Rahul also wants implementation of 73rd amendment in J&K

Neeraj Rohmetra
JAMMU, Sept 27: Urging the Sarpanchs of the sensitive border State not to succumb to forces aimed at weakening of Panchayati Raj institutions, All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary Rahul Gandhi today urged them not to resort to ‘resignations’ and instead jointly counter these forces at all levels.
These views were expressed by Mr Gandhi while interacting with delegation of 10 member Sarpanchs from different parts of the State, who had been invited by the former to New Delhi to know about the problems being faced by them ever since their elections in the year 2011. The meeting, which started at 3.00 pm lasted for around an hour and all members of the delegation were given chance to air their views about the ground situation in the State.
Reassuring the delegations, Mr Gandhi said that he was well informed about the difficulties being faced by nearly 33,000 Panchayat members of the State. “But, resignations wouldn’t offer a solution to the problem and infact by resigning, we are strengthening the hands of anti-national forces who are hell-bent to create this situation. The ideal situation would be not to succumb to these pressures and continue working steadfastly despite all these problems”.
“For instance, I am member of Lok Sabha and if I submit my resignation there, I shall no longer be in a position to raise issues of public importance thereby defeating the very purpose for which I had entered into the august House. Despite all difficulties, all of you should put brave faces, while demanding rights due to you as elected Panchs and sarpanchs”, he elaborated.
“The Congress party wholeheartedly supports your movement and would ensure that the Panchayat institutions are strengthened in your State. The issue had also been discussed in details with Sonia Gandhi, United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson and Congress chief”, he asserted.
Drawing parallel with Jharkhand, where naxalites were creating hindrances in functioning of Panchayats, Mr Gandhi commented, “I have pledged to fight for empowerment of rural bodies and ensure devolution of powers despite stiff resistance from several quarters”.
Commenting on the functioning of the State Government, he stated that he had no doubt that the coalition Government headed by Omar Abdullah also intends to strengthen the Panchayati Raj institutions in the State and that is why they conducted these elections after nearly three decades. “Though there are some forces trying to derail this process of empowerment at the grass root level, I have no doubts about the sincerity of the State Government”, he added.
At the same breath, the AICC general secretary chose to mention that he was keen to see the implementation of 73rd amendment of India constitution in the border state for better decentralization of powers.
When asked by the delegation of Sarpanchs as to why the Congress party had failed to prevail upon their coalition partner, the National Conference, in Jammu and Kashmir to implement these amendments, Mr Gandhi smiled and chose not to react.
He also gave an assurance that soon he shall be visiting the border State and hold a personal interaction with all the elected Panchayats for better assessment of the situation.
While responding to their security concerns and issue of devolution of powers, the AICC general secretary organized their meetings with Minister of State for Home, Jitendra Pratap Singh and Union Panchayati Raj and Tribal Affairs Minister, K C Deo.
The 10 member delegation met the Home Minister, Jitendra Pratap Singh at around 4.30 pm and shared with him their views on security concerns. “The elected Sarpanchs and Panchs had been caught between the threats being issued by militants and the failure of the Government regarding decentralization of powers”, the members had stated.
While reacting to the demands of these Sarpanchs, the Home Minister assured that his Ministry would take up the issue with the State Government at all levels. He also promised to look into their demand for a compensation for Rs 20 lakh each to the dependents of the three Sarpanchs, who were killed by the militants.
The Home Minister also held detail consultations with the Home Secretary and it had been mutually decided to hold fresh deliberations with all the stakeholders.
The delegation also held another meeting with Union Panchayati Raj Minister, K C Deo and agenda of the meeting was to discuss the process of devolution of power at grass root level. “Though the State Government had promised devolution of powers and several official orders had been issued in this direction. But, not much had happened on ground”, said members of the delegation.
The Panchayati Raj Minister listened to their views on the subject and assured to provide them all possible assistance in better understanding of the process of the devolution of powers.
“Gandhi promised to look into their demand including for a compensation of Rs 20 lakh each to the dependents of the three Sarpanchs who were killed by the militants,” General Secretary of All Jammu and Kashmir Panchayat Coordination Committee Anil Sharma told reporters here.
‘‘Four Panchs and Sarpanchs have been killed by suspected militants and many others have been targeted since the landmark panchayat polls held in the State last year after a gap of 30 years, triggering a spate of resignations by these elected representatives’’ said Shafiq Mir, Convenor Jammu and Kashmir Panchayat Conference.
Ten Panchayat members from the State under the banner of All Jammu and Kashmir Panchayat Coordination Committee apprised Gandhi of their problems and told him that the non-delegation of power to them under the Panchayati Raj Act has created a “piquant situation” for them.
Gandhi has also promised them that he will visit the State very soon and address meetings on the issue.
Ten Panchayat members requested Gandhi to address one Maha Panchayat Meeting each in both Jammu and Kashmir regions.
The issue of killing of Sarpanchs was also raised in the Congress Working Committee meeting on Tuesday in which Gandhi had said that it was a serious matter and needed to be look into.
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah yesterday promised security to the Panchayat members and said the State Government would not allow the ultras to disrupt ongoing efforts to strengthen the Panchayati Raj system in the State.
“Rahul Gandhi has agreed to our demand. He said he will visit the State soon,” Shafiq Mir  said.
Another General Secretary of the organisation, Khurshid Mallik, said that the biggest problem before the Sarpanchs is that they have not been empowered adequately.
“If there were no disturbances in conducting Panchayat polls, then why we are facing security threat now. This needs to be thought over. We are not been given power. So, we are not functional and we are losing the faith of people in our areas,” he said.
The General Secretary in-charge for Jammu and Kashmir, Mohan Prakash, is also holding another meeting to discuss their problems.

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