As reservation for women in politics is becoming a stronger discourse in the country with the recent Lok Sabha Elections concluding with highest number of women MPs elected at 78 out of 543, independent departments are making laws to push women’s presence in shaping the political narrative of the country. In the same lines, J&K government recently announced 33 percent reservation for women in the Block Development Councils (BDCs), which will form second tier of Panchayati Raj in the state.

There are a total of 316 BDCs in Jammu and Kashmir and the elections for these will be conducted after the annual pilgrimage of Amarnath on August 15, the Commissioner/Secretary, Rural Development Department and Panchayati Raj, Sheetal Nanda told media. She added that while 33% BDCs have been reserved for women, the BDCs with over 50% population of Scheduled Caste population will be reserved for SCs. A total of 105 BDCs have been reserved for women of the total 316.

The number of BDCs has gone up since 2012 when there were only 143 BDCs. Around seven years back, BDC elections were stalled because of lack of reservation. Jammu comprises of more than half number of BDC with 147 of which 53 have been reserved for women while Kashmir region has 136 Councils and 45 of them were reserved for females. However, Ladakh only has 31 BDCs of which 10 are reserved for women.

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Reservation for women is also sub-divided among SC and ST women as it is them who will get elected on the basis of size of population of a particular community in a particular region. “The BDCs which have above 50 percent SC population will be reserved for them,” sources said.

The state has yet not been able to successful hold elections for BDCs as the last time it tried in 2012 during Omar Abdullah’s government but the process was halted right before the election as Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad objected to no reservation claim of that initiative. After that the government has never even tried to constitute any election until now.

The number of BDCs has gone up since 2012 when there were only 143 BDCs. Around seven years back, BDC elections were stalled because of lack of reservation. Jammu comprises of more than half number of BDC with 147 of which 53 have been reserved for women

“The second tier of Panchayats would be set up only in the Panchayats which have been fully constituted. In the areas where Panchayats couldn’t be established due to lack of quorum, the BDC elections can’t be held,” sources said.

The state as a whole have about 4483 Panchayats but as many as 1057 Panchayats in Kashmir couldn’t be constituted in the Valley due to lack of quorum. The Panchayati Raj Act of Jammu and Kashmir mandates to have at least one Sarpanch and one Panch to form quorum for constitution of the Panchayats but in 1057 Panchayats, there was either Sarpanch or Panch which is why they couldn’t be constituted.

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