The Centre on Wednesday cleared adoption of the Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Act, saying the process for local body polls in the Union Territory will start soon.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar said the move will help establish all the three tiers of grassroots level democracy like in other parts of the country for the first time since Independence.
The minister said while people across India had the right to elect local representatives, it was missing in J&K. Javadekar said the move will empower people in the UT and they will elect their own representatives. “Those representatives will plan the development of the district and implement the various welfare measures and programs”.
“The three-tier system was not there in Kashmir before. They did not have the opportunity to elect their local representatives. This step redeems the promise made by PM Modi in Kashmir, and Home Minister in Parliament,” Javadekar said.
“Now, there will be early elections, and the power to manage local bodies will go to the people,” the Minister said, adding that J&K administration is working on the adaptation of other laws following abrogation of Article 370 and division of J&K state into two union territories by giving Ladakh a separate UT status.
There is a lot of homework to be done, but the principle has been established, the I&B Minister said.
The decision to devolve powers to the three-tier panchayat system has come more than a year after the Modi government abrogated Art 370 that granted special status to J&K. It also bifurcated the state into two UTs — Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh.
Several Union ministers spoke in favour of the cabinet decision. While Petroleum Minister Dhramendra Pradhan said “as normalcy returns to UT of J&K post the scrapping of Article 370, Modi Govt is ensuring all steps to root out corruption and help establish grassroots-level democracy in Kashmir, like in other parts of India”
“For the first time in 73 years after independence, paving the way for true grassroots democracy in J&K”, Union Cabinet meeting chaired by PM Narendra Modi approves adaptation of J&K Panchayati Raj Act, 1989. All the 3 tiers of local self-rule, like in the rest of country,” tweeted Jitendra Singh Minister of State (PMO).
In another decision related to J&K, the union cabinet approved the extension of Market Intervention Scheme (MIS) for apple procurement in the UT for the current season of 2020-21.
The procurement of apple will be done by the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation (NAFED) through the state-designated agency directly from apple farmers of J&K and the payment will be made through Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) into bank accounts of apple farmers.
Under this scheme, 12 lakh metric tons of apples can be procured. “The government has also allowed NAFED to utilize government guarantee of Rs. 2,500 crore for this operation. The losses, if any, to be incurred in this operation will be shared between Central Government and UT administration of J&K on 50:50 basis,” an official statement said.