Take public outreach right up to block level: Ministers

‘Evolve mechanism to address issues’
*Suggest DPDB elections, more powers to Panchayats
Sanjeev Pargal
JAMMU, Feb 2: The Central Ministers who visited Jammu and Kashmir as part of the Government’s massive week-long public outreach programme in the Union Territory were reported to have suggested that the outreach should be taken right up to the block level and a proper mechanism developed for addressing issues of the people.
They were also understood to have suggested that more powers should be given to the newly elected Block Development Councils (BDCs) and Panchayats on the pattern of Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka but maintained that powers given to them were reasonably well as compared to past and the Panchayats have started doing good job in development of rural areas.
Sources told the Excelsior that some of the Union Ministers have started giving their feedback to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and the Ministry of Home Affairs, which had directed them for public outreach in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir to interact with people, Panchayat members, administration and all other stakeholders and suggest further ways and means to step-up development and address issues raised during the meetings.
Informed sources said some of the Ministers have suggested that the public outreach programme should be taken right up to the block level and proper mechanism should be developed for redressing grievances of the people raised at such programmes.
“Some of the Ministers have pointed out that the Deputy Commissioners, Sub Divisional Magistrates (SDMs) and Block Development Officers (BDOs), should fix one day a week exclusively for public hearings at the district, tehsil and block levels respectively. The issues pertaining to the officers present at public outreach should be addressed on spot and those not in their domain be forwarded to concerned authorities,” they have reportedly suggested and called for fool-proof mechanism of follow up action by the concerned officers to ensure that the people are informed about outcome of their grievances from higher ups.
Such mechanism, according to sources, was prevalent in some of the States including those ruled by the BJP and the Ministers were of the view that this has proved highly successful there in redressing public grievances.
They were of the view that such a mechanism was necessary in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir especially when there was no Legislature due to delay in holding the Assembly elections.
It may be mentioned here that after public outreach of the Central Ministers, the UT Government had ordered that all Administrative Secretaries will listen public grievances four days a month in the capital cities of Jammu and Srinagar and once a month at the district assigned to them.
“In the absence of elected Government in Jammu and Kashmir, the responsibility of listening to the people’s grievances lies completely on the administration,” some of the Minister were reported to have said and also favoured more involvement of the BDC Chairpersons and Panchayat members in this connection as they too can address some of the public issue or take them up with the administration.
Some of the Ministers were reported to have said that they received the complains of corruption at lower level in rural areas and suggested that the menace should be tackled effectively.
According to sources, some of the Central Ministers were of the view that the BDCs and Panchayats have been empowered considerably during the Governor followed by the Lieutenant Governor Rule in Jammu and Kashmir as compared to past but maintained that still there was scope to give them more powers so that majority of issues of the rural areas are addressed by the Panchayats and the BDCs.
Some of the Ministers, based on the feedback of Panchayat members and people, have called for holding early elections to the District Planning and Development Boards (DPDBs), which will complete third tier of the Panchayati Raj Institutions for the first time in Jammu and Kashmir. The elected DPDBs, it may be mentioned, have never been constituted in J&K and there used to be the District Development Boards (DDBs) headed by the Cabinet Ministers in the elected Government.
“Some of the Ministers have also voiced concern over delay in completion of developmental works including the projects especially which were of vital importance for the people in rural areas as the previous Governments had paid less focus towards them,” sources said, adding that they were of the view that the projects should be completed in time once started and there should be mechanism to ensure that funding is not hampered, which was one of the reasons for delay in their execution.
Sources said the suggestions and feedback given by the Ministers after their public outreach programme in Jammu and Kashmir from January 18-24, will be forwarded to the Union Territory Government by the PMO and MHA for appropriate action.
The Central Government proposed to hold Phase-II of public outreach programme after completion of by-elections to over 13,000 seats of Panchayats.


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