J&K readies for block-level polls
After panchayat polls proved to be an astounding success in nine out of 16 phases held so far, the Jammu and Kashmir government has begun preparations for constituting 143 block development councils and 22 district planning and development boards.
The panchayat polls to elect 4,130 Sarpanch's and 29,719 Panchs will conclude on June 16. A senior official in the state's chief electoral office said, "We are required to constitute block development councils within 30 days, after elected Panchs and Sarpanchs are invited for a formal meeting." Elections to the second-tier of panchayati system will be completed in August.
The Panchayat Raj has a three-tier system with district-level at top. While in rest of the country, the chairpersons of the district planning and development board is an elected person, in J&K the position will be retained by a minister. The vice chairperson, however, would be elected from the chiefs of the block council.
Officials are elated over the massive participation of people. In two instances, participants were attacked by insurgents. A lady contesting the polls was killed and Mohammad Maqbool Bhat, a candidate seeking election from a Sopore village survived the attack. Currently in hospital, 65-year old Bhat is undeterred.
He told reporters that he will contest come what may. He said that when militants attacked him, he told them he would not contest if they spare him. "But they shot at me to maim me, so I gave up the idea of withdrawing. It has been ordained by the Almighty that I contest the elections, so I will."
There are certain areas where nobody is keen to contest. In Sopore, for instance, there are some village where nobody has filed the nomination for the positions of Panchs or Sarpanch. It is almost the same situation in Tral. Of the 430 berths of Panchs and 60 Sarpanchs, nobody has filed nomination for 231 Panch and 9 Sarpanch berths and 135 Panchs and 30 Sarpanchs have won uncontested.
Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has said the government is determined to transfer powers to the elected bodies as soon as possible.