Monday, December 30, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Leh council gets full powers
First step towards regional autonomy
M.L. Kak
Tribune News Service

Jammu, December 29
The PDP and Congress coalition government today empowered the Leh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC) to maintain its autonomous character.

The LAHDC was set up in 1995. The Ladakhis have been agitating over denial of powers to its executive councillors and demanding the union territory status for the Ladakh region.

The Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, told newsmen here that the state cabinet, at its meeting yesterday, had approved a plan for the empowerment of the LAHDC. The author of the seven-point agreement with the LAHDC members was none other than the Finance and Law Minister, Mr Muzaffar Hussain Beig.

The Mufti, while explaining the main features of the agreement, said that the LAHDC “shall have the powers to accord administrative approval without obtaining techno-economic clearance from the government up to a sum of Rs 5 crore.

Under Section 42(2) of the LAHDC Act of 1997 the executive powers “shall be delegated to the LAHDC for allotment, occupation, efficient use and management of land.

The Chief Minister announced that Section 33 of the LAHDC Act was to be suitably amended to vest the powers of general superintendence and control over the employees of the Council in the Executive Councillors as well. However, the Superintending Engineer and the District Development Commissioner “shall be exceptions to such amendment.”

The Executive Councillors “shall be given the status of deputy minister for purposes of protocol only in Leh district. However, the Chief Executive Councillor “shall be given the status, salary and perks of a cabinet minister”. The Executive Councillors would be entitled to a salary equivalent of legislators and the councillors “shall be given a consolidated salary of Rs 6,000 per month”.

The Mufti said that Section 4(2) of the LAHDC Act would be amended to the effect that out of four members to be nominated by the government from the religious minorities and women in the district, two shall be nominated by the Chief Executive Councillor.

In terms of Section 11 of the LAHDC Act the District and Sessions Judge, Leh, would be appointed as an authority before whom the members of the Council “shall subscribe an oath. He will be designated as an authority in terms of Section 12 for redressal of grievances arising out of election disputes”. The Sessions Judge would also be designated as an authority in terms of Section 20 of the LAHDC Act before whom an appeal against the order of removal of a member can be filed.

Encouraged by the response of the LAHDC members and people in Leh district the government has decided to set up for Kargil district the Kargil Autonomous Hill Development Council (KAHDC) on the pattern of the LAHDC.

The KAHDC would be set up by June 30, 2003. Initially people in Kargil district were opposed to joining the LAHDC and had they agreed the LAHDC could have been rechristened.

However, with the installation of a PDP-Congress coalition government Kargilites have favoured setting up of the KAHDC.

Reports suggest the coalition government may set up regional councils for Jammu and the Kashmir valley to ensure “devolution” of powers to the grassroot level.

The Chief Executive Councillor, LAHDC, Mr Thuptsan Chewang, who was present at the press conference, praised the Mufti and his cabinet colleagues for having conceded “our pending demand within a very short time.”


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