Panchayat Raj Institutions rewrite fate of rural areas in J&K

DN Bureau

When Panchayat elections were held in Jammu and Kashmir in 2018, two former chief ministers of the erstwhile state Farooq Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti termed the polls as a "futile exercise." Read further on Dynamite News:

Representational Image
Representational Image

Srinagar: When Panchayat elections were held in Jammu and Kashmir in 2018, two former chief ministers of the erstwhile state  Farooq Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti termed the polls as a "futile exercise."
Their parties National Conference (NC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) stayed away from the polls announcing a boycott. Despite both the Kashmir-based traditional parties not participating in the Panchayat elections, polls were held successfully with 75 per cent of the electorate exercising their franchise.

Panchayat representatives were elected and they were promised by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led regime that the grass root democratic institutions would be strengthened. PM Modi remained true to his word and fulfilled all the commitments that were made to the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

Soon after the Panchayats were formed the Centre released Rs 800 crore in four instalments between March 2018 and August 2019, ahead of its move to end Jammu & Kashmir's special status and divide it into two Union Territories, and after the decision to scrap Article 370, a temporary provision in the Constitution was announced Rs 1,200 crore more were sent. In toto the Panchayats were given Rs 2,000 crore to commence the work on the schemes aimed at benefiting the people of J&K.

The money was directly transferred into the Panchayats' accounts. The Panchayat representatives were given a formal protocol to unfurl the National Flag on Republic and Independence Days. Panchayats were given powers to conduct social audits, address grievances and generate resources. Panchayat accounts assistants and Panchayat secretaries were appointed. Old Panchayat Ghars were revamped and the new ones were built. The Centre-left no stone unturned to empower the grass root democracy in Jammu and Kashmir.

In September 2021, NC president Dr Farooq Abdullah acknowledged that boycotting the Panchayat elections was a mistake and his party regretted it. He stated that whenever any elections would be held in the future his party would not boycott them. In 2022, the Administrative Council led by J&K Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha empowered Gram Panchayats, Block Samitis and Zila Parishad with the authority to accord administrative approval to works from Rs one lakh to Rs one crore.

After the scrapping of Article 370, Panchayats in J&K have become powerful agents of socio-economic change and engines of rural development. Panchayats are making a significant contribution to nation-building and empowering the citizens to meet the challenge of sustainable development. The Panchayat Representatives are working closely with the people to realize the big dreams of the small villages of J&K. The Centre by establishing and strengthening three-tier grassroots democracy in J&K has ensured rapid and inclusive development. It has led to the inclusion of underprivileged sections of society into the mainstream and every attempt is being made to remove developmental imbalances.

Rural areas of J&K are fast emerging as main pillars of the economy as the Panchayats are ensuring that the benefits of all the people-oriented schemes reach the last man in the queue. Devolution of funds, functions and functionaries and seamless coordination at each of the levels of the three-tier system of Panchayati Raj has given a tremendous boost to the aspirations of rural society. The Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) in Jammu and Kashmir have become symbols of the people's power and are working efficiently to achieve the goals.

PRIs are implementing progressive policies and schemes of the government aimed at increasing farmers' income and enhancing their skills. These institutions have made Jammu and Kashmir self-reliant. From 1947 to 2019 the PRIs in J&K were not allowed to grow as the politicians, who ruled the erstwhile princely state, didn't want to share the power with the common man. They had vested all the powers in themselves to ensure that they remained "undisputed rulers" with no accountability.

The decentralization of powers after the emergence of PRIs has empowered the common man. J&K has set a new example of democracy. In April 2022, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the occasion of National Panchayati Raj Day visited Palli village in Jammu's Samba district and hailed J&K for setting a new example of "democracy and determination" in the country. Till Article 370 was in vogue in J&K, people of the Himalayan region remained deprived of the benefits that were at the disposal of every Indian citizen. For seven decades they were told by their leaders that Panchayats won't serve any purpose.

They peddled blatant lies to keep their chairs safe. Politicians were aware of the fact that till J&K's special status remains intact their rule would continue and once it was done away with they would end up at a crossroads. Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led regime hit the nail on its head by changing J&K's seven-decade-long status quo. It merged J&K completely with the Union of India and gave the common man all the privileges and power. As of date, the PRIs in J&K are the most powerful institutions. A common man has become an equal stakeholder in the decision-making process. His grievances and issues are being resolved at a local level. Panchs and Sarpanchs are acting as a bridge between the people and the government.

After the abrogation of Article 370 more than 175 central laws have been implemented in J&K. According to the officials the Centre has provided funds worth Rs 22,000 crore to Panchayats in J&K. The government is focusing on providing basic amenities, creating employment avenues and building infrastructure, including roads, in rural areas. Panchayati Raj Institutions are at the forefront of carrying forward the mission of making J&K 'Atamanirbhar (self-reliant). They have become an integral part of development. Panchayats in Jammu and Kashmir are inspiring PRIs across the country to improve the delivery of services and public goods.

PM Modi taking a keen interest in empowering the grass root institutions in the Union Territory has led to the rapid and inclusive development of the Himalayan region. During the past three years, Panchayats have rewritten the fate of rural areas in J&K as the villages which didn't witness any development for 70 years are fast becoming model villages. (ANI)

Related Stories