Major embarrassment: J&K at 21st place in availing GoI funds for Gram Panchayats

Guv’s efforts revive hope for release of blocked assistance

Mohinder Verma
JAMMU, July 21: In a major embarrassment, Jammu and Kashmir has been listed at 21st position in the tally of 26 States in the country as far as availing Government of India’s funds for improvement of basic civic services at the Gram Panchayat level is concerned. Due to inability of the State to avail whopping financial assistance, masses in rural areas have been deprived of their legitimate right to development.
Under 14th Finance Commission whopping funds were earmarked for disbursal to the States for ensuring developmental activities through Gram Panchayats and the major condition behind availing financial assistance through Union Ministry of Panchayati Raj was to put in place duly elected Panchayats.
The grand-in-aid is disbursed in two parts—Basic Grant and Performance Grant. The Basic Grant is provided to support and strengthen the delivery of basic civic services including water supply, sanitation, maintenance of community assets, maintenance of roads and other services within the functions assigned to Gram Panchayats under relevant legislations. The Performance Grant is provided if the Gram Panchayats meet the conditions of submitting audited accounts and increase their own resources.
As per the official data of the Union Government, the copy of which is available with EXCELSIOR, during 2015-16 financial year, when there were elected Panchayats in Jammu and Kashmir, Basic Grant to the tune of Rs 367.72 crore was provided to the State for utilization in 4490 Panchayats.
However, during 2016-17 financial year no Basic Grant was given to the State as elected Panchayats had completed their term in June 2016. However, Performance Grant to the tune of Rs 66.79 crore was given keeping in view the activities carried out by the Panchayats during the preceding year.
During 2017-18 and 2018-19 (current financial year), even Basic Grant could not be availed by the State for want of duly elected Panchayats. As such during past over three years J&K has availed only Rs 434.51 crore funds from the Union Ministry of Panchayati Raj.
Due to its inability to avail whopping funds, J&K has been listed at 21st position in the tally of 26 States in the country. As per the data, J&K is only ahead of Tripura, Sikkim, Manipur and Goa and far behind other States as far as availing of funds for improvement of basic services at the Gram Panchayat level is concerned.
“It is a matter of serious concern that due to the apathy of the politicians rural areas have been deprived of whopping financial assistance of the Government of India, which otherwise could have transformed rural areas up to large extent”, sources regretted, adding “due to the sluggishness on the part of Government rural masses have been deprived of their legitimate right of having access to improved basic services and other developmental activities”.
“The politicians, who remained at the helm of affairs, gave lofty slogans from time to time about empowering grass root level democratic institutions but no seriousness was shown to conduct Panchayat elections without which no financial assistance can be obtained from the Union Government”, sources said.
As Governor N N Vohra, who is holding the reign of the State at present, has set into motion an exercise to conduct Panchayat elections as early as possible, there are hopes about release of blocked funds at least from next financial year.
The grants, as per the guidelines of the Union Ministry of Panchayati Raj, are released in two instalments—in June and in October every fiscal year. If the elections to the Panchayats are held by October the Government will be able to avail at least one instalment for utilization through Panchayats, sources said.
It is pertinent to mention here that on the directions of the Governor entire official machinery of the State has started completing formalities for holding elections to these grass root level democratic institutions.