The government has for the first time honoured the grass-root level peoples’ representatives in Kashmir and given them a sense of pride, dignity and empowerment
The Government of Jammu and Kashmir on Tuesday modified its warrant of precedence and elevated the chairpersons of the recently constituted 20 District Development Councils (DDCs) above Members of Parliament (MPs) and Chief Secretary of the Union Territory.
Previously the DDC chairpersons had been placed equal in order of precedence to the officers of the rank of Secretary to Government and Inspector General of Police. However, at an official gathering in Jammu last month, the chairpersons and vice chairpersons registered a protest. Cutting across their political affiliations, they unanimously turned down the status allotted to them and demanded a status equal to Ministers of State (MoS).
A representative delegation of the chairpersons and vice chairpersons met Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha who assured them ‘better status and empowerment’. Days after the meeting, the Government on Tuesday, 6 April, issued a modification.
As per the modified warrant of precedence, the DDC chairpersons have been placed equal to mayors of Srinagar Municipal Corporation and Jammu Municipal Corporation. They will be one step below Deputy Ministers within their States, Deputy Speakers of Legislative Assemblies in Union Territories and Deputy Chairman of Metropolitan Council Delhi within their respective Union Territories.
The DDC chairpersons at an official meeting or gathering however will be superior to Deputy Chairmen and Deputy Speakers of State Legislatures outside their respective States, Ministers of State in States outside their respective States, Puisne Judges of High Courts outside their respective jurisdictions and Members of Parliament (MPs).
They will be also treated as being senior to Deputy Ministers in State outside their respective States, Army Commanders, Vice-Chief of the Army Staff.
The Vice Chairpersons of the DDCs have been placed equal to Secretary to Government, Divisional Commissioner, Inspector General of Police, Chief Conservator of Forest, Joint Secretary to Government of India, Major General, Vice Chancellors of Universities within their State/UT, District Magistrates, District and Sessions Judge and major Heads of Departments.
By way of the modification, the UT Government has for the first time honoured the grass-root level peoples’ representatives and given them a sense of pride, dignity and empowerment. Government has already authorised the officers to set up offices for chairpersons and vice chairpersons of the DDC at the district headquarters. As of now, only the chairpersons of the middle tier of the Panchayati Raj system (Block Development Councils) have been given offices at the Block Development Offices. Funds are also flowing directly from the Centre to the BDC chairpersons.
While the overdue elections for the Panchayats and the Urban Local Bodies, including Srinagar Municipal Corporation and Jammu Municipal Corporation, were held in the autumn of 2019, elections for BDC chairpersons were held a year later in 2019. These were the first such elections after abrogation of Article 370 and 35-A and split of the erstwhile State into the two UTs of J&K and Ladakh.
The first elections for DDCs, which were also the first adult universal franchise in J&K after abrogation of Article 370, were held in October-November 2021 and the results were declared on 22 December 2021. These elections of high voter turnout in Kashmir also signified completion of the three-tier Panchayati Raj system in Jammu and Kashmir. All these democratic exercises were held during Governor’s or President’s rule.