Urban Local body polls
The government is all set to initiate the process of ensuring the local body polls in the state. The governor N N Vohra had been quite vocal about the issue as he kept on raising the issue of holding these polls time and again with the elected governments.
No wonder then that soon after taking over the reins of power, the administration headed by N N Vohra wasted no time in announcing the conduct of local body polls.
The State Administrative Council (SAC) even approved the proposal to amend the Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Act, 1989, for conducting elections of Sarpanches of Halqa Panchayats directly by the electorate of Halqa Panchayats and not by indirect method of electing Sarpanches from among the Panches themselves.
This, according to the SAC will restore the original position in the Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Act, 1989, which provided for direct elections of Sarpanches, a position altered by an amendment passed in 2016.
The need for doing this amendment was to restore the primacy and importance of the Sarpanches in the Panchayati Raj System and giving them the necessary legitimacy to be able to discharge their functions. This provides stability in the Panchayati Raj System and ensures accelerated development which meets local needs. Direct elections also make the Sarpanches accountable directly to the people rather than to an intermediate group. Further, this amendment brings the spirit of the 73rd Constitutional Amendment to the Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Act.
The move to ensure the local body polls is aimed at creating an institution of self governance at the lower level. The move if successful will further the inclusion and percolation of benefits of decentralized planning at the grass-root level. It will also ensure greater participation of people in planning and formulation of area specific policies and programmes and hence their involvement in decision making process.
However, the issue of holding these elections can come at a cost that the SAC should also not undermine. Local body polls can be a success if the participation level in these polls is more than satisfactory. But given the fact that the situation in the state especially Kashmir is reflected on ground, it certainly proves that the environs are not conducive for such an exercise. The whole scenario needs to be relooked into.
Kashmir Valley has been on a boil from the past two years. The situation for mainstream activities has shrunk to a level that even legislators in the state have not been able to hold and maintain the level of interactions that they should otherwise hold with their electorate.
Even the elections to the south Kashmir Parliamentary seat too could not be held and the elections had to be deferred given the ground situation being hostile for such an exercise.
In such a scenario holding the local body polls can prove to be tough nut to crack. Not only will the administration have to be super active to ensure that secure environs are created for holding such an exercise but the security of the participants too needs to be ensured.
Kashmir has witnessed lots and lots of mindless killings and the SAC headed by N N Vohra should keep this in mind. Empowerment of institutions is a must but not at the cost of human lives.