Suggestions to make B2V4 more beneficial

Special camps be held on central laws, waste management. Ensure better participation in Gram Sabhas
Suggestions to make B2V4 more beneficial
Representational Pic

Around 890 central laws have been extended to Jammu & Kashmir after article 370 of the constitution was abrogated. Several progressive laws have been extended to J&K which include Consumer Protection Act 2019 , Forest Rights 2006 , Right to Information Act 2005, Prevention of SC ST Atrocities Act 1989, Transgenders Protection Act 2019, Land Acquisition Rehabilitation & Resettlement Act 2013 (LARR Act) etc. These laws have been operational in J&K for almost 3 years now, but how much awareness has been undertaken by the Govt to ensure people of J&K get benefited by these legislations ?  

Atrocities on STs

The disadvantaged communities like the scheduled castes- SCs or scheduled tribes- STs continue to be harassed and Police Stations even fail to register an FIR. Recently a Scheduled Tribe Govt Hr Secondary school teacher (lecturer) from Gurez valley in Bandipora district had to seek judicial intervention when the police had failed to register an FIR against the Sub Divisional Magistrate (SDM) who had allegedly thrashed him for filing a complaint against the administration on LG’s Grievance cell ? This was reported by some newspapers as well. The local court after listening to the aggrieved had directed the SDPO Gurez to register an FIR which was later on stayed by District Court for a month. The matter is now listed for hearing in November 1st week.

Non implementation of central laws

Similarly the STs and other traditional forest dwellers are not able to reap the benefits of the Forest Rights Act (FRA) ? There is no awareness about the act and instead of the Tribal Affairs Department, the Forest Department has been made the nodal agency to implement this law. In other states it is the Tribal Department that looks after FRA. Similarly a progressive Consumer Protection Act was enacted a few years back and is applicable in J&K , but the Consumer Courts at district and state level are not operational. Even if some courts are operational , the people are totally unaware. Not a single awareness camp or workshop has been organised by the Govt to create awareness on RTI Act 2005. The Public Service Guarantee Act 2011 (PSGA) which is the state law of J&K has also been orphaned . The Government isn’t holding any awareness about this law as well.   During an interaction with  Union Home Minister Amit Shah and LG Manoj Sinha last year in November at Raj Bhavan, I had given some suggestions to both of them regarding awareness on central laws. The Home Minister responded very positively to my request, but there was no follow-up later on even as I tried my best to reach out to Raj Bhavan officials.

Back to Village programme

The Back to Village (B2V) programme was launched for the first time in Jammu & Kashmir under the guidance of the then Governor of J&K Satyapal Malik around June 2019. This was an ambitious and extensive programme of reaching out to the people in remote and inaccessible areas. The main aim of this programme was  to ensure involvement of the people and government officials, ensure discussion and deliberations so that local issues would be addressed under the guidance of Visiting Officers . The programme was also aimed at strengthening the Panchayati institutions which had turned almost defunct in J&K after the State Assembly had been dissolved in June 2018. As part of this programme, Govt officers who are mostly senior civil servants reach out to each Panchayat  where they stay for a specific period to interact and obtain feedback from the local population. Their recommendations help Govt in improving delivery of the public services. The ‘Back to Village’ programme has been conceived with the objective of ensuring that developmental initiatives should be based on the public feedback and their participation which is the essence of democracy. When I heard about the Government sponsored Back to Village programme, I was not excited at all. In past also several such programmes were held especially around the year 2006 -2007 when Ghulam Nabi Azad the then CM had directed DCs and District officers to hold public durbars at tehsil level every month. The officers through a Government order were directed to make a night halt at the tehsil headquarter, but that programme didn’t go well in the long run.  When Showkat Ahmad Bhat a Lecturer posted in Government Girls Higher Secondary School Charar e Sharief reached my village Gopalpora Chadoora on June 20th 2019 early morning , I initially thought the officer’s visit to our village would be a futile exercise as he was neither from any administrative background nor he had enough experience about the issues related to rural development. But after participating in the informal session  meant for prominent citizens in the local Panchayat office, I developed interest in this whole exercise. The Visiting Officer was very well versed with village governance, politics and rural development schemes. I believe he had done a home-work before coming to Gopalpora. The best thing I observed on the morning 1st day of the meeting was better participation of local women, Anganwadi workers and Asha workers.

