Ahead of Jammu and Kashmir local body polls, home ministry announces sops, approves Rs 5.5 lakh for Pak refugees

Home Minister Rajnath Singh, in a flurry of tweets, emphasised on the upcoming local body and panchayat polls as a gateway to bring grassroot level changes and development in the militancy-affected state.

Announcing hikes in the budget, functions and functionaries of local body bodies and panchayats, the minister said that "the local body elections in Jammu and Kashmir will re-establish the long overdue grassroots level democracy in the state" and that the "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".

File image of Union minister Rajnath Singh. News18

File image of Union home minister Rajnath Singh. News18

"These elections will also pave the way for making available nearly Rs 4,335 crore of 14th Finance Commission Central grants to the duly constituted local bodies. But for these elections, people of Jammu and Kashmir would have been deprived of these funds meant for their welfare," Singh tweeted.

The urban local body polls are being held after 2005 whereas the panchayat election after 2011, the minister said, adding that "provision of direct elections for sarpanches of the panchayats has also been restored to ensure accountability".

Announcing a 10-time enhancement of financial powers of panchayats from Rs 10,000 to Rs 1 lakh, the minister said that "the functions and functionaries of the all the 29 subjects transferred to panchayats under the 73rd Amendment of the Constitution of India will also be transferred to the panchayats of Jammu and Kashmir." These include institutions like public healthcare centres, primary schools, and aanganwadi centers to name a few.

Singh tweeted that panchayats will now get on an average Rs 50-80 lakh every year, while also stating that they will be able to find means of "own fund generation" by charging building permission fee, taxes on entertainment, advertisement, hoardings, various kinds of businesses and profession, etc.

Singh also emphasised that panchayats will now be involved in the implementations of key national and state level schemes by giving them powers to select the eligible beneficiaries for various schemes. He also added that additional posts are being sanctioned for accountant, data entry operator, block panchayat inspector, etc, to strengthen the panchayats.

The Union home minister also announced similar measures for block councils as well. He said that the financial powers for block councils have been increased from Rs 25,000 to 2.5 lakh, adding that they 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 home ministry also released a statement saying that more powers have been given to the Leh and Kargil Autonomous Hill Development Councils (LAHDC and KAHDC) to address various issues being faced by people living in the remote areas of Ladakh region.

"The LAHDC and 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 and 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," it said.

The MHA also said that the Panchayats in Kargil and Leh will also follow directions of these councils, and that the chief executive councillor will also be the chairman of all tourism development authorities. These councils will also have a deputy chairman for better functioning.

The MHA also enhanced the honorarium given to special police officers from the existing Rs 6,000 per month to 9,000 on completion of 5 years and Rs 12,000 on completion of 15 years.

A scheme of Rs 5.5 lakh in financial assistance to nearly 5,764 West Pakistan refugees settled in Jammu and Kashmir has also been approved, Singh said, adding, that amounts due to the eligible beneficiaries will be transferred in their bank accounts.

The state government has designated the divisional commissioner of Jammu as the nodal officer for effective and speedy disbursement of the amount to all eligible beneficiaries, it said.


Updated Date: Sep 28, 2018 11:44 AM

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