The Bold Voice of J&K

J&K’s transition to grass root democracy

76

Rohit Kumar

With the Article 370’s revocation, Jammu and Kashmir’s true integration into India was achieved, addressing a lacuna that had been allowed to exist for too long. Its transformative impact on democracy has managed to touch the lives of people in a meaningful way. History of strengthening grassroots democracy was created in J&K with the conduct of free, fair and peaceful Panchayat elections. Panchayat elections recorded a substantial 74.1 percent voter turnout. A total of 3,650 Sarpanchs and 23,660 Panchs were elected to lay the foundation for the three-tier Panchayati Raj system for the first time across J&K. After successful conduct of Panchayat elections, elections for Block Development Councils (BDCs) were conducted for the very first time in J&K. The BDC elections saw an overwhelming voter turnout of 98.3 per cent in which 276 chairpersons were elected in a total transparent manner. Finally, District Development Council elections were held in 8 phases which witnessed a tremendous voter turnout of 51.7 per cent. The process elected 20 DDC Chairpersons and 20 Vice-Chairpersons besides a total of 278 DDC members were also elected, thus completing implementation of 3-tier Panchayati Raj system here. In his speech at Palli village of Samba, Prime Minister, Narendra Modi described Panchayat Diwas celebrations in Jammu and Kashmir as indicative of big change, adding that Central government schemes are now getting implemented expeditiously and are directly benefiting people. Districts in J&K, through their elected Panchayats, have been allocated funds worth Rs 22,000 crore this year, up from Rs 5,000 crore until three years ago. Since August 2019, the government has been focusing on bringing about wide-ranging reforms to substantially improve governance and enhance ease of living for the people. To further improve the skills and efficiency of PRI representatives, a slew of capacity building and training programs are being conducted for Sarpanchs and Panchs in reputed training institutions like IMPARD and outside institutions as well. In addition to induction courses, digital literacy training, Gram-Panchayat development plan training, and training workshops are also organized for newly elected BDC Chairpersons. Near about 750 elected representatives have been provided training cum exposure visits outside UT. But democracy is not only about conducting elections; It is also about sharing responsibility and empowering representatives appropriately. To support and empower block development councils, both the Union Territory administration and Central Government have been working overtime to extensively to create safe and conducive atmosphere to conduct the elections. In order to strengthen the security apparatus, the Government of India has provided Rs 9,120.69 crore to the Government of Jammu and Kashmir under the Security Related Expenditure (Police) scheme since its inception. As per MHA report, the amount includes Rs 448.04 crore that was spent till December 31, 2020 since bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir. In addition to that, five India reserve battalions, two border battalions and two women battalions are raised for Jammu and Kashmir. Abrogation of article 370 also provides unique employment opportunity for youth and women. Government has been heavily investing in Jammu and Kashmir to foster infrastructural developments across the region. It includes building roads, tunnels, railway bridges, railway routes, etc. in regions, which were once ignored or deprived of development owing to their inaccessibility. With other projects in the pipeline, Kashmir may require many local civil engineers, well-versed with the local condition, terrain and situation to guide and plan large-scale and small-scale infrastructural development across the valley. Ever-growing retail and e-commerce sector is another realm of career opportunities for the Kashmiri youth. One of the most significant examples in this regard is the UAE-based retail giant Lulu investing INR 200 crore to set up a food processing and logistics hub in Kashmir. The project will not only generate employment but benefit farmers and the agriculture sector as well. Companies like Tata and Reliance have expressed interest in investment in Jammu and Kashmir in various sectors, which includes information technology. Investments across the IT sector will help generate thousands of jobs. Should these prospective investments turn into reality, they’ll generate enormous career opportunities across the IT and its allied sectors. Qualified people with a flair for teaching can partner with potential investors to start skill development centers that aim to hone the skills of youth across various sectors such as technology, commerce, and arts. Even being a prime tourist destination in country, the sector hasn’t been able to flourish and grow to its potential on account of the perpetual terror threats and attacks. But ever since the abrogation of Article 370, Kashmir has witnessed a steep decline in terror attacks. This year Kashmir is witnessing a record footfall of tourists this year. After a slump of three years, nearly two lakh tourists visited the Valley in March alone. And between January and 15 May 2022, it saw 700,000 visitors, the highest in the last 10 years. This growth of tourism in the long run can refer to the creation of employment and numerous job opportunities for the Kashmiri youth. Other potential sectors include horticulture, dairy farming, the restaurant business, logistics (courier service), etc. Whether self-employment or job, this is something for the youth to choose based on its preferences, financial muscle and skills. But with these proposed investments and heavy infrastructural development, Kashmiri youth may not fall short of career opportunities in the future. The abrogation of article 370 has ushered an era of new possibilities and opportunities for all and allows every section of society to be partner in growth and development of J&K.

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