Power decentralization paving way to grass root democracy in J&K
To enhance grassroots level democracy in Jammu and Kashmir, Democratic decentralization through Panchayati Raj Institutions was established with historic implementation of 73rd Amendment, which envisages the Gram Sabha as the foundation of Panchayat Raj system and empowers Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and women. The decentralization of powers in J&K helps grass-root representatives to participate in political, economic and social activities of their respective areas effectively. It also increases the responsiveness of the Government to the needs of the people. “The government is able to reach a larger number of people with services, consequently increasing the spread of governance and tax collection. It also strengthens national integration,” an official said. The history of strengthening grassroots democracy was created in J&K with the conduct of free, fair and peaceful panchayat elections. These Panchayat elections recorded a substantial 74.1 per cent voter turnout. A total of 3,650 Sarpanchs and 23,660 Panchs were elected to lay foundation for 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 the history of 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 the implementation of 3-tier Panchayati Raj system here.
In his speech at Palli village of Samba, Prime Minister, Narendra Modi described the 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. Prime Minister also said that it is a matter of great pride that democracy in Jammu and Kashmir has reached the grassroots. “The three-tier Panchayati Raj System got established in Union Territory after people gave me an opportunity to serve at the Centre,” said Modi, adding that 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. He also said that 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. Further, in an encouraging move, the plan allocation for Panchayats has been doubled from Rs 5136 crore in 2020-21 to Rs 12,600 crore in 2021-22 in J&K. The planning process has been accomplished in accordance with the constitutional mandate. Besides, an insurance cover of Rs 25 lakh has also been provisioned for the elected representatives of all Panchayats.
In an endeavour to further enhance 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. Besides, induction courses, digital literacy trainings, gram Panchayat development plan training and training workshops have been organized for newly elected BDC Chairpersons. About 750 elected representatives have been provided training cum exposure visits outside UT. For the first time since independence, elected grass root representatives were given formal protocol to unfurl the National Flag on Independence Day and Republic day. The elected representatives are given formal position in the warrant of precedence and a regular system of interaction of district officers with Panchayat representatives has been institutionalized. Lieutenant Governor, Manoj Sinha also said for the first time, “we are seeing a full-fledged three-tier Panchayati raj system in place.” He said that ‘Jan Bhaghidari’ is our strength and our power. “Prime Minister has laid a solid foundation for inclusive development by implementing the three-tier Panchayati Raj system in Jammu and Kashmir for the first time,” he remarked. “29 Departmental functions have been transferred to all panchayats and 7 departments to urban local bodies. For the first time in 2021, the District Capex Budget of Rs 12,600 crore was prepared with the active support of Panchayati Raj representatives. Prior to that in 2020-21, this figure was Rs 5136 crore”, he said. Recently, in the presence of all DDC Chairpersons, a historic Rs. 22,126.93 Cr District Capex Budget for the financial year, more than 75 per cent since last year, was approved for the equitable development of the UT. Union Minister of Rural Development & Panchayati Raj, Giriraj Singh and Lieutenant Governor, Manoj Sinha handed over National Panchayat Awards to PRI members of J&K at Raj Bhawan in Jammu under different categories of National Panchayat Awards 2022 to encourage and recognize their great work in strengthening Panchayati Raj system in J&K. The District Development Council (DDC) elections in Jammu and Kashmir provided self-rule and autonomy, and empowered leaders from the grassroots to take their own decisions as committed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to empower the people at the grassroots. Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs), through which the self-government of villages is realized, have been entrusted with the task of economic development, strengthening social justice and implementation of Central and State Government Schemes at the grass root level. To give these institutions financial strength, a historic district level planning process was accomplished in accordance with the constitutional mandate. The preparation of the plan adopted a bottom-up approach-first at the Panchayat level, then at block level and then at the district level.