Authorities in deep slumber despite PM’s repeated thrust
MHA understands importance of law not J&K authorities
JAMMU, Aug 13: Notwithstanding repeated thrust by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi on empowering Panchayats and Municipalities from all the aspects, the administration of Jammu and Kashmir has yet not started paying serious attention towards setting up of Finance Commission for these grass root level democratic institutions, the law about which was enacted more than eight years back.
“To make the Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) and Municipalities fully empowered, it is necessary that they have a sustained source of funds and keeping this aspect in mind and the recommendations of the 13th Central Finance Commission, the Jammu and Kashmir State Finance Commission for Panchayats and Municipalities Act was enacted in the year 2011 and the same received assent of the Governor on April 23, 2011”, official sources told EXCELSIOR.
The Act states: “The Government shall, as soon as may be from the commencement of Act, and thereafter at the expiration of every 5th year, constitute a State Finance Commission for Panchayats and Municipalities to review the financial position of these grass root democratic institutions”.
The Commission shall make recommendations to the Government vis-a-vis distribution between the State and the Panchayats and Municipalities of the net proceeds of the taxes, duties, tolls and fees leviable by the State; determination of the taxes, tolls and fees which may be assigned to or appropriated to the Panchayats and Municipalities and measures needed to improve the financial position of the Panchayats and Municipalities besides any other matter as may be referred to the Commission by the Government from time to time, the Act further states.
However, despite lapse of over eight years no step has been initiated by the Government for establishment of this important Commission. “Even several months after formal elections to the Panchayats and Municipalities this Act has failed to receive due attention of the State administration”, sources said while disclosing that even formal discussion on setting into motion process towards establishment of this Commission has not been initiated either in the Housing and Urban Development Department or Rural Development Department.
“The non-serious approach in establishment of this Commission is notwithstanding the fact that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is repeatedly laying thrust on empowering Panchayats and Municipalities from all the aspects”, they further said. In the recent past the Prime Minister while interacting with the representatives of the Panchayats from Jammu and Kashmir had stated that every effort would be made to empower these grass root level democratic institutions.
The establishment of State Finance Commission assumes importance especially when the Government of India has already started releasing huge funds to Jammu and Kashmir for utilization by Panchayats and Municipalities, sources further said.
The importance of this legislation can be gauged from the fact that Union Ministry of Home Affairs has kept it in the list of the State Laws which will remain in force in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir and Union Territory of Ladakh. “It is a matter of concern that Jammu and Kashmir State Finance Commission for Panchayats and Municipalities Act assumes significance for the Ministry of Home Affairs but not for the Jammu and Kashmir administration”, sources said.
When contacted, officers in the Housing and Urban Development and Rural Development Departments, on the condition of anonymity, confirmed that this importance legislation has not received any serious attention ever since it’s enacted over eight years back.
“A committee headed by the then Chief Secretary Madhav Lal, in its detailed report to the Government on the empowerment of grass root level democratic institutions dated July 15, 2011, had recommended that the Finance Commission for Panchayats and Municipalities be formed as early as possible”, they disclosed, adding “the Act as well as recommendations are gathering dust in the official files due to little interest from the concerned authorities”.
They said that Commission can be formed without any difficulty as the Act states that Chairperson of the Commission shall be an eminent economist with expertise in the State finance, planning, rural development, Panchayats and local bodies. “There are numerous retired bureaucrats in Jammu and Kashmir who meet this eligibility criteria”, the officials said.
They, however, hoped that after October 31, 2019 when the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir and Union Territory of Ladakh would become reality, the necessity of establishing Finance Commission for Panchayats and Municipalities would receive due attention because of pressure from the Union Government.