J-K govt forms committees for panchayats, block development council bypolls

Jammu and Kashmir government has framed an apex level and two divisional level committees to conduct preparatory work for by-elections for panchayats and block development councils (BC) in two divisions of the Union Territory. Earlier, the government had planned to hold these polls in March, however, the elections were deferred even after issuing notifications for these polls. In an order, the Jammu ad Kashmir government said that the Apex Level Committee will draw a roadmap and detailed schedule for conducting elections to vacant panchayats and BDCs across the Union Territory. “The Apex level Committee would do its exercise based on inputs provided by the Divisional Level Committees and upon assessment of the ground-level situation taking security, logistics, personnel, equipment into consideration. The Apex Committee will be headed by Principal Secretary to the Government, Home Department,’’ the government order said. The order further said that based on the assessment of manpower, security, logistics, transport, equipment and all other requirements, the Divisional Level Committees will submit an outline of the possibilities and constraints to the Apex Level Committee for holding Panchayat and BDC elections. “The Divisional Level Committees in Jammu and Kashmir will be headed by the respective Divisional Commissioners. The Divisional Level Committee will submit its report to the Apex Level Committee by September 21, while as the Apex Level Committee shall submit its report to the Government by September 28,” the order stated. Earlier, apprehending trouble and on inputs from security agencies, J&K’s Chief Electoral Officer had postponed the polls for vacant panchayat seats that were scheduled to begin from March 5. The panchayat elections for the vacant 11,639 seats in Jammu and Kashmir was scheduled to be held in eight phases and government had issued notification for filling those vacancies. The panchayat elections were held in Jammu and Kashmir in 2018, however, despite the polls, more than 60 percent seats in Kashmir remained vacant as at many places candidates did not file the nomination papers or resigned after getting elected. The highest number of vacant panchayat wards, 2,163, are in north Kashmir’s Baramulla district, followed by Anantnag (1,995). Budgam and Pulwama districts have 1,940 and 1,437 vacant wards, respectively. Similarly, of the total 2,182 sarpanch vacancies in Kashmir, 923 are still vacant. Since the 2018 polls, more than 504 panches have resigned over different reasons. Highest number of resignations came from south Kashmir’s Anantnag with 129 resignations, followed by central Kashmir’s Budgam district with 81 while in Baramulla and Kupwara districts 67 and 61 panches submitted their resignations. After getting elected, 12 sarpanches also resigned with one each resigning in Anantnag and Baramulla districts. Five sarpanches resigned in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district while one resigned in Baramulla, Budgam and Bandipore districts of Kashmir, respectively. Five panchayat members were killed by militants in last one year and many panchayat members have been taken to high-security zone after security forces got inputs that these members are on the radar of militants. In the last panchayat polls, prominent mainstream political parties – National Conference and Congress didn’t participate.