Majid Kapra

Employees to get one month extra salary for election duty

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Not Governor, but elected govt will decide about Art 35-A: Govt

Srinagar, Sep 25: Reiterating the Governor’s assertions, the Jammu and Kashmir government Tuesday said its stand on the legal challenge to Article 35-A of the Constitution before the Supreme Court will remain consistent that an elected government should plead the case before the apex court.

“As far as Article 35-A is concerned, the Governor (Satya Pal Malik) has gone on record multiple times and he has clearly said that this is not an elected government and it would be right if an elected government within the state actually fights the case in the Supreme Court,” state Chief Secretary B V R Subrahmanyam told reporters here today.

Subrahmanyam said there was no link between the timing of holding Panchayat elections in the state and deferment of hearing of the PIL challenging Article 35-A before the Supreme Court.

“There have been multiple postponements of the hearings of Article 35-A in the Supreme court before and after the panchayat elections were announced. It is just accidental that the case is listed in January and the panchayat elections are to be completed before that,” he said.

The Chief Secretary also said the Governor’s administration is going to be consistent in its stand before the apex court that an elected State government should fight the case.

“The stand of the Governor’s adminstration is going to be consistent in the Supreme Court that there are many serious complex issues which have to be discussed as far as Article 35-A is concerned and these should not be discussed when Governor’s rule is in place.

“These should be discussed when an elected government is in place, which will take a solid position in the Supreme court. So, there is absolute clarity that Governor’s rule is not about deciding Article 35-A,” he said.

Asked when the Assembly polls will be held in the state, the Chief Secretary said it was for authorities higher than him to decide.

“I am not competent to answer this question. It is for the authorities higher than me to decide,” he said adding that an Assembly was in place in the state.

Meanwhile, the Jammu and Kashmir government Tuesday said it has taken adequate security measures to ensure free and fair polls to Urban Local Bodies and Panchayats in the state even as it also sought to incentivize government employees engaged in election duties with one month’s extra salary.

“We have made adequate arrangements for security for these polls. 400 companies of central forces will be deployed for these polls in addition to what we already have in the form of police and other paramilitary forces,” state Chief Secretary B V R Subrahmanyam told reporters here.

He said the government will provide security to all the candidates who request for it and facilitate their campaigning as well.

“We have arranged accommodation for the candidates who want it at various places across the valley. We have arranged 300 hotel rooms in Srinagar for this purpose,” the Chief Secretary said.

Asked about the post-election security plan for the candidates, Subrahmanyam said, “We have even plans for those who win as they will be at a higher risk.”

He said polling booths have been set up in clusters to ensure that the staff involved in the polls are provided security.

“The government staff involved in the conduct of elections will be provided one month’s extra salary. This has never been done in any part of the country,” the Chief Secretary said.

On the threat by militants to those who participate in the elections, Subrahmanyam said, “Militancy exists (but) that is being handled on the law and order front. There are threats… we are confident that we can handle it.”

Asked if holding polls was prudent in view of the boycott by two major political parties in the Valley, he said there was no question of thrusting the elections on the people.

“There is lot of enthusiasm on the ground. Two national parties (the BJP and the Congress) are participating. If you go down to Jammu, you will see the street-level campaigning,” he added.

Subrahmanyam said more than 700 forms have been taken by prospective candidates for the first phase of urban local bodies, which will be held on October 08. The last date for filing nomination for the first phase was today.

The Chief Secretary said the conduct of these elections will make a large amount of funds available to the state that will be used directly by the Panchayats and urban local bodies in their respective areas.

“The state may lose Rs 4,335 crore in funds (Rs 3,029 crore for panchayats and Rs 1,306 for ULBs) if these polls are not held. These funds do not come to the state government but directly to these bodies,” he added.

Subrahmanyam said the government is making some far-reaching changes that will make Panchayats very powerful decision-making bodies.

“In addition to the grants under the 14th Finance Commission, the funds of various schemes like the MNREGA, the PMAY, the NRLM and the mid-day meal scheme will be routed through panchayats. Each panchayat will have Rs 50 lakh to Rs one crore funds available for local development.

“Each panchayat will have an accountant for keeping books while an ombudsman will be appointed for transparency and accountability. The panchayats can levy taxes at local level as has been done in some parts of the country,” he added.

Chief Secretary said there are 4,490 Panchayats in the state and as many Sarpanches are to be elected. The total number of Panches in the state will be 35,000. There will be around 39,500 elected representatives in these Panchayats, he said.

Subrahmanyam also said that there are 79 urban local bodies and about 1200 wards — 600 each in Kashmir and Jammu region.

The Urban Local Body (ULB) polls will be conducted in four phases starting October 8, whereas the Panchayat polls will be held in 9-phases from November 17. He said the notifications for all the eight Phases of Municipal Polls have already been issued by the Chief Electoral Officer, J&K which would be now followed with notifications for Panchayat Polls.

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