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Mahatma Gandhi “When the Panchayat raj is established, public opinion can do what violence can’t do”

The decentralization of powers and restoring grass roots democracy in Jammu and Kashmir post article 370 abrogation will be written in golden words in the history of Jammu and Kashmir.

The people in the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir have been aspiring for the grass roots democracy through three tiers Panchayat Raj system which successive regimes had bereft the people.

The decentralization of powers suffered road blocks given the fears among the ruling class and bureaucrats of losing the powers to a common man.

 However, the present regime notwithstanding the pulls and pressures successfully established the three tier system in place and now the people are themselves deciding their future and participating in developmental activities.

This has set the dawn for Naya Kashmir with young and energetic people leading from the front. New leadership with fresh ideas and positive mindset are cropping in to shape the destiny of people. The elections for electing the public representatives were inclusive and progressive as reservation was provided to not only SC, ST but 1/3 reservation was provided to women not only as members but in all the three layers.  

The hegemony over official matters and in developmental matters is a thing of the past. Gram Sabhas are emerging as the heart of planning with people themselves deciding what they need and how works shall be executed with maximum transparency.

The method of developmental planning has brought the paradigm shift in rural development and empowers people in such a way where the government is bound to listen to them and address their all genuine demands while visiting them at their doorsteps. In this mission a novel idea was the Back to Village program which brought top level bureaucracy to the villages and all departments were given a platform to share their achievements with people at local level.

Jan Bahagadari and Block Divas are still in progress where governors are directly questioned by the governed. The participatory planning has now laid a strong foundation which will give new dynamism and strength to the social, economic and political development of villages.

The skeptics were always insisting that real decentralization lies in financial independence of these institutions which they believe is a distant dream. Their skepticism vanished when the budget of UT of J&K funds were allocated to all three tiers of local government. The panchayats were having finance under 14TH FCA and MGNREGA upon which planning and disbursement was made by Sarpnch which people have never imagined the type of empowerment will take place.

The budgetary funds popularly called Area Development Funds (ADP) were allocated to all three tires to create large assets in panchayats besides funds under 14th FCA and MGNREGA.

In order to provide employment to youths the government decentralized the D-Class card rules so that new cards are issued to youth who will get employment cum development opportunities in rural areas.

The revolutionary step in the empowerment of Panchayats was the management of human resource, the present dispensation was aware that without quality recruitment the empowerment of PRI’s will not be achieved. Pancahayat Secretary which is the linchpin for the empowerment of panchayats as the first link to bring all the programmes to the people and panchayats.The government starts recruitment of secretary panchayats on fast track basis as such more than 2000 youth get appointed as secretary panchayats since 2014.

There is yet another milestone in offing by making panchayats as the local Secretariat to address all the problems pertaining at village level in panchayats and providing all benefits to people at door steps. In this regard more than 1800 panchayat account assistants were appointed.

The panchayati Raj System in Jammu and Kashmir has got new momentum though still at infancy stage with abundant challenges ahead.

The enemies of empowerment still see these emerging tools of governance as the rain of a few hours which will never bear the fruits in long run. However the commitment by the Union government and present UT administration has not left any stone unturned in making local body institutions as the cornerstone in the social, economic and political development of UT of J&K.

Ajaz Mir is working as VLW in Rural Development Department. 

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