AKIS : Representative of Panchayat Empowerment

Mohan Rani Sharma
26 year old Akis Naseer is a very busy man now-a-days. Since being elected as Sarpanch of Jamola Lower village in Rajouri district of Jammu & Kashmir, he has been one of the most sought after persons in his village. Be it the road construction in the villages or getting access to the latest Government schemes, people start to hoard outside his office in Jamola from the dawn itself.
Acknowledging that he is being overwhelmed by the love and the expectations people of the village have from him, the young Akis also knows that fulfilling the expectations of the people isn’t an easy job.
Born in March, 1994 in village Jamola of Rajouri district of Jammu & Kashmir, Akis Naseer’s childhood dream was to become a cricketer and represent India at the international level. “I am a huge fan of Sachin Tendulkar. I loved watching him bat while carrying the expectations of a Billion countrymen over his shoulders”, reveals AkisNaseer. Akis believes that he has learnt a lot of lessons while watching Sachin play on the field. “I used to watch Sachin not only for his batting prowess, but also how he carried himself on the field”. Akis adds, “During my childhood days, Indian batting was totally dependent on Sachin and yet he never let that affect his mental balance and always carried himself in a flawless manner”. Akis desires to meet Sachin one day and express his deep admiration and love for the legend.
While growing up, his father noted a deep sense of public duty his son had in him. “I would often observe Akis, helping neighbors and advising them on their rights”. “He would often accompany them to the local Government offices for speedy redressal of their grievances”, recalls his father.
Finally on the advice of his father, Akis decided to contest the Panchayat elections and at the age of 24 years went on to become one of the youngest Sarpanch’s of the State. Revealing his motivation for contesting the elections for Sarpanch, Akis remarks,”My dream behind contesting Sarpanch election was to make Jamola Lower top ranked panchayat in the country.”
Akis’s hard work quickly paid off and just 1.5 years after becoming the Sarpanch, Jamola Lower panchayat won Child Friendly National Award 2020. His hard work was recognized not only in Rajouri but outside as well. Jamola Lower Panchayat had a special mention at Mission Samrithi Conference held in Chennai.
Greater Devolution of Powers Post Article-370
Akis considers himself lucky enough to be working in Post Article-370 period. “Earlier the devolution of powers to the Panchayats was only on paper. Local bodies didn’t receive any funds and were left to fend for themselves”, observes the young Sarpanch. He adds, “Despite several petitions and requests, minimal funds were released for the local bodies thus leaving them at the mercy of the authorities”. He maintains that post abrogation of Article-370, things have changed at a fast pace. As per the directions of the Union Home Minister, the bureaucracy has intensified the process of devolution of maximum powers to the local bodies.
Akis also makes sure that he makes best use of the current opportunities for the betterment of the people of his area. He chairs all the Gram Sabhas in his village which consist of representatives from 28 departments and formulates a developmental plan. He even attends all the ward Sabhas of his village given the fact that it is not mandatory for a Sarpanch to attend any ward Sabha. Constant follow up is done on the agreed upon actions to ensure its swift and flawless implementation. Thanks to the new Government regulations, the earlier top down approach has now been transformed into bottom up approach, placing village Sarpanch at the top of the administrative hierarchy in the village.
Akis maintains that effective changes have been implemented in the working structure of the Panchayati Raj Institutions which was not the case earlier. He observes that the departments and Officers are now accountable to Panchayats. Akis now directly or indirectly releases the salary of various staff and workers working in the Panchayat, making the staff more accountable to him which was not the case earlier.
According to latest regulations introduced for the seamless functioning of the Panchayats, the village Sarpanch will now head the Village level Biodiversity Committee along with all the Sarpanches of J&K, thus making Sarpanches responsible towards the State forest land falling in their villages.
Dedicated Young Sarpanch
Young Akis’s dedication towards his work has earned him “National Child Friendly Panchayat Award”by Ministry of Rural Development, Govt. of India. He completed vital ImmunizationProgram” of all the children of his village in a time bound manner. He has also organized several Special Health Camps for Children of his village.
In a widely appreciated gesture, Akis started a Library at his village for developing a culture of reading among the students of his village. Akis has also formed a village level committee which regularly checks the mid-day meal given to the children studying in all the 9 schools of his village.
In a unique initiative, Akis has started a new trend in this village, where the village level toppers of 8th, 10th and 12th standard are facilitated and awarded. He is working towards ensuring lesser school dropouts and due to his concerted efforts, the schools are now witnessing significantly lesser dropouts.
He is working towards providing vocational training to the youth of his village and it is due to his persistent efforts that a number of youth in his village have started their own business. Akis is now working towards making his Panchayat 100% solar powered village and has also achieved notable success in his ambitious effort.
Akis is now aiming for National Youth Award. He has got the necessary recommendations from District and State level and hopes of winning it. He maintains that he has not worked for any award. Instead, he considers them as milestones in the long journey of the Social Work that he has chosen for himself
Akis observes that many people had opposed the abrogation of Article 370 initially, but after witnessing the enormous development it has ushered in the small villages and towns of the region, they have realized the futility of their initial misgivings. He also notes that after the abrogation of the Article-370 followed by the devolution of the powers to the local bodies, people of the region have started taking keen interest in the democratic process. As the region is freed from the political hegemony of a few families, more and more youngsters desire to be a part of the power structure from which the subjects of the regionwere deprived till now.
(The author is a Social activist based in J&K)