Panchayat grants conditional

Elections are an expensive exercise but if democracy has to be the political system then this exercise has to be gone through whenever time comes. We have elections to the Parliament and to the Legislative Assembly. Apart from that, we have another extension of democratic dispensation and that is the Panchayats and Urban-Local Bodies. While Panchayats mostly cater to rural based political system, ULBs serve cities, towns and adjoining areas. The broad idea for having panchayat elections is of empowering the rural segment to have a say in the Government and take care of the interests of the villages/localities and habitats who would be partners in the developmental project of respective areas and regions. The philosophy of India encouraging the Panchayati Raj is based on the fact that 80 per cent of Indian population lives in villages and are involved in agrarian activities. It is of immense importance to empower them which indirectly means educating them on what type of political system the nation has evolved and how to uphold it through thick and thin.
To encourage penetration of democracy to lowest levels, the Central Government provide liberal funds for holding of Urban Local Body and Panchayat elections. In the previous 13th Finance Commission, Jammu and Kashmir had to lose grants worth 169.29 rupees meant for spending on expenditures incurred by Local Bodies. Since no Local Bodies elections were held, it was obvious that the proposed grants had to be withdrawn. The Centre didn’t release these funds as they were to be spent only through the elected Municipal bodies, which had ceased to exist in Jammu and Kashmir in March 2010. The simple question arising is why the Government has failed to hold elections and thus lose the chance of to be in receipt of the allocated funds. The same question applies to the current Government. We understand that the Central Government has linked Rs 4401 crores worth grants of Jammu and Kashmir to be given to elected Panchayats and Urban Local Bodies under 14th Finance Commission Award with holding of election to both rural and urban local bodies. The State is faced with the potential threat of losing hefty grants during current financial year in the absence of both the elected bodies. There have not been elections either to the Panchayats or the Urban Local Bodies which means that the Union Government is not in a position to keep the grants at the disposal of the State Government.
Elections to Panchayats in insurgency infested areas of the Kashmir valley have been a major irritant to the militants because they feel that their popularity with the public would be immensely diminished when elected panchs assumed their duties and responsibilities. The militants considered it a mechanism of keeping the people glued to democratic dispensation. The fact of the matter is that Panchayats have come into existence as a result of elections and many Panchs and Sarpanchs have had to lose their lives at the hands of militants. Nevertheless their spirit could not be cowed down and most of them withstood the threats. Militancy should not be made a reason for deferring the elections either to Panchayats or to the Urban Local Bodies. These elections should be held as early as possible so that the democratic structure of the State remains intact and actually is reinforced.