended the Panchayati Raj Act to constitute the State Election Commission, which only was empowered to hold elections to the Panchayats.
As the Governor now enjoyed Legislature powers following imposition of Governor’s Rule in the State and Assembly under suspended animation, he amended the State Panchayati Raj Act and designated the CEO J&K as the State Election Commission for the Panchayat elections.
“The Panchayat elections will now be held under the superintendence, direction and control of the CEO J&K (Shantmanu),” sources said.
Last elections to the Panchayats were held in April-May 2011 and existing Panchayats would complete their term in July 2016. Elections to Panchayats had to be held in June-July to ensure that new Panchayats were in place in time.
The Governor had already set March 31 as deadline for the CEO J&K to complete all formalities for holding the Urban Local Bodies elections.
Meanwhile, the SAC also approved financial assistance under Prime Minister’s Development Package (PMDP)-2015 for providing relief to the people, whose houses were damaged in September-2014 floods.
It approved scale of relief under PMDP-2015 as Rs 2.5 lakh for fully damaged pucca house, Rs 1 lakh for fully damaged kacha house, Rs 1.25 lakh for severely damaged pucca house, Rs 50,000 for severely damaged kacha house, Rs 20,000 for partially damaged pucca houses and Rs 10,000 for partially damaged kacha house.
The SAC also directed that the list of damaged houses be reconciled by the Deputy Commissioners with the data of damaged houses available with the NDMA New Delhi, which has transferred the financial assistance out of Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF) into the bank account numbers of affectees through Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT).
The SAC also directed that the relief in cases of damaged houses under PMDP-2015 be transferred electronically by way of Direct Transfer into the official bank accounts of respective Deputy Commissioners for further disbursement to the affectees.
Meanwhile, the SAC approved the extension of the local area of the Jammu Development Authority from 288 Sq Km to 652 Sq Km extending thereby the territorial limits of JDA to include 103 new villages of Jammu and Samba districts. The SAC asked the JDA to prepare a revised Master Plan of this area as per provisions of the J&K Development Act.
The SAC directed the Housing and Urban Development that the planning and development in the newly included areas should take care of the rural urban interface which will come into play with the inclusion of these villages. It said that the review of the Master Plan should be a continuous and dynamic exercise as per the legal provisions of the act, so that it always triggers the planned urbanization of the city of Jammu in a holistic manner.
The SAC directed that experts from established national institutions be co- opted while finalizing the Jammu Master Plan, after following the statutory process of public consultation as provided in the J&K Development Act. It also directed that a proper Land Use Change Policy be also framed for bringing about transparency in the conversion of land particularly within the Master Plan area in future.
The SAC directed that the J&K Development Act may also be reviewed to bring it at par with contemporary realities of Urban Development.
The decision will help in the planned growth of Jammu city in future and the New Master Plan for Jammu will be prepared with a futuristic vision upto 2032.
The SAC also approved the proposal for creation of the office of Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities along with supporting staff.
Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities will be an independent institution, having quasi-judicial powers. He will co-ordinate with the various Departments of the Government, for leveraging the programmes and schemes for the benefit of persons with disabilities; monitor the utilization of funds disbursed by the Government; take steps to safeguard the rights and facilities made available to persons with disabilities; submit reports to the Government on implementation of the Act at such intervals as the Government may prescribe and perform a number of such other functions to secure the implementation of the J&K Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1998.
The creation of a separate office of Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities was a long standing and enduring demand of the specially abled persons, who have a sizeable presence in the State, numbering nearly 3.5 lakh. A separate institution will help in providing a focused attention to the problems faced by these persons and expedite their resolution. The decision will bring purpose and intensity in the programmes and policies of the Government.
The SAC also reviewed the implementation of National Food Security Act, 2013.
The SAC was informed that under NFSA 74.13 lac beneficiaries will now receive 5 Kg Rice @ Rs. 3/- or 5 Kg wheat @ Rs. 2/- per kg, as a matter of right. Foodgrains for the remaining 45 lac souls will continue to be available @ Rs. 10/- per Kg of Rice and Rs. 8/- per Kg of Wheat. Thus, effectively, 20 lac more souls will now get covered under the Public Distribution System after the implementation of NFSA.
The SAC was also informed that 18 districts of the State have become fully compliant and their population is getting benefit of the highly subsidized ration under NFSA from February, 2016. Further, four more districts shall migrate in March, 2016 thus making the J&K State fully NFSA compliant.
SAC took note of the significant increase in the number of new ration cards and souls in both provinces of the State. It was informed that 15.25 lac souls in Kashmir and 7.48 lac souls in Jammu have been added as rationees under NFSA.
SAC also took note that the State Government shall now be able to claim reimbursement for door step delivery of foodgrains on account of Inter-State Transport, commission of the Fair Price dealers and computerization of Fair Price Shops from February, 2016 onwards
SAC directed Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution Department to ensure online availability of ration card, online allocation of foodgrains and online grievance redressal, thus migrating the Consumer Affairs & Public Distribution Department from a loose PDS system to Targeted NFSA aimed at providing transparency, good governance and check on pilferages.
SAC also directed the Consumer Affairs & Public Distribution Department to complete end to end computerization within next three months by installing computers and other peripherals in 426 locations.
SAC took note of the news items appearing in media highlighting the sporadic protests by some sections of the society alleging that they had been adversely affected by the implementation of NFSA. SAC directed Consumer Affairs & Public Distribution department to analyze the problems / difficulties arising out of the implementation of NFSA and chalk out a comprehensive action plan to address the genuine grievances of the people.

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