The Jammu and Kashmir Election Commission on Sunday announced the schedule for the upcoming panchayat elections. Addressing the press conference, state Chief Electoral Officer Shaleen Kabra said that the polls will be conducted in nine phases on November 17,20, 24, 27, 29, December 1,4, 8 and 11. The counting of votes will take place on the day of polling and the votes will be cast using ballot paper.
Additional ballot boxes will be brought from the neighbouring states, he said adding there will be two kinds of ballot papers as sarpanches also have to be elected directly in these polls this time.
The poll hours would be between 8 AM to 2 PM, Kabra said adding the entire poll process would be completed by December 17.
The polls would be held through ballot and migrant Kashmiri Pandits can also vote through postal ballots, the CEO said.
Kabra said there are a total of 4490 panchayat halqas in 316 blocks throughout the state.
The CEO said the election expenditure has been increased in these elections to Rs 20,000 for Sarpanches and Rs 5000 for Panches.
He said the schedule has been framed in such a way that places, which get snowfall early, have been kept in the first phase of the poll.
On security for the polls, Kabra said: "One does not provide security per se to each person, it is the security environment which is to be provided. We have looked into this aspect and feel free and fair elections, in an atmosphere which is peaceful, would be possible".
Earlier on Saturday, the state Election Commission Body declared the schedule for the municipal body elections. The municipal body elections is scheduled to be be held in four phases from October 8 to 16.
The two major parties in the state- the National Conference Party (NC) and the People's Democratic Party (PDP) had refused to participate in the panchayat and municipal elections unless the Centre came clear on safeguarding Article 35A, a constitutional provision that defines "permanent residents" of the state.
But the Government stuck to its stand, with State Chief Secretary BVR Subrahmanyam assuring the media that the schedule will remain as planned. "There will no change in dates... Three weeks from now we will have urban body elections and on the first week of November, we will have panchayat elections," he said.
Jammu and Kashmir came under Governor's Rule in June, after the BJP pulled out of its ruling alliance with Mehbooba Mufti's PDP over ideological differences. Two months later, Satya Pal Malik replaced NN Vohra as the administrative head of the troubled state.
Separatists in the Valley have asked the people to boycott the municipal as well as the panchayat polls.
The urban body elections in the state are scheduled to be held in October and the Panchayat elections will be held in November and December.
The municipal polls are being conducted in the state after a gap of 13 years with the last elections in 2005 and the last panchayat polls were held in 2011.