Panchayati Raj in J&K
Panchayat elections are meant for local governance and have nothing to do with the Kashmir isasue
DR RAJA MUZAFFAR BHAT
Panchayati elections are held in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan and other states across India but hardly anybody knows about these elections - when they are held or how many participated etc . Nobody shows any interest towards these elections because the New Delhi based media never gives a damn to such elections as these elections are purely meant for local governance and issues related to that. But the Panchayati elections which were held in J&K last year received great media coverage. This is the attitudinal difference of people at the helm of affairs in New Delhi and it clearly indicates that they see Kashmir in a different perspective.
Relating Panchayati elections with Kashmir issue :
The 2011 J&K Panchayati elections were directly related by the so called political commentators, journalists and intellectuals based in New Delhi with political issue of Kashmir and such a scene was created across India as if people of Kashmir did not at all wanted except a better Panchayati Raj system. It was portrayed through media before people of India that participation of 80 % people in the Panchayati elections is a clear vote of Kashmiris who have resolved that J&K is now an integral part of India.
I don’t blame the media only but even some top Indian politicians including Ms Sonia Gandhi. Sonia Ghandi related Panchayati elections in J&K with the political issue of Jammu & Kashmir when she openly said in a public gathering last year in Kathua that participation of 80 % people in Panchayati elections in J&K is a befitting reply to Pakistan. But only an ordinary Kashmiri knows why he voted in Panchayati elections? He hardly cares for giving a befitting reply to Pakistan. He has his own issues and problems. People living in Jammu , Kashmir or Ladakh voted to ensure they get better governance and not a single person from all the three regions would have voted to show Pakistan that we are with India now.
People might do politics over these elections but a man living in some remote rural area of our state voted just to ensure he gets better roads, power and water.
Our aam aadmi is getting sandwiched; one side who tells him to boycott the elections and another plays politics once a poor Kashmiri participates in the elections. But is there any other option that without having institutions like Panchayats , Municipal Councils or Assemblies that Jammu & Kashmir can be governed ? Without having such institutions won’t there be chaos? Who will control the Government departments / organisations? Who will give salaries to Government employees? How will the law and order be maintained? How will our schools, colleges and universities function? Who will construct the roads? We need such institutions so that we run our internal administration.
The United Nations has also clearly said in 1953 that any elections held in J&K won’t have any effect on the political issue of Jammu & Kashmir and these elections would be undertaken just to ensure running the internal administration. I want to ask the leaders who give calls for boycotting the elections to come forward with some white paper and tell the people what alternative options they have for people of J&K?
Panchayati Raj not Sarpanch Raj :
Despite the public enthusiasm shown in the first phase of Panchayati elections held last year the elected representatives are not happy with the state of affairs. Some elected representatives - Sarpanches or Panches - are unfortunately acting like dictators in their own villages and are making life of their own villagers miserable.
Lack of awareness in implementing the system, the bureaucratic delays, political interference , economic reasons and social pressures has made the Panchayati Raj dysfunctional and thus it is more or less cosmetic and looks like a Sarpanch Raj in many areas instead of Panchayati Raj as some Sarpanches & Panches are behaving like self styled area commanders who do not at all consider to be accountable to the people who elected them. We have many examples which proves that there is Sarpanch Raj prevalent in our state rather than Panchayati Raj. In many villages the Sarpanches are really trying to do good work but do not get support of the administration and those Sarpanches who are unleashing reign of terror on poor villagers are unfortunately getting full support of the administration and this is not without reason. One of the important reasons is that such Sarpanches are very close to local MLAs of the area and the block / district administration along with police is bound to protect their interests.
Recently incidents which took place in Kutabal area of Chadoora block in Budgam or Asham Sonawari in Bandipora where the Sarpanches have been making life of poor people miserable by even physically beating them clearly shows how the Sarpanches are transgressing the limits of the Panchayati Raj . Even a Sarpanch has provided money to his 27 relatives under Indira Awas Yojna (IAY) which was actually meant for people living under Below Poverty Line (BPL) category who are homeless and such families are to be paid Rs 48,500 each but the Sarpanch of Kutabal Chadoora paid this money to his relatives who are all well off having large amount of land and some of them are Govt employees too. These relatives have been illegally provided BPL ration cards also. This all was exposed after one local young man sought the details under RTI Act and till date the man is under threat from the Sarpanch and the Deputy Sarpanch of the area who physically attacked him twice and police did not took any action against the accused other than filing an FIR .They were not even kept in lockup .
Deh Majlis soul of Panchayati Raj:
We cannot blame Panchayati Raj for the wrong deeds of the so called Sarpanches. They are themselves responsible for committing wrong deeds; Panchayati Raj Act never tells them to do so. If the J&K Panchayati Raj Act (which is considered to be weaker than what is in operation in other states of India) is implemented in letter and spirit such highhandedness of Sarpanches or Panches won’t work. We all must know that under J&K Panchayati Raj Act all the powers are vested with the Deh Majlis which is known as Ghram Sabha in other states and all the adults living in a village are members of Deh Majlis and this Majlis is just like an Assembly or a village Parliament and without the consent of this Majlis no work can be undertaken and Sarpanch of any village can’t provide IAY cheques or works to his relatives unless it is approved by the Deh Majlis. So the people have to understand the provisions of the J&K Panchayati Raj Act and it is impressed upon the Govt to create awareness about the Panchayati Raj Act in every nook and corner of State. All the important decisions are to be taken in the Deh Mijlis and Sarpanch cannot take such decisions in his house along with handful of Panches ( Panchayat Members). People must impress upon the Sarpanches and Panches to conduct such Deh Majlises at least once a month.
Author is an RTI Activist and Chairman of Centre for Rural Development (NGO)
Reach him at email@example.com.
Lastupdate on : Sat, 4 Aug 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sat, 4 Aug 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sun, 5 Aug 2012 00:00:00 IST
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