Condemning the repeated postponements of the Urban Local Bodies elections in J&K during the last few years, Harsh Dev Singh regretted that the state has been deprived of thousands of crores of rupees for development of Municipal areas which has been withheld by the Central govt. due to the failure of the state govt. to constitute the elected municipal bodies. He said that the Chief Minister’s recent statement that the elections to Rural Local Bodies would be held from April onwards to be followed by urban local bodies elections amply conveyed that the govt. didn’t intend to hold Municipal elections during the current financial year. He said that non holding of ULB elections during 2015-16 would further deprive the State of hundreds of crores for development of such Municipal bodies which comprised 74 Municipal Committees, 6 Municipal councils and 2 Municipal Corporations. He was addressing a protest demonstration of JKNPP held at exhibition ground Jammu which was attended among others by Mr. Yash Paul Kundal Ex-Minister and State President Young Panthers.
Hailing the recent decision of the 14th Finance Commission to enhance the funding for local bodies in the state, Mr. Harsh Dev Singh pointed out that the said commission had proposed Rs. 4161 crore for the state which included 3117.36 crore for Rural Local Bodies and Rs. 1044.51 crore for Urban Local Bodies with a precondition that funds would be released only if elected local bodies were constituted as a measure of democratic decentralization. He said that the 14th Finance Commission had provided a grant of Rs. 125.30 crore in the first instance for 2015-16 which however could be availed only if the elected Municipal bodies were in place during the current year. He deplored that the lackadaisical approach of the govt. and the dirty politics played by coalition partners by postponing elections for political reasons was depriving the general masses and prospective beneficiaries of the benefits envisaged for them under various GOI schemes. He said that non holding of immediate elections would further deprive the state of ‘Performance Grant’ of Rs. 607 crore which has been assured by the 14th Finance Commission as additional grant in case the State fulfills the benchmarks stipulated by it.
Reminding the BJP-PDP coalition of the assurances doled out by it during the Budget Session for early holding of ULB elections, Mr. Harsh Dev Singh regretted the ‘in-explicable’ delay and repeated postponements of the same despite the state Elections Authorities having indicated their preparedness on scores of occasions. Flaying the dilly dally tactics of the state govt., he said the coalition govt. was squarely responsible for poor delivery of basic civic services including water supply, sanitation sewage and solid waste management, maintainces of community assets, upkeep of roads, lanes, drains, footpaths, street lighting besides other facilities which were adversely affected by the delayed elections caused due to political expediencies of the alliance partners. He regretted that non constitution of Urban Local Bodies had not only caused financial loss to the state but had also enabled the govt. to rule and administer the Urban areas by proxy in the absence of grass root democratic institutions in the municipal areas.
Mr. Harsh Dev Singh said that the state govt. has not only been biased and prejudicied in ensuring time bound elections to the said bodies but has committed violations of legal provisions of Municipal Act and Municipal Corporation Acts in the process. He pointed out that Sec. 14 of Municipal Act categorically provides that elections to constitute a municipality shall be completed before the expiry of its duration of five years. He said “Sec 14 further States that the period of five years shall be reckoned from the date appointed for its first meeting”. He said that first meetings of all municipal bodies having been held in March-April 2005, the Elections ought to be have been completed prior to March 2010 which has not been done by the govt. thus creating a legal infirmity in exercise of its powers under the said laws.
Mr. Harsh Dev Singh further made a reference to Municipal Corporation Act which envisages in Sec 5 that Elections to constitute Municipal Corporations shall also be held before the expiry of its term of five years thus categorically providing that election process ought to have been completed in early 2010. He said that deliberate delay caused in the holding of elections is thus violative of Municipal provisions for which the state govt. is accountable and answerable to the people of State. He said that the Municipal Laws have been circumvented and defeated with a design as the coalition partners stood on a weak wicket in view of their total failure on the governance and delivery fronts.
Mr. Yash Paul Kundal while speaking on the occasion called for constitution of separate financial commission as also an independent Election Commission for local bodies as envisaged under the Act.Expressing serious concern over frequent postponements of elections, Mr. Kundal appealed to the State Governor to intervene so as to check further violations of legal provisions and to further ensure that the people were not deprived of their genuine democratic rights and aspirations.Prominent among those who led the protest included Sh. Bansi Lal Sharma, Sardar Paramjit Singh Marshall, Jagdev Singh, Sham Ghorka, Gagan Pratap Singh, Adv Vilakshan Singh, Arun Khajuria, Parshotam Parihar, Nirmal Kishore, Rajesh Gondi, Asha Rani, Jeevan Jyoti, Ravinder Jamwal, Sanjeev Verma, etc