Govt fails to deliver promises made to Panchayat Ghar land donors

A view of Panchayat Ghar at Mitrigam, Pulwama. —Excelsior/Younis Khaliq
A view of Panchayat Ghar at Mitrigam, Pulwama. —Excelsior/Younis Khaliq

Suhail Bhat
Srinagar, Nov 18: People who braved all the hostilities and helped Government to strengthen the Panchayati Raj system by donating their land for the construction of Panchayat Ghars across the Valley are dejected over Government’s failure to deliver on their promises.
As per the Department of Rural Development, over the years at least 250 people donated land for the construction of Panchayat Ghars in their respective villages, where the elected Panchs and Sarpanchs would sit to discuss the local governance. The donors said they came forward to strengthen the “grassroots democracy” and “to decentralize the administrative system”. However, the Government’s failure to provide them promised employment and compensation has plunged them into despair.
In 2003, Mohammad Maqbool Hajam, 43, a resident of Pahalgam, donated his prized one kanal of land for the construction of Panchayat Ghar in his village. But, he said, the Government’s attitude has let him down, “it has been 15 years since the donation of land but I am yet to receive the promised benefits.”
Regretting his decision, Hajam said, the land would have fetched him good money because of its proximity to Pahalgam, a famed tourist destination. “The Government lured me with a fake promise and if they continue the same attitude I will lock down the building,” he said.
Director of Rural Development, Qazi Sarwar, when contacted said the process of transferring the land is underway. “Donors with one kanal of land have been asked to transfer it to the Government. Once the land is transferred the other things will follow. The process has already been initiated,” he said, adding the cases would be considered for employment under SRO 520 after land gets transferred.
Mohammad Shaban, another land donor from South Kashmir, said the transfer of land is taking time because of trust deficit between authorities and the donors. “Authorities have broken several promises. We told them to give us written orders regarding our employment and compensation,” he said. Taking a dig at the Government’s reluctance over the issues, he added: “let them issue orders to the people who have already donated their land. What is stopping them to issue orders in their favor?” he asked.
An official, however, said it took department time to scrutinize the list of donors as a number of donors turned out to be fake. “Only after verifying the cases properly we have prepared the list and dispatched it to the civil secretariat for further action,” he said.
Not only has Government used the donated spaces but roped in the owners to “watch and ward” the structures. “We are taking care of these buildings for last several years but authorities have not regularized our services. We have not been paid even a single penny for our services over the years,” Ghulam Nabi Khayar from Pattan said, adding they are risking their lives for nothing.
Ever since authorities announced the civic and panchayat polls in the State, unknown arsonists have set over a dozen Panchayat Ghars on fire.