Make Panchayat elections mandatory in J&K: Vice Prez

Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu with J&K Sarpanchs in New Delhi on Tuesday.
Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu with J&K Sarpanchs in New Delhi on Tuesday.

‘Talks with Pak only on PoK’
‘Funds, Functions, Functionaries will be devolved’

Sanjeev Pargal
JAMMU, Sept 10: Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu said today that holding elections to local bodies in Jammu and Kashmir and elsewhere should be made mandatory and there should be no scope for the State to postpone or advance them and said Panchayats would become more dynamic post abrogation of Article 370 as the 3Fs-Funds, Functions and Functionaries would be devolved to them.
Naidu said this during inter-action with a group of Sarpanchs and Panchs of Jammu and Kashmir in New Delhi.
This was second high-level meeting of the Panchayat members of Jammu and Kashmir with top functionaries in New Delhi in a week. On September 3, over 25 Sarpanchs had met Union Home Minister Amit Shah in his office.
The Vice President’s statement on making it mandatory to hold Panchayat elections in the States assumed significance as Panchayat elections were held in J&K in 2011 after nearly four decades. With Panchayats completing their five-year term in July 2016, the elections continued to be deferred by the then PDP-BJP Government and were finally held under the Governor’s rule in September-November 2018.
“Holding elections to local bodies every five years should be made mandatory. There should be no discretion or scope for the States to either postpone or advance them,” Naidu said in a tweet after meeting the Sarpanchs and Panchs from Jammu and Kashmir.
Asserting that with dilution of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir, the Panchayats would now become more dynamic as the 3Fs-Funds, Functions and Functionaries would be devolved to them, the Vice President said the financial power of the Panchayats has also been increased by 10 times, enhancing their financial powers up to Rs one lakh.
“Greater power devolution had started taking place in Jammu and Kashmir now,” he said.
Naidu said the Panchayats are vested with powers to raise their own resources by increasing taxes. The Panchayats are also empowered to conduct audit of schemes like Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) and Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) to improve the quality of delivery, he added.
Referring to temporary restrictions imposed in Kashmir, the Vice President said the motive of the curbs was to contain trouble by the anti-social elements and save lives and property of the citizens.
“At different places, the administration has started giving relaxations in the restrictions. Communication facilities have also been restored,” he said referring to resumption of landline telephone services in the Valley.
He called upon the Sarpanchs and Panchs to spread the message of developmental works to the people.
Naidu said after revocation of Article 370, the 73rd and 74th Amendments of the Constitution of India, empowering Panchayats and Municipalities, will be implemented in Jammu and Kashmir. Union Home Minister Amit Shah had also given assurance to the Sarpanchs during his meeting on September 3 that 73rd and 74th Amendments would be implemented in the State from November 1, which was long pending demand of the Panchayat members as well as the local people.
Bilateral talks with Pakistan will be held only on the issue of Pakistan occupied Kashmir, Naidu said in his inter-action with Sarpanchs and Panchs.
He said the dilution of Article 370 will accelerate the pace of development in Jammu and Kashmir as several Central schemes and laws, which could not be implemented there earlier will be enforced, including the ones dealing with strengthening local bodies.
Naidu pointed out that Article 370 was only a temporary and transitory provision in the Constitution.
“The Vice President said that talks with Pakistan would be held only on PoK and asserted that the safety, security and integrity of the nation were paramount for every Indian,” a statement issued by his Secretariat after the interaction said.
Expressing happiness over successful conduct of Panchayat elections in Jammu and Kashmir after several decades during the Governor’s rule, Naidu noted that the Panchayats have been given Constitutional powers in the State. He recalled that out of 4500 Panchayats in Jammu and Kashmir, 74 percent turnout was recovered in 3500 Panchayats in which 35000 Panchs were elected.
“Happy to interact with a delegation of Sarpanchs (Village Head) and Panchs (Panchayat members) from Jammu and Kashmir, who called on me, in New Delhi today,” Naidu said through another tweet.
It may be mentioned here that on September 3, over 25 Sarpanchs drawn from different parts of Jammu and Kashmir had called on Union Home Minister Amit Shah during which the latter had announced implementation of 73rd and 74th amendments of the Constitution of India in J&K, five Government jobs in every village, Rs 2 lakh insurance of Sarpanchs and more Central funds for development of Panchayats.