Government Plans To Provide Insurance Cover To Encourage Greater Participation In Local Bodies’ Polls

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New Delhi: Officials fear the growing militant presence, including those of locals, in Kashmir and the killing of 16 sarpanches (Panchayat heads) and panchs (members) over the last four years could deter people from contesting the polls. So the Centre is planning to provide an insurance cover to encourage greater participation in the local bodies’ polls amid growing militant threats in Jammu and Kashmir.

Officials said that fewer contestants are being expected even for the panchayat elections unlike in the past. The elections were due in January. But they were deferred after the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) coalition government told the Centre the situation was not conducive for them. Then chief minister Mehbooba Mufti had called an all-party meet before warning the Centre that there could be serious “law and order problems” especially in south Kashmir, if the elections were held.

The electoral process has been accelerated since the imposition of governor’s rule in June after Mufti’s government fell following the BJP’s withdrawal of support from the coalition government. The elections are now likely to be held in the next two to three months.

Hizbul Mujahideen (HM), the state’s biggest indigenous militant group, had in January warned former panchayat members against contesting the elections. The group’s operational commander, Riyaz Naikoo, had threatened to pour acid into the eyes of anyone who dares to contest the polls. The contestants will become a burden for their families, he had warned. Around 4,500 sarpanches and 29,000 panchs were elected in the last panchayat polls in 2011 when 75%voters had turned out to vote.

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