DDC members threaten to resign en mass if demand for better protocol not met in 7 days

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Jammu: A day after boycotting their training-cum-workshop to press their demand for better protocol and honorarium, members of the District Development Councils across the Union Territory on Wednesday called off their agitation, saying that they will first meet the Lt Governor on Friday and apprise him of their grievances and if their demands are not met within seven days, they will resign en mass.

Earlier, all of them assembled at the Jammu Press Club and criticized the government for relegating the position of the chairpersons of DDCs below the secretary, IGP and Divisional Commissioner even when these earlier used to be headed cabinet ministers. Moreover, in the absence of any provision for their office, mobility and staff, the government has made them laughing stock before the people who visit them in large numbers in the hope of justice and development, according to a statement issued by a DDC member Taranjit Singh Tony.

Pointing out that they have formed a 40-member DDC forum including chairpersons of all the 20 districts across Jammu and Kashmir to jointly fight for their demands, Tony said that members at the meeting decided to resign en mass if their demands were not met within seven days. Apart from better protocol and increase in honorarium, they have been demanded immediate provision for their office, staff and mobility.

Samba DDC chairperson Keshav Dutt Sharma, who also happens to be BJP leader, confirmed that the members have decided to resign en mass if their demands for better protocol and honorarium among others were not accepted within seven days.

Meanwhile, Jammu DDC chairperson Bharat Bhushan said that decision to call of agitation was taken following an assurance by Lt Governor Manoj Sinha to take a decision in the matter after consultation with them. The assurance, according to him, followed a letter from UT BJP president Ravinder Raina to the Lt Governor requesting him to reconsider the warrant of precedence issued by J&K Government on Monday evening which placed DDC chairpersons on par with administrative secretaries or divisional commissioners, vice-chairpersons with vice-chancellors of universities and members with district magistrates.

“Following letter from Raina, LG called him from Delhi asking him to persuade agitating DDC members wait for his return to Jammu on March 12. He assured Raina that he will take a decision in the matter after consultation with DDC members,’’ Bharat Bhushan said.

Pointing out that DDC members cutting across party lines had approached him and expressed displeasure over the matter, Raina in his letter urged the Lt Governor to “review the warrant of precedence and a comprehensive model  be evolved for virtual devolution of powers’’. The “real empowerment of this third tier of Pachayati Raj needs to be done in the greater interest of the sanctity of the institution as well as the importance and urgency attached to it by the  Bharat Sarkar’’, he added.

The BJP leader asked for evolving a “comprehensive model for virtual devolution of powers’’, adding ‘real empowerment’ of this third tier of PanchayatiRaj needs to be done in the greater interest of the sanctity of institution as well as the importance and urgency attached to it by the Bharat Sarkar. As J&K has adopted   Puducherry model of empowerment and self government, the protocol of DDC chair persons shall be protocol equivalent to that of a minister of state, vice chairperson with deputy minister and member with secretary or IGP rank, he said, adding that they shall also be provided office in order to ensure confidence of the people as well as the newly elected persons in the essence as well as edifice of the very institution.

Expressing hope that appropriate remedial measures shall be taken at the earliest and the warrant of precedence reviewed in the interest of equity, justice and fair play and in the greater interests of the sanctity and strength of the institutions, the BJP leader said that guarded care needs to be taken while settlng the `ambit of powers’ for District Development Councils.

Meanwhile, Apni Party president Syed Mohammad Altaf Bukhari sought intervention of Prime Minister and Home Minister in resolving the issue of “power protocol and honorarium’’ of DDC chairpersons, vice chairpersons and members. The latest “warrant of precedence and the fixation of honorarium for DDC members has exposed the mindset of bureaucratic mindset that has never wanted democracy to flourish in Jammu and Kashmir for its ulterior motives,’’ he said, describing it a “technical attempt’’ by bureaucracy to “defeat the purpose for which these elections were held for the first time in the history of J&K’’.

“The humiliating protocol powers and honorarium announced by the government for DDC Chairpersons and Council Members is in absolute contradiction to what the Prime Minister and the Union Home Minister had envisaged for these elected representatives of the people,” he said, hoping that by now the government of India must have gauged the bureaucratic impediments that have always tried to uproot democratic edifice in this politically sensitive part of the country.

Bukhari said the embarrassing announcement made by the J&K government has come as a strong ridicule to itself as the successful DDC elections and the completion of third and last tier of Panchayat Raj System was proudly showcased by the government of India to the whole world.

“These elected public representatives were showcased by the administration before the foreign envoys and through them to the whole world as a major democratic achievement after the recent hostile political developments of 2019. Alas, the same administration has now sabotaged the Prime Minister’s efforts on the first political outreach process aimed at reinforcing the democratic institutions at the grassroots level in J&K,” he added.

Bukhari said that the issue does not pertain to privileges and perks enjoyed by the elected representatives but the challenge it has posed to their writ on decision making and the authority given to them by their electorate through fair and transparent elections.