Monday, September 17, 2012

Powerless Panchayats in Jammu Kashmir

Panchayat system is losing its space in Jammu and Kashmir State where the elected candidates are now-a-days tendering resignations to the ruling Government for not allowing them to establish their power point at village level. Decentralization of power is only in papers and not in the hands of the elected in general. Elections are already a year old, members have been elected but sarpanches are still powerless.

In our state Jammu and Kashmir initially during the regime of Maharaja Hari Singh, PRIs in a modest way were introduced in the State and several powers were also bestowed on them for raising taxes and non-taxes besides funding for addressing the infrastructural needs of the rural community. Panchayat adalats were also set up for resolution of local disputes of criminal and civil character by compromise, consensus and reconciliation. Panchayati Raj is the way to make a democratic nation and to give power to the local bodies for solving their issues.

J&K Panchayati Raj Act 1989 was brought in place by which three tiers Panchayati Raj system at Halqa, Block and District level, was prescribed as a step forward for de-centralization of the planning process and carrying out various developmental activities for rural upliftment through participatory management process. In J&K State, PRI election was held in 2001 and tangible steps were taken for empowering the Panchayats for their involvement on wholesome basis in the entire development process as also for looking after various subjects on root areas.

Decentralization of power to the grassroot level in India was the dream of the social reformers and the political parties. The concept of Panchayati Raj is nothing new. It was the dream of Gandhi, the father of the nation; its need was stressed by Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, and again seconded by Late Jai Prakash Narayan. When late Rajiv Gandhi came to the helm of affairs in the country, he repeatedly stressed the importance of Panchayati Raj. He wanted to give equal power to those who are living in the villages and led their life on the track of equality from the base. He actually formed his views on the subject by under-taking whirlwind tours of rural India to familiarize himself with the realities of rural life, by holding frequent workshops of District Magistrates all over the country, and thus assessing their views and understanding their difficulties. Mahatma Gandhi was aware about the social life of the rural areas and to their needs which needed a special care. He then sought to give it constitutional sanction by proposing to add a new chapter to the Indian constitution in the form of the 64th amendment, through the Bill which he moved in the Parliament on the 15th of May, 1989.

Panchayati Raj is a system of governance in which gram (village) panchayats are the basic units of administration. It has three levels: Village, Block and District. Mahatma Gandhi advocated Panchayati Raj, a decentralized form of Government where each village is responsible for its own affairs, as the foundation of India's political system. State Governments adopted this during 1950s and 60s as laws were passed to establish Panchayats in various states. Through the 73rd Amendment in 1992 on April 23, 1993 the Institution of Panchayati Raj was accorded the Constitutional status. Regular elections to Panchayats every five years, proportionate seat reservation for SCs/STs, reservation of not less than 1/3 seats for women, Constitution of State Finance Commissions to recommend measures to improve the finances of Panchayats, Constitution of State Election Commission. We wish that the State Government shares their power with PRIs and make them the part of the democracy.

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