Gram Sabha

The Back to Village programme (B2V1) began with Deh Majlis(Gram Sabha) on June 21st 2019 in my village. The meeting started at sharp 8 am and many people had assembled around the Panchayat building at 7:30 am only. When the official from Rural Development Department (RDD) read out the village plan prepared earlier, the participants raised hue and cry. They alleged that that plan was not prepared in consultation with people (Gram Sabha)? The officials of the rural development department argued that people don’t come to meetings of Gram Sabha. But many participants including myself didn’t agree with the officials as we were never intimated about the same in the past ? I suggested creating a whatsapp group so that in future people are intimated about Gram Sabha through group messaging. This suggestion was appreciated by everyone. There was indeed exchange of hot words in this Mini Parliament, but it was a practical illustration of participatory governance and rights of people which they hardly utilize

This kind of enthusiasm was not felt in B2V2as promises made in these meetings could not be fulfilled. But when LG Manoj Sinha began allocation of PRI Grants of Rs 23 lakhs to each village panchayat during B2V3 that created a lot of optimism among people.

B2V4

The Government on Oct 15th 2022 announced launch of `Jan Abhiyan’ from October 15-26 for fourth phase of `Back to Village Programme (B2V4) which will be commencing from October 27.
Two orders to this effect were issued by Secretary General Administration Department (GAD) Dr Piyush Singla.
The Government has asked every department to decide at-least one tangible deliverable to be achieved during the Jan Abhiyan which include saturation of a scheme by ensuring that any scheme or activity is completed, complete implementation of project, debottlenecking of a major initiative, kick-starting new initiative or major project or activity, any follow up survey or assessment or any other deliverable decided by the department.
“The Administrative Secretaries will firm up the deliverable to be achieved and monitor the tangible progress activity during the Abhiyan,” reads the GAD order. Some issues are missing which should be part of the Jan Abhiyaan and B2V4. Here are some of my suggestion.

Suggestions

As the Govt is now preparing for Back to Village season 4 (B2V4) , I would suggest that special awareness camps be held on some progressive central laws during Jan Abhiyan campaign ( Awami Muhim) & B2V4 meetings. If people of J&K especially those belonging to weaker sections of society (SCs, STs, OBCs) are not able to reap the benefits of progressive central laws what is the fun of extending 890 central laws to J&K ?

Awareness campaign on laws like RTI Act 2005, Forest Rights Act 2006 (FRA) , LARR Act 2013, Consumer Protection Act 2019 , SC ST Prevention of Atrocities Act 1989 etc must be held at village level. Govt must involve District and Tehsil Legal Services Authorities , NGOs and Govt officials to make B2V4 more participatory and result oriented.

Special thrust must be given on creating massive awareness on home composting of organic / kitchen waste. Under SBM-Gramin phase 2 compost pits are being constructed in villages but people are unaware what to do next ? As per my field experience the awareness and handholding on waste management in rural areas is completely missing and this also needs to be taken up seriously during Awami Muhim and B2V4.

In order to ensure better participation of people in Gram Sabah’s during B2V4, the BDOs must be directed to ensure at least 50 % coram so that all the decisions are taken democratically. I put this suggestion before Principal Secretary Information & Public Relations recently who agreed to look into it. Unfortunately 5 to 6 people in villages call meetings in closed door rooms and call it Gram Sabha and PRI grants are spent illegally. This must be stopped and better participation of people in Gram Sabha should be ensured and it must also be the main agenda during B2V4 campaign.

Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat is an Acumen Fellow. He is Founder & Chairman of Jammu & Kashmir RTI Movement

Related Stories

No stories found.
Greater Kashmir
www.greaterkashmir.com