Centre mulls insurance for J-K panchayat poll contestants
Around 4,500 sarpanches and 29,000 panchs were elected in the last panchayat polls in 2011 when 75% voters had turned out to vote.india Updated: Aug 10, 2018 23:59 IST
The Centre is planning to provide an insurance cover to encourage greater participation in the local bodies’ polls amid growing militant threats in Jammu and Kashmir, officials aware of the development said.
Officials fear the growing militant presence, including those of locals, in Kashmir and the killing of 16 sarpanches (Panchayat heads) and panchs (members) over the last four years could deter people from contesting the polls. Fewer contestants are being expected even for the panchayat elections unlike in the past.
The elections were due in January. But they were deferred after the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) coalition government told the Centre the situation was not conducive for them. Then chief minister Mehbooba Mufti had called an all-party meet before warning the Centre that there could be serious “law and order problems” especially in south Kashmir, if the elections were held.
The electoral process has been accelerated since the imposition of governor’s rule in June after Mufti’s government fell following the BJP’s withdrawal of support from the coalition government. The elections are now likely to be held in the next two to three months.
Hizbul Mujahideen (HM), the state’s biggest indigenous militant group, had in January warned former panchayat members against contesting the elections. The group’s operational commander, Riyaz Naikoo, had threatened to pour acid into the eyes of anyone who dares to contest the polls. The contestants will become a burden for their families, he had warned.
Around 4,500 sarpanches and 29,000 panchs were elected in the last panchayat polls in 2011 when 75%voters had turned out to vote.
The government had expressed its inability to provide security to most panchayat members citing their large numbers. Security was provided been provided to many sarpanches affiliated with political parties.
Officials said leaders of some political parties had suggested the insurance cover as they are worried about the militant threats and prospects of low participation. They said the government was in touch with some insurance companies for providing group insurance cover to potential panchayat members.
“Many options are on the table. Discussions are going on and the final decision has not been taken yet whether all those contesting local polls will be insured in a group or only elected members will get this cover,” said a government official privy to these details. He spoke on condition of anonymity.
All Jammu and Kashmir Panchayat Conference chairman Shafiq Mir said the government should instead empower the local bodies by giving them the rights they have been demanding. He said they have been demanding direct transfer of funds and a say in developmental projects. “After panchs and sarpanches were elected previously, we had heard that they were given the insurance cover. However, not a single penny was given to our members who were killed.”
Governor N N Vohra chaired a security meeting in Srinagar to discuss security related to urban local bodies and panchayat elections. He has been holding meetings with the leaders of various political parties and former panchayat members to ensure successful elections.
First Published: Aug 10, 2018 23:05 IST