The urban local bodies (ULB) election in Jammu and Kashmir concluded in October, but elected councillors have not been able to return home ever since due to the “security situation” in the valley.
The state government has made accommodations for all the 120 elected councillors from the municipal bodies across the state, in the private hotels of Srinagar, reported Indian Express. This ULB election was conducted in the state after 13 years to elect representatives of the 79 municipal bodies in the state.
A senior government official told IE that it is easier for them to secure hotels where the councillors are staying, rather than provide security to each one them separately at their homes. The state treasury has been billed Rs 1.3 crore by the hotels for the councillors’ accommodation. However, it says the government is more worried about the security of the elected members than the mounting bill on the state treasury.
One of the hotels that the government rented is on the banks of the iconic Dal Lake, where 30 elected councillors from the Srinagar Municipality (SMC) are staying. Apart from that, 30 rooms of the high-security MLA hostel have also been vacated to accommodate the councillors.
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Saima, the elected councillor from Jama Masjid, has been staying in the hotel along with her husband and two children ever since she filed the nomination. Her hotel room neither has any central heating nor hot water.
Mohammed Salim, Saima’s husband told IE, “All the mainstream parties boycotted the election this year, that is why the people in our area forced us to contest; now we can not even go home.”
“The government promised to provide us with security, accommodation, and decent pay – but what we are getting is far from what e were promised,” Saima added.
Saima says more people than those who vote were coming to the SMC office to meet them. She rued that instead of meeting these people and helping them, she is stuck in one room with her family and is yet to receive her first salary. Saima secured 37 of the total 72 votes cast in the election.
Along with the 120 councillors, sarpanches and panches of Pulwama, Kulgam, Shopian and Anantnag – four of the most militant-hit districts, are also staying here.
Two of the main political parties of Jammu and Kashmir – the PDP and the National Congress, did not contest the elections this year seeking the central government’s stand on Article 35A, while others backed out amid separatists’ call to boycott voting. The voter turn out was recorded at 4.27 per cent, an all-time low since 1951.
Another councillor Zubair Ahmad Dar of Daulatabad also stays in the same hotel and manages to visit home once in a week also meets people from his area at the SMC office. Srinagar Mayor Junaid Mattu highlighted the security reasons and told IE that the arrangements are for their own security.