J&K Panchayat polls soon; dates likely to be announced in a day: LG

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STATE TIMES NEWS

NEW DELHI: Jammu and Kashmir Lt Governor Manoj Sinha on Monday said that the dates for upcoming panchayat and municipal elections in Jammu and Kashmir will be announced on November 3 or 4. These elections will be the first in the region after August 5, 2019, when the special status of J&K was abrogated and the state was split into two UTs.
The election process will be held to fill over 13,000 vacant panchayat seats and it will be seen as an attempt to restart the political process in the region once again. Speaking to a national news channel, LG Sinha said the upcoming local body and panchayat polls were part of the government’s efforts to bolster the three-tier panchayat system of governance in the country.

New J&K land laws to attract Rs 30,000 Cr investment in 3 years: LG
NEW DELHI: Nearly 90 per cent of Kashmir’s land is agricultural and not one inch of it will be given to any outsider, Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha told a national news channel in an exclusive interview. He expressed hope that the amended land laws would attract an investment of an estimated Rs 30,000 crore within the next three years.
He added that those whose children were studying in London shouldn’t object to the common person in Kashmir getting access to best hospitals from the private sector, which is what would happen through the amendment to the land laws.
Responding to questions about the new land laws and which have been strongly criticised by regional parties in Kashmir, Sinha said that the opposition to the amended land laws was being done “to hide 70 years of ineptitude.” He said that a false information was being propagated by these parties.
The Lieutenant Governor said that the investments that will come after the recently amended laws will also solve the issue of unemployment, which in J&K are double the national average.
“When industries come, then employment also will be generated. We are in the process of formulating one of the best industrial policies in the country and I’m convinced that in the coming three years, we will see an investment of at least Rs 30,000 crore,” Sinha said.
He talked about the Jammu and Kashmir State Land (Vesting of Ownership to the Occupants) Act, 2001, also known as the Roshni Act, which the government declared on October 31 as null and void.
The Roshni Act was enacted during the regime of Farooq Abdullah and meant to earn Rs 25,000 crore by transferring 2.5 lakh acres of state land to existing occupants against payment at market rates. A 2014 report by the Comptroller and Auditor General estimated that only Rs 76 crore had been realised from the transfer of encroached land between 2007 and 2013. The government not only declared the act null and void it also decided to retrieve all the land sold under this act within the next six months.
“The government was meant to give this land for setting up of industries, hospitals and parks under this act. But influential people got this land for peanuts. It is in this context that you need to see the amended land laws. More than 88% of the land here is agricultural. Not one inch of it will be given to any outsider,” Sinha said.
He said that the government wanted to build an industrial city, an IT city, a medicity, the roadmap for which was being laid through these recent developments.
“The industry wants two things from a place where they are investing – land and raw material. Jammu and Kashmir is gifted in that respect. The horticulture, sericulture and agriculture sectors are in good shape. Walnuts, rice and saffron are of the best quality in the whole world. In this respect I think the land laws will prove to be a great milestone,” said Sinha.

“We have strengthened the three-tier system. It was decided in the 73rd amendment, when it was enacted in Parliament in 1992, that there will be a three-tier system of panchayats in the country. Now on November 3 or 4, elections are to be announced (in this regard),” Sinha said. He added, “The upcoming polling process would see election of panch, sarpanch, Block Development Council (BDC) members and chairpersons, and District Development Council (DDC) members and their chiefs, all of whom are going to play more important roles together in the future.”
As per official data, there are around 11,500 panch and 890 sarpanch seats lying vacant in Kashmir, while 185 panch and 124 sarpanch seats are vacant in Jammu division.
LG Manoj Sinha also said “mistakes happen” but India is the kind of nation where “nobody needs to remind us” about our mistakes. Responding to questions over a ‘fake’ encounter in Shopian, Sinha also said the Army had earned a lot of goodwill through its drives for education and development in the valley.
“I am greatly indebted to the Indian army and our commanders. I spoke to the Army officers over there and I want to tell you with great responsibility the sort of goodwill the Army has there, especially in border areas — where there isn’t as much development, for their education, for their development — it has made great attempts. ‘Galti ho jaati hai’,” Sinha said.
According to official data, around 11,500 panch and 890 sarpanch seats are vacant in Kashmir, while 185 panch and 124 sarpanch seats are vacant in Jammu division. In 2018, regional parties, including the National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party, had boycotted the panchayat elections, when 83.5% turnout was recorded in Jammu division, while Kashmir Valley, which also included Ladakh then, saw 44.4% turnout. On October 17 this year, the Centre amended the Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Act, 1989, to facilitate the setting up of DDCs, which will be directly voted by the people in the UT. Political parties in the UT have called it an attempt to undermine and “disempower” the J&K Assembly.

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