The newly formed District Development Council (DDC) is receiving strong opposition from the Locals in Jammu and Kashmir. The locals believe that it will dilute democracy in the region. They say that the DDCs will be a parallel system of power and governance which is all about territorial constituencies.
The locals are afraid that they will hardly have a say in the administration.
On 17 October, the Central government amended the Jammu and Kashmir Panchayat Raj Act, 1989 and the Jammu and Kashmir Panchayat Raj Rules 1996. The amendments were made to ensure ‘grassroot governance’ in the region through the DDCs.
Voters in the district will directly elect the members of the DDCs. 14 territorial constituencies will form each district. These territorial constituencies will elect members for DDCs. Then, these members will choose Chairperson and Vice-Chairperson of the district.
Other than areas managed by municipality or municipal corporation, these DDCs will have full control over the district.
The Members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs) and chairpersons of Block Development Council (BDC) will also be a part of the DDCs. But only 14 members will have the power to choose or remove the Chairperson and Vice-Chairperson.
The Central government is of the opinion that this move will enhance grassroot democracy.
However, this initiative is widely seen as undermining the established Panchayati Raj Institutions like gram panchayats and BDCs. Shafiq Mir, the president of J&K Panchayat Conference, said that we already have a panchayat system whose members are elected by the voters.
This move will side line that system. He added that we will have a DDC whose members will also be directly elected; they will have a major control over the development activities in the district.
This initiative leaves the elected members of the gram panchayats and the BDCs nowhere. Mir is also BDC chairman. According to him, too many players in a region will lead to confusion regarding the priority of the development work in that particular area.
In 2018, elections to Panchayats were held in J&K. Voters poorly participated in Kashmir because of the boycott by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and National Conference (NC).