Jammu & Kashmir Government has taken a number of decisions pursuant to the review meeting on 4-5 July 2018 during my visit to the state. Most significant of these is the conduct of Local Body Elections that are currently underway.
Central Government is providing all possible support to the State Government for smooth conduct of these elections including deployment of Central forces in sufficient numbers.
These Local Body elections will have a historic significance in many aspects. The local bodies elections in J&K will re-establish the long overdue grassroots level democracy in J&K.
Urban Local Body elections are being held after 2005 and Panchayat Elections after 2011. Provision of Direct elections for Sarpanches of the Panchayats has also been restored to ensure accountability.
These elections will also pave the way for making available nearly Rs. 4,335 Crs of 14th Finance Commission Central grants to the duly constituted local bodies. But for these elections, people of J&K would have been deprived of these funds meant for their welfare.
Local Bodies are also being vested with significantly enhanced devolution of powers in line with best practices in the country. This will enable them to address most of the local issues in their jurisdictions.
The functions and functionaries of all the 29 subjects transferred to Panchayats under the 73rd Amendment of the Constitution of India will also be transferred to the Panchayats of J&K including institutions like Primary Health Centers, Primary Schools, Aganwadi Centers to name a few.
Financial Powers of Panchayats are being enhanced 10 times from Rs 10 thousand to Rs 1 Lakh for Panchayats. Similarly, from Rs 25 Thousand to Rs 2.5 Lakhs for Block Councils.
Powers for “Own fund generation” are being given to Panchayats. These will include Building Permission Fee, Taxes on entertainment, advertisement, hoardings, various kinds of businesses & profession etc.
Central and State Government funds will further supplement “Own funds” of the Panchayats under various schemes such as MGNERGA, PMAY, ICDS, Mid-Day meal etc. In addition to selection of eligible beneficiaries for various schemes, Panchayats will also be involved in the implementations of Key National Schemes such as National Health Mission, Samagraha Siksha, Mission for development of Horticulture, ATMA, PMKSY etc
On an average every Panchayat will now get around Rs. 50-80 Lakhs per year at its disposal for implementation of such schemes. To further strengthen the Panchayats, additional posts are being sanctioned for Accountant, Data Entry operator, Block Panchayat Inspector etc.
The Leh and Kargil Autonomous Hill Development Councils (LAHDC and KAHDC) have been strengthened and empowered to become the most autonomous councils in the country to address various issues being faced by people living in the remote areas of Ladakh region.
The LAHDC & KAHDC have been given more powers to levy and collect local taxes. Control has been given over functioning of various departments as well as the Government employees working for the subjects that are transferred to them.
All such properties like public buildings, public roads constructed by LAHDC & KAHDC shall now belong to the council. Funds allocated to these councils from the State Budget can now be carried forward for the next year.
The Panchayats in Kargil and Leh will also follow directions of these councils. Chief Executive Councillor will also be the Chairman of all Tourism Development Authorities. These Councils will also have a Deputy Chairman for better functioning.
Considering the crucial role being played by the Special Police Officers in anti-militancy operations, MHA has enhanced their honorarium from existing Rs 6,000 per month to 9,000 on completion of 5 years and Rs 12,000 on completion of 15 years.
MHA has approved a scheme of Rs 5.5 Lakh financial assistance to nearly 5,764 West Pakistan Refugees settled in J&K. Amounts due to the eligible beneficiaries will be transferred in their bank accounts.
The State Government has designated Divisional Commissioner Jammu as the nodal officer for effective & speedy disbursement of the amount to all eligible beneficiaries.