National Conference not keen for district councils in Kashmir

Saturday, January 29, 2011

JAMMU - The ruling National Conference has decided not to incorporate Indian constitutional amendments in Jammu and Kashmir’s panchayati raj laws to set up zila parishads or district councils and insists that the state’s existing laws are best suited for devolving power to people at the grassroots level.

The senior partner in the state government believed that the Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Act was the “best” option in the given situation in the state, according to informed sources in the government.

The NC, which is leading the coalition government, is not interested in obliging its alliance partner Congress which has been pressing for the incorporation of the 73rd and the 74th amendments to the Indian constitution into the state’s panchayati raj legislation.

These amendments seek to devolve powers of planning to councils at the district, block and village level. But Jammu and Kashmir’s legislation talks about devolving power only to village level councils.

Pradesh Congress committee president Saif-ud-Din Soz, who is also the chairman of the coordination committee of the ruling alliance partners, has told the NC leadership that the “amendments were must for the panchayat polls in the state”.

He told a meeting of the coordination committee last month that “the panchayat elections should mean devolution of powers to the people not centralisation of the same”.

It was because of these differences between the two parties that the state cabinet Friday could not decide about the schedule of the panchayat polls. The matter has been left to a cabinet sub-committee, according to sources.

“But we believe that our panchayati raj act has all the provisions of empowering the people at the grassroots level and bringing such amendments would only delay the panchayat polls,” a senior NC minister told IANS.

“Let’s first have the panchayat polls, later on we can think of adding more features to the (panchayati raj) act,” the minister said, who did not want to be named.

The last panchayat elections in the state were held in 2001.

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