Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
JAMMU: The Government of Jammu and Kashmir has on Tuesday modified its warrant of precedence and elevated the chairpersons of the recently constituted District Development Councils (DDCs) to the honour superior to the Members of Parliament (MPs) and Chief Secretary of the Union Territory.
According to a Government Order issued by Talat Parvez Rohella, Commissioner-Secretary of the Department of Hospitality and Protocol, the warrant of precedence has been revised to include chairpersons of the 20 DDCs at 19-A, placing them above MPS and Chief Secretary.
Previously, the DDC chairpersons had been placed equal in order of precedence to the officers of the rank of Secretary to Government and Inspector General of Police. However, at an official gathering in Jammu last month, that was scheduled to be addressed by Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha, the chairpersons and vice chairpersons registered a protest. Cutting across their political affiliations, they unanimously turned down the status allotted to them and demanded a status equal to Ministers of State (MoS).
A representative delegation of the chairpersons and vice chairpersons met the LG who assured them ‘better status and empowerment’. Days after the meeting, the Government on Tuesday, issued a modification.
As per the modified warrant of precedence, the DDC chairpersons have been placed equal to mayors of Srinagar Municipal Corporation and Jammu Municipal Corporation. They will be one step below Deputy Ministers within their States, Deputy Speakers of Legislative Assemblies in Union Territories and Deputy Chairman of Metropolitan Council Delhi within their respective Union Territories.
The DDC chairpersons at an official meeting or gathering however will be superior to Deputy Chairmen and Deputy Speakers of State Legislatures outside their respective States, Ministers of State in States outside their respective States, Puisne Judges of High Courts outside their respective jurisdictions and Members of Parliament (MPs).
They will be also treated superior to Deputy Ministers in State outside their respective States, Army Commanders, Vice-Chief of the Army Staff, Chief Secretaries to State Governments and UTs within their respective States/UTs, Commissioner for Linguistic Minorities, Commissioner for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, Member Legislative Assembly (MLAs) of the UTs within their respective UTs, Members of Minorities Commission, National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, General of the Indian Army, Secretary to Government of India, Secretaries of Minorities Commission, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Commission besides Secretary to Prime Minister and Secretary to President of India.
They will be also superior to Solicitor General of India, Vice-Chairman Central Administrative Tribunal, Chairman Public Service Commission and Chief Ministers of UTs and Chief Executive Councillor of Delhi outside their jurisdiction.
The Vice Chairpersons of the DDCs have been placed equal to Secretary to Government, Divisional Commissioner, Inspector General of Police, Chief Conservator of Forest, Joint Secretary to Government of India, Major General, Vice Chancellors of Universities within their State/UT, District Magistrates, District and Sessions Judge and major Heads of Departments.
By way of the modification, the UT Government has for the first time honoured the grass-root level peoples’ representatives and given them a sense of pride, dignity and empowerment. Government has already directed the officers to set up offices for chairpersons and vice chairpersons of the DDC at the district headquarters. As of now, only the chairpersons of the middle tier of the Panchayati Raj system (Block Development Councils) have been given offices at the Block Development Offices. Funds are also flowing directly from the Centre to the BDC chairpersons.
While the overdue elections for the Panchayats and the Urban Local Bodies, including Srinagar Municipal Corporation and Jammu Municipal Corporation, were held in the autumn of 2018, elections for BDC chairpersons were held a year later in 2019. These were the first such elections after abrogation of Articles 370 and 35-A and split of the erstwhile State into the two UTs of J&K and Ladakh.
The first elections for DDCs, which were also the first adult universal franchise in J&K after abrogation of Article 370, were held in October-November 2020 and the results were declared on 22 December 2020. These elections of high voter turnout in Kashmir also signified completion of the three-tier Panchayati Raj system in Jammu and Kashmir. All these democratic exercises were held during Governor’s or President’s rule.