Newly elected District Development Council members in Jammu and Kashmir stage a protest against the low honorarium fixed for them by the administration

Published : March 10, 2021 15:28 IST

Policemen stand guard as voters stand in a queue to cast their vote for the second phase of the District Development Council elections, in Ganastan Sumbal in Bandipora district North Kashmir on December 1, 2020. Photo: NISSAR AHMAD

In a major embarrassment for the Jammu and Kashmir administration, the newly elected District Development Council (DDC) members across party lines skipped a two-day training and workshop programme in Jammu on March 9.

The DDC members were protesting against a recent government directive that fixed their honorariums shockingly low, underscoring their real stature even as the DDC elections are showcased by New Delhi as the first major step towards restoring mainstream politics in the erstwhile State.

The administration, in an amended warrant of precedence on March 8, placed DDC Chairpersons equal to Administrative Secretaries, at serial No. 26. Deputy Chairpersons have been placed at No. 27, with protocol equivalent to Vice-Chancellors of universities within the Union Territory (U.T.). DDC members, at No. 28, have been granted protocol equivalent to Block Development Council Chairpersons or Presidents of Municipal Councils.

Roughly, that translates into a monthly honorarium of Rs.35,000 for DDC Chairpersons, Rs.25,000 for Deputy Chairpersons and Rs.15,000 for DDC members, including Rs.1,500 as travel allowance and Rs. 500 as telephone allowance. The DDC members from all parties, including those from the BJP, jointly staged a demonstration demanding honourable pay and amenities.

Though the immediate trigger for the protest was the low pay, DDC members are understood to be increasingly wary of their lack of political or administrative clout. The paltry honorarium offered to them is being read as the Jammu and Kashmir administration’s message to DDC members that their role and rights would be limited in the Lt Governor’s regime.

Scores of DDC members assembled in Jammu and sought the intervention of the Lt Governor. Sajad Lone, head of the Peoples Conference (P.C.), termed the DDC protocols a “disappointment and humiliation”. Said Lone: “The problem is the new stakeholder created by the Union government post August 5, which is the bureaucrats, ever powerful. He or she will never facilitate democracy and will see anybody elected by people as a threat.”

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