Rahul Gandhi disappoints Panchayat representatives


Srinagar, Oct 5: Several Panchayat representatives Friday said they were left disappointed by Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi who avoided talking about their empowerment during an interaction session here.
Many of the Panchs and Sarpanchs who had closed door interaction with the Congress leader at SKICC here said they walked out of the event in protest against Gandhi’s silence on “important issues.”
“We had come with lot of hopes that he (Gandhi) will announce something about empowering Panchayats,” said Bashir Ahmad Sheikh, Sarpanch from Northern Kashmir’s Kupwara district.
He said they were left disappointed as Gandhi did not talk about important issues. “He didn’t talk about honorarium to the Panchs and Sarpanchs neither did he touch the important issue of empowering us,” Sheikh said.
Sheikh claimed that he along with many grassroots representatives from his district and other areas walked out in protest during Gandhi’s speech.
An angry Panchayat representative told media that they are being asked by the government to inform them about militants’ presence in their areas. “Are we supposed to act as their informers,” he asked. “Militants will not kill us but this politics by the government will.” Another Panchayat member joined: “Whatever we said to him (Gandhi), he did not respond. We talked about salary to us but there was no response.”
Nazir Ahmad Dar, who identified himself as Sarpanch of a village from South Kashmir’s Pulwama district, said that Gandhi compared problems confronted by elected rural body members of Kashmir with other States.
“He (Gandhi) said Kashmir was not the only State facing problems about empowerment and the situation was same in some other States like Jarkhand,” Dar said.
“Nobody is listening to our problem,” Dar said. “We played with our lives when we participated in Panchayat elections. It was like every participant signing a death warrant but we have been let down by our government and government of India.”
Gandhi’s interaction with the Panchayat representatives followed his meeting with a delegation of Panchayat representatives from JK last week at New Delhi.
The Panchayat members had raised the issues of empowerment and security to them with Gandhi.
The meeting took place in the backdrop of killing of two Panchayat members in north Kashmir by unidentified gunmen which led to resignation by hundreds of Panchs and Sarpanchs who accused State government of ignoring their security.
Chief Minister Omar Abdullah blamed the militants for the killings daring them to attack him. He said government would take every step to protect Panchayat representatives.
The Panchayat representatives are also demanding from the government to empower the grassroots institutions.
While Congress is demanding implementation of the 73rd amendment of Indian Constitution in the State, National Conference has openly opposed it.
A woman Panch, who identified herself as Gulshan from Safapora Ganderbal and had participated in the interactive session, said that Rahul didn’t talk about their long pending demands.
“We were informed that we would be provided monthly honorarium but he did not announce anything,” she said.
She said time was not far off when all Panchayat members would resign.
She too said many Panchs and Sarpanchs walked out as they didn’t found anything “inspiring” in Gandhi’s speech.
She said around 3600 Panchs and Sarpanchs from different areas of Kashmir had come to participate in the event and listen to Gandhi.
IANS adds:
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi Friday told Panchayat chiefs in the Kashmir Valley that he would take up the issues of their empowerment and honorarium with the Central and State Governments.
Addressing over 2,500 village heads at the Sher-e-Kashmir International Convention Centre, Gandhi said: "I will speak to the Prime Minister about your honorarium and to the State Government about your empowerment."
He listened to problems faced by the village representatives, including their safety and security.
"I will discuss all your problems with the Central and State Governments, and I promise that your problems will be addressed," he told them.
Saif-ud-Din Soz, president of the state Congress unit, also addressed the village heads.
Later, Rahul Gandhi met party leaders in the state including Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand, ministers Taj Mohiuddin, R.S. Chib, Peerzada Sayeed, Raman Bhalla and Sham Lal Sharma and party legislator Ghulam Ahmad Mir.
Gandhi returned to New Delhi Friday evening, ending his two-day visit to the State.

Lastupdate on : Fri, 5 Oct 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Fri, 5 Oct 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sat, 6 Oct 2012 00:00:00 IST

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