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DDC members call off protest after ‘assurance of meeting with LG on Friday

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Jammu: The newly-elected District Development Council (DDC) members on Wednesday called off their two-day long protest in support of better status and monthly honorarium, saying they have got an assurance from Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha whom they are meeting on Friday.

However, the DDC members said they will decide their future course of action after the meeting with the Lt Governor, reiterating their demand for cancellation of the warrant of precedence and honorarium scale set up by the Union Territory administration.

Cutting across party lines, the newly-elected DDC members had on Tuesday boycotted a two-day training programme here and staged a protest in support of their demand for better status and monthly honorarium, forcing the Lt Governor to cancel his inaugural session.

Various political parties including the BJP, the Congress, the CPI(M) and the Peoples’ Conference came out in support of the agitating DDC members and urged Lt Governor Sinha to ensure they have adequate powers to mobilise government departments and address public grievances.

The maiden DDC elections to 280 seats — 14 each in 20 districts — were held in November-December last year and the chairpersons and their deputies in all the 20 districts were elected last month.

The DDC members staged the protest after the UT administration amended its warrant of precedence, placing the DDC chairpersons equivalent to administrative secretaries, vice chairpersons to vice-chancellors of universities and the DDC members to district magistrates.

As per the government order, the DDC chairpersons would get monthly honorarium of Rs 35,000 including Rs 1500 travel allowance and Rs 500 telephone charges. Vice chairpersons will get Rs 25,000 including Rs 1500 travel allowance and Rs 500 telephone charges and members will get Rs 15,000 including Rs 1500 travel allowance and Rs 500 telephone charges.

“We have received a message from the Lt Governor, who is presently out of the station, and is coming back on March 12 for a meeting to address our genuine demands,” DDC chairperson and senior BJP leader Bharat Bushan told reporters at Exhibition Ground here.

Bushan was flanked by other DDC members affiliated with different parties including the Congress, National Conference, PDP, CPI(M) and independents who had assembled at the place to resume the protest this morning.

Bushan said they are calling off the protest on the assurance of Lt Governor Sinha that “injustice will be undone”.

Blaming bureaucrats for the protocol and power related fiasco, he said Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah and even the Lt Governor had in the past talked about strengthening of the Panchayati Raj Institutions in the Union Territory and ensured a three-tier system for the betterment of the people.

“We have formed a committee, composed mostly of DDC chairpersons from across the Union Territory, and they will hold the meeting with the Lt Governor. We are hopeful of a peaceful resolution of the issue,” he said.

However, he alleged that the administration cancelled the accommodation of the DDC members who have come from different districts forcing them on the roads following the protest.

“We condemn this action of the administration…protest is our democratic right,” he said, adding they will decide the next course of action after meeting the Lt Governor.

Earlier, the protesting DDC members shouted slogans during the sit-in protest against the administration to press for immediate rescinding of the recent orders prescribing protocol and honorarium of chairpersons, vice-chairpersons and members.

“We are on the roads for our people who voted for us…How can we serve our people if we are not given adequate powers and facilities? We will not hesitate to resign en masse if our demands are not met,” DDC member Taranjeet Singh said addressing the protesters.

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