Panchayats rendered defunct

Controversy rages on the status of much publicized empowerment of Panchayats even a year after elections were held and 33,000 Panchayats with 4000 Sarpanches came into existence. While the Government sources claim that the process of empowerment of Panchayats is underway and they are being consulted on various rural projects and even funds are provided on priority basis, many Sarpanches including the Chairman, J&K Panchayat Conference pooh-poohed the official claim and asserted that the Panchayats were almost rendered defunct. One of them even went to the length of saying that they were repenting why they had fought election for Panchayats. The complaints of Sarpanches are several: (a) MLAs of respective areas consider empowerment of Panchayats as depriving them of the powers and influence they are enjoying, (b) government functionaries of the 14 Departments brought under Panchayati Raj are non-cooperative and reluctant to share with Panchayats information regarding developmental projects in respective Panchayats, (c) non-availability of adequate funds to carry on the work of the Panchayats, and (d) non-involvement of Panchayats while planning new schemes of development and of public utility. Apart from these discrepancies in empowering the Panchayats in letter and in spirit, one more difficulty faced by the panchayats is the question of security of the elected members including the Sarpanches. Though they have not given open vent to this apprehension, yet we are aware the militants have been issuing threats to them. The Government is expected to provide them adequate security of life if they are supposed to be partners in devolution of power.

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