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J&K cabinet approves 659 new admn units

india Updated: Feb 01, 2014 19:51 IST
Tarun Upadhyay

The Jammu and Kashmir cabinet on Saturday approved the creation of 659 new administrative units. Chief minister Omar Abdullah termed it as a 'historic' decision saying the gains to the public would offset the losses in terms of financial implications.

"It's a historic decision taken by the cabinet after a long time. I don't think such a decision would perhaps be taken in the coming decades. Our efforts would make them functional soon," said Abdullah at a press conference at his residence, after the cabinet meeting.

The differences between the Congress and National Conference -- the coalition partners - on the issue had raised a question mark over the government with Omar threatening to resign.

However, on Saturday, he said it was the end that mattered. "I think what is important is not the method but the result. It's now a matter of speculation or hypothetical to talk about what I would have done or not done. Let's leave those parts behind which went in the making of the report," said Omar in response to a question about the reports of his resigning.

Omar had threatened to resign thrice in the last month. He had first openly criticised the Congress, though he didn't name it, at a public rally for creating hurdles in taking the decision and then early this month didn't attend the cabinet meeting as the report had not been prepared.

The CM said there were no political motives behind it. In a balancing act, to assuage the "hurt" feeling of the Congress, Omar said the government would bring the Bill to strengthen the Panchayati Raj Institutions in the coming Assembly session, starting February 10.

"We will incorporate the provisions of the 73rdAmendment beneficial to the people in our State Panchayat Act. The NC doesn't have any opposition to them," said Omar.

The 73rd Amendment proposes reservation to women and SCs/STs in the second tier -- Block Development Council -- of Panchayati Institutions and also have a provision for elected chairman of District Development Board (DDB) -- the third tier of Act.

The State Act doesn't have these provisions and government had also decided to have a nominated chairman of the DDB. The Congress had been consistently demanding it and it's because of this pressure that the BDC elections scheduled for November 2012 were cancelled in October 2012, though Omar had made a statement in the Assembly that the elections would be held at any cost.

The committee had approved 437 administrative units -- 46 new sub-divisions, 135 tehsils, 177 community development blocks and 301 niyabats. It includes units recommended by the Mushtaq Ganai report.

Genesis of latest face-off

Though the National Conference (NC) and Congress, the ruling allies in Jammu and Kashmir, sharply differ on grant of autonomy and revocation of Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, their latest face-off was triggered by chief minister Omar Abdullah's push for creation of new administrative units in the state. Here is a lowdown on genesis of the spat:

1)After eight new districts were carved out of J&K in 2007, the NC proposed the creation of new administrative units in line with Omar's plan for grassroots-level devolution of power and resources. A panel, formed in 2010 and led by Mushtaq Ganai, recommended over 900 new units that include 23 sub-divisions (12 in Kashmir, 10 in Jammu and one in Ladakh) besides 57 tehsils, 79 naibats and 773 patwar halqas.

2) The Congress, however, stonewalled the recommendations saying it favoured the Kashmir Valley, which is an NC bastion, while it allotted lesser units to Jammu and Ladakh regions, where the Congress has its political base. The Congress sought a balanced and equitable distribution of new units in all three regions.

3) To break the logjam, the Omar Abdullah government set up a cabinet sub-committee.