Tribune News Service
Srinagar, January 5
As the state gears up for the much delayed Panchayat elections next month, it will be faced with a major challenge of security at the grassroots level for electing over 33,000 members coupled with “exploitation” by political parties.
Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, at her meeting with Governor NN Vohra in Jammu on December 25, had informed him about the decision to hold the Panchayat elections on February 15.
The J&K Panchayat Conference, led by Shafiq Ahmad, has welcomed the decision. It has also given a word of caution in view of the killing of 16 panchayat members and injuries to 20 others since the last Panchayat elections. “We have been demanding that the Panchayat elections be held for local governance,” Shafiq Ahmad said while speaking to The Tribune. He said the government was responsible for the “death of the institution”.
He asked the political parties to “stay away” from these elections to ensure safety and security of the participants and people in general. “Panchayats are not a political tool…. there is no politics and the Kashmir issue is not involved. This is all about local governance,” he maintained. He said life of people gets endangered when political parties were involved in the process.
The PDP-BJP government has made it clear that these elections would be held on non-party basis. Abdul Haq, Minister for Rural Development, Panchayati Raj, Law and Justice, during his visit to Kupwara yesterday, said the government was committed to empowering the Panchayat Raj Institutions. He said after the elections, more funds would flow to these institutions for the execution of various development schemes to change the socio-economic scenario of rural areas.
Unrest clouded elections in past
Though the panchayat elections in the state were first held in 2000, a turnout of 80 per cent in the 2011 elections was regarded as credible. The elections for setting up 4,128 panchayats could not be held as scheduled after five years in 2016 due to the unrest in the Valley post-Burhan Wani killing, followed by widespread violence during the bypolls to the Srinagar Lok Sabha constituency resulting in the death of eight persons on April 9. The law and order situation led to the postponing of the bypolls to the Anantnag Lok Sabha scheduled for April 12 last year.
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