J&K Panchayat Raj Act provides for an independent State Election Commission of the Panchayats. In absence of the said provisions, the task of holding Panchayat elections has been assigned to CEO who has been designated as SEC, through an ordinance promulgated by the Governor. Preparations are practically complete to hold the Panchayat elections (after a delay of one & half years) for 4500 Panchyats by 57 Lakh voters. In our state holding of Panchayat elections has never remained a regular feature like assembly elections. The present Panchayat Raj Act came into existence in 1989 and thereafter we had Panchayat elections in 2001 and 2011. During these elections Sarpanches were also elected by voters. During present elections only panches will be elected directly and who in turn elect sarpach for the Halqa Panchayat. This system was existing earlier as per provision of 1958 Act.
In this connection, the J&K Panchayati Raj & Rural Welfare Society, in its meeting welcomed the present wanted initiative for holding Panchayat elections to establish grass root democratic institutions at Panchayat level for welfare of village society and also decided to submit following few points for consideration of authorities through this paper.
* The Panchayat Act of 1989 provides for establishment of Panchayat at Halqa level Block Dev. Council and Distt Planning and Dev Boards. To ensure implementation of Panchayat Raj system in the state as per provisions of the 1989 Act, all such institutions be established and made operative in the interest of rural society. It will be a big revolutionary step by the State Govt.
* Elections for Panchayat members and other functionaries be held on non-political basis so that Panchayats could function without any bias.
* The three tiers of Panchayati Raj, when established be permitted to function without any interference and to equip them with proper authority for planning, executive and financial matters.
* Prior to holding of elections, awareness camps be organized in all areas to educate the voters to elect persons devoted to task of village development. NGOs can also play some role in this task.
Adoption of above suggestions will have longer lasting effects on growth and development of rural areas.
D P Khajuria
President (PARAS), Jammu