Centre planning to provide insurance cover to J&K panchayath polls contestants

Centre planning to provide insurance cover to J&K panchayath polls contestants
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The growing militants presence in the Jammu & Kashmir is referring people from contesting in Polls according to officials familiar with the situation said.

And the Centre, in order to beat that growing fear of death if contested in polls, has decided to provide an insurance cover to encourage participation of locals in the local bodies polls and, HT reported.

As many as 16 sarpanches (Panchayat heads) and panchs (members) have been killed by militants over the last four years is stopping people from participating in the polls.

The local body elections were due in January but they were deferred after the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) coalition government told the situation was not suitable to conduct the polls at that time.

Former CM Mehbooba Mufti had then cautioned the Centre of serious “law and order problems” especially in south Kashmir if the elections were held.

With the fall of the coalition government in J&K and Governor’s rule in the region, the elections in the region are likely to be held in the next two-three months.

It is reported that Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) one of the region’s biggest militant group had then warned the former panchayath against contesting from the elections.

And the militant group further went on by threatening to pour acid in the contestants eyes and they could then become their families burden cautioned group’s operational commander Riyaz Naikoo.

Last year 75% voters had turned out to vote with around 4,500 sarpanches and 29,000 panchs being elected in the last panchayat polls in 2011.

Only sarpanches affiliated with political parties were provided security by the Government since there was a large number of panchayat members.

Now to bring in a change in the current situation of J&K, the officials have decided to come up with an insurance cover since many are now worried about the militant threats.

“Many options are on the table. Discussions are going on and the final decision has not been taken yet whether all those contesting local polls will be insured in a group or only elected members will get this cover,” said a government official.

Meanwhile, Shafiq Mir chairman of All Jammu and Kashmir Panchayat Conference said the government should have instead empowered the local bodies by giving them rights.

“After panchs and sarpanches were elected previously, we had heard that they were given the insurance cover. However, not a single penny was given to our members who were killed,” he said.