Empower Panchayats in J&K UT

Dr Ram Chander Sharma
The erstwhile Himalayan State of Jammu and Kashmir was bifurcated into two Union Territories (UTs) on 5th August of this year by Indian Parliament by abrogation of Article 370 of Indian Constitution. There was expectation that things would improve for the people of this UT. But things are not moving on the expected lines. The elected Panchayats have completed have completed one year of their tenure but are workless since then. The obsolete Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Act 1989 is in force regardless the Govt. of India’s claim that all State Laws have been abolished and all the Central Laws are in force.
The Panchayats in India are as old as Indian Civilization to resolve local issues and give a direction to village development but the present scenario is directionless and all the massive effort of the then Governor Satyapal Malik are proving futile as the elected Panchyats are without any administrative or financial powers as are seen in other States/UTs of India. As India predominantly lives in villages with fewer modern facilities or social justice the role of elected village Panchayats becomes much more justified to deliver the Govt. Schemes to the villagers at their doorstep.
India in ancient times and since the onset of Industrial Revolution was having a very strong financial supremacy due its empowered villages and was called “Sone Ki Chidya” ; no doubt it can still have that financial status if, our village economy is revived. As seen in the world over the decreasing Gross Domestic Product of nations and the Industrial Revolution bending to knees the Nations with Agriculture as their back bone will counter the onslaught of Population explosion and climate change. The Indian sub continent having varied climates with snow capped Great Himalayas on its North boundary have the perennial flowing river having fertile basins can provide grains, fruits, vegetables, animal products and other nutritious pulses to the whole of world if our farmers get all the inputs related to mixed farming and latest technology. The Govt. of Israel has done wonders in farming sector even in semi desert areas having high agriculture and livestock production.
The recently held elections to the Chairpersons of Rural Development Blocks in JK UTs is step in the right direction but the implementation of 73rd and 74th amendments of Indian constitution here is still elusive. The GOI and The Ministry of Panchayati Raj and Rural Development is in deep slumber to issue necessary orders in this respect. It takes few hours to implement the Panchyati Raj Model of another Union Territory of India in Toto. The model of Pondichery is well framed and is most reasonable to be implemented here. Still there is no clear Govt. order for the departments to be included in Gram Panchyats or Local Bodies. Apart from two orders concerning procurement of ration for Anganwadies and Mid Day meals no other order has been issued.
The financial component for Gram Panchyats is still in wait except a small component released under 14th Finance Commission of India. The much talked about Panchayat Development Fund was to be allotted and distributed by DBT Mode has not been allotted till the constitution of Gram Panchayats but there are only four months left for this financial year. The early onset of winter with cold wave, early snow fall and unseasonal heavy rains have further compounded the problems of farmers with heavy loss to orchards and standing crops. The so called Pardhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana a flagship central scheme is not implemented in true letter and spirit in two UTs. Same is the case with Prdhan Mantri Sinchayi Yojana and other Flagship Mega Schemes like MGNREA and schemes linked with livestock development.
The empowerment of PRIs in two UTs has to be taken on fast track basis and the necessary amendments and elections to the Distt. Dev. Boards be conducted where there is no hitch. It’s a fact that still more than 2000 posts of Sarpanchs and Panchs are lying vacant as the elections couldn’t be held due to militancy and these can only be held after the winter season in April-May next year but in Jammu Province there is no such situation. All the Govt. efforts be it the Ministry or Gram Panchayats are for the modern development and to deliver Social Justice to people. There are burning issues like Old Age/Widow/Handicap pension, deteriorating functioning of Govt. Schools, ration delivery, clean drinking piped water supply, electricity distribution, road connectivity, forest/environment protection, irrigation, increasing the production levels of agriculture, horticulture and livestock.
Its appealed to the Lt. Governors of two UTs first immediately implement 73rd/74th amendments, implement Pondichery Model, allot Panchayat Dev. Funds and four provide security to elected Sarpanchs and Panchs to thwart any sabotage by anti national elements.
(The author is Sarpanch Siot Rajouri)