STATE TIMES NEWSNew Delhi: In the absence of legislative assembly representatives, the Centre has amended the Panchayati Raj Act in Jammu and Kashmir to strengthen local bodies under which a new power structure will be created in every district which will be directly elected by the voters to carry out various development works.The District Development Council (DDC) will have 14 territorial constituencies, each of which will have a directly elected member. Some of the seats will be reserved for the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes and women.The order of Union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla for amendment of the Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Act, 1989 was issued over a year after the Centre’s decision to abrogate the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcate it into two Union Territories.After the August 5, 2019 development, Ladakh became a union territory. Jammu and Kashmir too was reduced from a state to a union territory but with a legislature.The Centre also announced the delimitation process to be carried out in the newly carved out union territory for reworking the constituencies. The delimitation commission, set up in March, is headed by former Supreme Court judge Justice Ranjana Desai.The latest decision, according to the officials, has been taken to ensure that development is carried out in every area with more participation of the people — what was earlier done by the elected representatives of the assembly.This can be helpful till the delimitation commission submits its report and the Election Commission conducts polls in the newly carved out union territory of Jammu and Kashmir.As per the fresh executive order for Jammu and Kashmir, which has been under direct rule of the Centre since November 2018, every DDC shall consist of the directly elected members from territorial constituencies in the district, chairpersons of all Block Development Councils of the district. Once assembly elections are held, members of the Legislative Assembly whose constituencies lie within the district will also be DDC members.Immediately after taking oath or affirmation of allegiance, the elected members of a DDC shall, in the prescribed manner, elect from amongst themselves the Chairperson and the Vice-Chairperson of the Council.All members of the DDC, whether or not elected by direct election from territorial constituencies in the district, shall have the right to vote in the Council’s meetings. However, in case of election or removal of the Chairman and Vice-Chairman only the directly elected members shall have the right to vote, the order said.The Additional District Development Commissioner shall be the Chief Executive Officer of the DDC.The DDC will replace the District Development Boards, which earlier, when Jammu and Kashmir was a state, were chaired by a Cabinet Minister or a Minister of State and included MLAs and MPs.The term of the DDC shall be five years except for holding common elections to all levels of the Panchayats simultaneously so that all the tiers have co-extensive terms in the district.The DDC will have jurisdiction over the entire district excluding Municipality or Municipal Corporation areas, it said.Every DDC will have a District Development Council Fund, comprising grants by the government and its own resources. The Council will pay remuneration to its staff by using its own resources, the order elaborated.The DDC shall have powers to acquire, hold or dispose of property or enter into a contract in accordance with the rules prescribed, it said.For every district, there will be a District Planning Committee which will consider and guide the formulation of development programmes for the district and indicate priorities for various schemes and consider issues relating to the speedy development and economic upliftment of the district, to function as a working group for formulation of periodic and annual plans for the district, to formulate and finalise the plan and non-plan budget for the district.The DDC will have powers to prepare plans or monitor activities of departments like agriculture, animal, sheep, fisheries and horticulture, consumer affairs, and public distribution, education, forest, health and family welfare, industries and commerce, PWD, public health engineering, irrigation, flood control, revenue, social welfare, tourism and rural development.With the creation of the DDC, the three-tier Panchayati Raj system in Jammu and Kashmir will be completed. The other two bodies are the Halqa Panchayats and the Block Development Councils (BDCs). ‘Halqa’ means the area comprising a village or contiguous number of villages determined by the government.The panchayat at each level shall every year prepare a development plan for the next year in respect of the functions vested in it, for the respective panchayat area in the form and manner prescribed and it shall be submitted to the BDC before the date prescribed which shall be called the gram panchayat development plan, the MHA order explained.The planning process shall be initiated by the panchayats on October 2 every year and end on December 31.The ‘Halqa’ panchayat shall submit the Gram Panchayat Development Plan to the BDC before the date prescribed, and the BDC shall consolidate all plans prepared by the panchayats and submit the same to the DDC, the order said.
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