Third tier or third wheel?
Down To Earth|November 16, 2020
Newly constituted District Development Councils in Jammu and Kashmir have triggered fears of dilution of grassroots democracy in the Union Territory
RIYAZ WANI

IN THE first major legislative change after Jammu and Kashmir became a Union Territory, the Union government has announced creation of District Development Councils (DDCS)—district-level self-governing bodies. On October 17, the Union government amended the Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Act, 1989, and the Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Rules, 1996, to create DDCS; and on November 4, State Election Commissioner K K Sharma declared that elections to DDC will be held on November 28. All major parties have agreed to participate in the election, though they are unhappy with the creation of DDCS.

Unlike any other part of the country, every district in Jammu and Kashmir (j&k) will be divided into 14 territorial constituencies which will elect members to DDC. The members will then elect chairperson and vice-chairperson who will administer the district. DDC will have complete jurisdiction over the district except the areas controlled by a Municipality or Municipal Corporation. Though Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) and chairpersons of Block Development Councils (BDCS) will also be in the DDC, only the 14 elected members will have the power to elect or remove the chairperson and the vice-chairperson.

According to the Central government as well as the j&k administration, the move will empower democracy at the grassroots level. Under the prime minister, “a pathbreaking step, to set up, for the first time, district development councils” has been taken, tweeted Jitendra Singh, minister of state for the Prime Minister’s Office. The j&k administration too termed DDCS “as a constitutional requirement under the 73rd Amendment” that provides for a uniform three-tier Panchayati Raj at village, intermediate and district levels.

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