The Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, has amended the Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Act 1989, to provide for elections to the District Development Councils (DDCs).
While each district will be divided into 14 territorial constituencies for which elections will be held, the winners will elect a chairperson and a vice-chairperson from amongst themselves. The DDCs will replace the District Development Boards, which were earlier chaired by a Cabinet Minister or a Minister of State and included MLAs, MLCs and Members of Parliament when J&K was a state.
As per the amendment, the DDCs will have jurisdiction over the entire district excluding those areas designated as municipality or municipal corporation. The decision to amend the Panchayati Raj Act comes amidst the forming of an alliance by six major political parties including the National Conference and PDP, the two parties who were arch rivals ever since the creation of the latter. The new alliance, they say, has been solely made for the restoration of the Article 370 and 35A, effectively annulled by the centre on 5 August last year. The decision still awaits adjudication by the top court of the county, more than fourteen months on. The coming together of all these parties brought about the restoration of some kind of political activities In J&K even though the outcome of their demands—“restoration of the rights held by the people of Jammu and Kashmir prior to 5 August 2019”— would depend on how they will go about it and more so on the centre’s willingness to accept their means to undo what has been done more than fourteen months ago. It was perhaps time for New Delhi to start a sincere dialogue to restore the normalcy. Also, there is need to elaborate the decision and answer concerns which point to depoliticisation and creating of layer after layer so that nobody would know who the in-charge is and that the ultimate authority would be a bureaucrat and the security set-up. The government also needs to elaborate on how the DDCs were important at the local level to kick start the political process. It seems that DDCs are aimed to ultimately replace MLAs for now even as powers remain vested with district development commissioners.