District Development Council Elections An Act In Haste And Mean To Disempower Panchayats

District Development Council Elections An Act In Haste And Mean To Disempower Panchayats

Since last few years many steps were taken to strengthen panchayat raj 1989 at grass root level and powers were delegated to panchayats, be it 14th FC payments, MG NEREGA Payments, planning of panchayat through Gram Sabha’s, Supervisions to Mid-day meals, or direct control over Government departments in respective panchayats. The boost was given to panchayat Raj when last year Block development councils were constituted and BDC chairpersons were elected among elected representatives of Panchayats like Panchs and Sarpanchs which completed the second tire and also made these elected chairpersons directly accountable to these elected Panchayats representatives and Panchayats. With new amendments in Panchayat Raj Act 1989 of JK by the order of Ministry of Home Affairs on dated 16th Oct 2020 third tire in the shape of DDC are introduced and elections for the same are going on. As per these amendment’s section 45 of the Panchayat Raj Act 1989 says for each District there shall be a District Development council, having jurisdiction over the entire district excluding such portions of the district which are included in a Municipality or municipal corporation constituted under any law for the time being in force.

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Constitution of District Development council:- sec 45-A (1) Every District Development council shall consists of:
(a) The directly elected members from the territorial constituencies in the District.
(b) The member of legislative assemblies representing a part or whole of the District whose constituencies lies within the district.
(c) The chairpersons of all Block Development councils of the District.
(2) The number of elected members of District Development council under clause (a) of sub section (1) shall consists of persons elected from the territorial constituencies in the district , as may be notified from time to time, which shall be fourteen in number.
(3) All the members of District Development council, whether or not elected by direct election from territorial constituencies in the district shall have right to vote in the meeting of District Development council.
Provided that in case of election or removal of the Chairman or the vice Chairman only the directly members shall have right to vote. Section 45 of the amended act say that there shall be District Development council in each District excluding area comes under Municipality or Municipal Corporation. If Municipalities are excluded from the District Development council then this should not be district development council rather Rural Development council because these fourteen territorial constituencies are entirely representing rural areas. Calling this as District Development council is not justified.

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Section 45 (A) of the newly amended act say that District Development Council shall consists of newly directly elected 14 members from demarcated territorial constituencies, MLAs of the district and Block Development council chairpersons of the District. Coming to 14 directly elected members from territorial constituencies these 14 territorial constituencies have been made for every district without taking Block Development councils and area of district in consideration. If we see there are districts with vast area like Baramulla and Districts with less area like Shopian both these districts have given 14 territorial constituencies each without taking area in consideration. Besides in District Baramulla every newly elected District Development council member will have two Block development Councils in his/her jurisdiction were as in southern Districts like Shopian and Kulgam in every Block development council there comes more than 3 directly elected DDC members in each block development council jurisdiction. Thus it is clear that the allocation of territorial constituencies is unjustified and with full clash of interest between BDC chairpersons and directly elected members from territorial constituencies as both these are the members of District Development councils.

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As per newly amended act the difference between elected members from territorial constituencies, BDC chairpersons and MLAs in District Development council are that the directly elected members have right to become DDC chairperson and right to elect him where as BDC chairpersons and MLAs does not enjoy this but have right to vote in meeting over agenda of DDC as directly elected members enjoy.
Since the DDC has been put forward as the third tire in Panchayat Raj the question is where does panchayat raj and panchayat members exists in this third tire. And does these elections really empower the panchayat at grass root level. So far it seems that these amendments has actually betrayed panchayats at grass root level. Strengthening panchayats at grass root level means empowering them and empowering them means making DDC chairperson accountable to them. But in this case these elected members and Chairperson of DDC are not accountable in any way towards panchayat rather they are accountable to each other because the DDC chairperson will be elected by only these directly elected fourteen members and can be removed by these only. The only thing which panchayats have in this third tire are BDC chairpersons as a member of DDC but with right to vote in elections of Chairperson of DDC.
Making any institution strong we must make the head of that institution stronger. But here it is reverse. The DDC chairperson will be weak enough and he has been made weak enough by this amended act. Since he is accountable to these fourteen directly elected members only he will spend most of time in dealing with them. The real purpose of these elections will remain in half way.

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The original district development board has actually been divided in two. As per section 45 of newly amended act one is District Development council headed DDC chairperson which is representing the rural area of the district where as section 47 of the same act has provisioned for District planning committee which will be headed by the MP of the area. The DDC chairperson will be member of this committee as well where other members includes municipal committee presidents. If we see Municipal committee presidents are equivalent to the Sarpanchs because both MC President and Sarpanch are the foundations stones in their respective acts. But newly amended act has demeaned the post of DDC chairperson that it has brought MC President Equivalent to DDC chairperson in District planning committee. There is no role of the rest 14 directly elected members from territorial constituencies and BDC chairpersons in this committee and this has really dented the panchayat raj institution which was brought to this level after lot of discussion debate and efforts since last many years and all these efforts have been ruined in one go.
This district development council should have been represented to entire district both rural and urban without urban rural divide and the best way to strengthen this institution was that the chairperson of District Development council should have been elected by all elected representatives of Panchayats like Sarpanchs, BDCs and elected members from urban local bodies like councillors, Municipal committee presidents and Municipal council presidents. This would have make this institution strong and the elected chairperson would have been directly responsible to elected representatives at grass root level both in rural and urban area but no the present dispensation is hell bent to bring their people from back door and hijack the District Development council and their chairpersons. Managing eight out of fourteen elected member’s is not a big deal instead of hundreds of sarpanchs and councillors. It seems this is the only reason for massive amendments in panchayat raj act otherwise erstwhile act was one of the best act which really has strengthen the panchayat raj institution and restored the dignity of elected representative at grass root level. On one side government is making tall claims for transparency and accountability but on other side it has opened doors for corruption by shrinking the electorate of district Development council chairperson from hundreds of elected representatives from grass root level to fourteen directly elected members.

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