Omar reviews status of power devolution to Panchayats

Excelsior Correspondent
JAMMU, Jan 14: Indicating elections of Block Development Council of Panchayats in next few weeks and reaffirming his Government’s sincere commitment for empowered 3-tier Panchayat Raj system in the State, Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah today said that some elements are bent upon derailing this process.
The Chief Minister said that Panchayat members in some areas have security concerns, adding that recently two attacks have been committed against Panchayat members in which one got martyred and other is fighting her injuries in SKIMS. “Despite these threats, the Panchayat members are firm on ground to serve people and full-fill their objective of mitigating the difficulties of people”, he said and lauded them for this spirit.
“The Government is with you at all levels and our commitment for an empowered Panchayat Raj system is firm and final”, he said expressing solidarity with Panchs and Sarpanchs assuring them all support in performing functions of public service in a smooth way.
Addressing an interaction session of district level Government functionaries from Jammu division representing 14 departments from where functions and powers have been transferred to Panchayat institutions, Omar Abdullah said that the establishment of Panchayat Block Development Councils would further strengthen the process of utilization of powers transferred to these institutions.
“We expect elections of Panchayat Block Development Councils (BDC) within some weeks which would enable the Panchayat institutions to utilize all powers transferred to them”, he said impressing upon the officers to develop a mindset of working in tandem with Panchayat members respecting their representative character and making them fully aware of their involvement and powers in the development process.
“Our aim is to establish a powerful Panchayat Raj system and transfer governance from Civil Secretariat to grass roots”, he said, adding that the election to these institutions alongwith transfer of powers from 14 departments is aimed at realizing this goal. He told the officers to locate shortcomings if any, in smooth devolution of powers to the ground level elected democratic institutions and take immediate corrective measures in this regard.
Omar Abdullah asked the MLCs representing Panchayats in the Legislative Council to hold regular joint interactions sessions with officers and Panchayat members at all levels and resolve any difficulty they feel in the functioning of administration and the elected public representatives. “Wherever they feel any intervention of the Ministers concerned, Chief Secretary or the Chief Minister, they should immediately bring the matter to their notice”, he said directing the officers to be readily available for attending such interaction sessions.
Omar Abdullah said that the huge budgetary provisions and mammoth development programmes under implementation in the State need involvement of Panchayat institutions to realize the targets. “This essentiality needs to be driven home by the Government functionaries. They and Panchayat members need to move forward jointly for the good of the public”, he said.
He said that the concept of single-line administration needs to be extended to Block and Halqa levels. “This is the keen desire of the Government and all in administration have to work towards achieving this objective”, he said.
In his speech, Minister for Rural Development, Ali Mohammad Sagar said that the fast measures taken by the Omar-led Coalition Government for empowering Panchayats and transferring powers from 14 departments to these institutions is a record in itself.
The Minister said that the full utilization of powers at ground level will get further fillip when the Block Development Councils are constituted.
Mr. Sagar suggested placement of Rs. 5 lakh by the Government at the disposal of each Panchayat Halqa with financial powers for undertaking smaller works. He also underlined the need for fast tracking the proposal of insurance cover and honorarium for Panchs and Sarpanchs moved by the Rural Development Department.
The interaction meeting was also addressed by Minister of State for Rural Development, Ajaz Ahmad Khan who underlined the need for direct flow of funds to Panchayats from other departments.
Legislators representing Panchayats in Legislative Council, Shahnaz Ganai and Sham Lal Bhagat in their speeches highlighted the areas where administration needed to be pro-active to address the grievances of Panchayat members involving them in the process of planning, implementation and supervision.
They also underlined the need for making Panchayat members aware of their role in the development process.
Chief Secretary, Madhav Lal, who headed the Committee on whose recommendations, powers and services from 14 departments were transferred to Panchayats, said that he has monitored the status of utilization of powers by Panchayats through Border Area Development Programme (BADP) window. He said that district administration and concerned officers have been sensitized about the necessary corrections required in ensuring utilization of powers by the Panchayats.
He said that there is further scope of involving Panchayats actively and in a constructive way in the implementation of programmes like NRHM, SSA and RMSA.
Financial Commissioner, Finance, Mohammad Iqbal Khandey, Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister, B. B. Vyas and Principle Secretary Planning, B. R. Sharma were present in the meeting while Commissioner Secretary Rural Development, Farooq Ahmad Peer gave detailed Power Point presentation on the process of devolution of powers to Panchayat institutions.


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