Village Defence Committees (VDCs) members in Jammu and Kashmir organized a protest demonstration outside the BJP headquarters with a demand to release their pending salaries. VDCs’ main function is to defend remote and hilly villages.
It was claimed by the VDC members that for the last three years, they were not given their salaries.
The protesters came from various districts of the region. They warned that they would boycott the District Development Council (DDC) elections if they were not given their pending salary. The DDC elections are scheduled to be held in eight phases beginning from November 28.
4,125 VDCs are employed in Jammu and Kashmir and their job is to ensure the safety and security of the villages given to them. They safeguard along the borders as well as in interior areas other than guarding the infrastructural works in and around the villages.
It was in the mid-1990s when the VDCs were set up. It was done in an attempt to strengthen the security of those living in remote and mountainous areas of Kathua, Doda, Ramba, Rajouri, Kishtwar, Reasi, and Poonch districts.
One of the protesters said that they are staging a peaceful dharna demanding for release of their salaries which are pending for the last three years. About a month back, they raised the issue with the BJP leadership, but to no effect. Their families are starving.
When they tried to visit the BJP office to meet the party leaders, they were denied entry by the security staff saying that the leaders were busy with the DDC elections.
One of the protestors said that they will boycott the DDC polls if their pending salaries were not deposited in their bank accounts by November 28. They also demanded that the administration adjust them as Special Police Officers (SPOs) whose wages have been increased to Rs 18,000 from Rs 5000.
A resident of Kathua district, Ashok Singh, said that it is unfortunate that the Central government is disregarding the community which has fought militancy over the past three decades. He said that the government has provided us guns but not wages.
In 1999, the Village Defence Committees (VDCs) were recruited for “self-defence” and to stop militancy and cross-border infiltration. They played a vital role in resisting the militants. The Indian Army conducts training for VDC members which consists of weapons training and basics of intelligence gathering.