Preparation of Panchayats’ development, financial plans; blocks’ plan by DDCs undemocratic: AJKPC

Jammu/Srinagar, Nov 20: All Jammu and Kashmir Panchayat Conference (AJKPC) has strongly reacted to the reported proposal of the government to shift planning of the Panchayats and Block Development Councils (BDCs) for next financial year of 2024-25 to the District Development Councils (DDCs) as the term of both existing BDCs and Panchayats will cease to exist in first week of January, 2024.

AJKPC is a representative body of Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs), spearheading the campaign for strengthening grassroot level democratic institutions here in J&K.

AJKPC president Anil Sharma, while addressing a press conference along with other senior members of the organization here on Monday, stated that the reported proposal was not only against the J&K Panchayati Raj Act but also against the basic principle of decentralization of power, a basic ingredient of a mature democracy.

“How can the government give power and authority of 35000 elected panchayat members and 310 BDC members to just 20 DDCs and by invoking which law and logic?” he asked.

Sharma said that any such move would reverse the principle of democracy and move towards ‘centralization of power’, instead of decentralizing it.

Expressing resentment over such a proposal wherein DDC would prepare a plan for BDC and Panchayats, the Panchayat leader said the term of existing Panchayats would end in January, so the government should allow the existing Gram Sabhas to prepare their developmental plan for next financial year.

He also suggested that instead of preparing a plan for full financial year 2024-25, the existing Panchayats should be allowed to prepare an interim plan and then the next elected PRI members in consultation with the Gram Sabha would decide the rest of the plan.

“Lawfully under no circumstances, powers and authority of a Gram Sabha can be delegated to DDC or any other authority,” he said.

Other AJKPC leaders present in the press conference also alleged that the J&K government just wanted to fetch funds from the central government in the name of grassroot level democratic institutions and considered the rural and Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) as a money minting tool but did not wish to empower them.

The AJKPC also criticised the role of the J&K Election Commission for not clearing the air about the conduct of the elections of the local bodies as the term of existing PRIs were about to end soon. “The State Election Commission should act as an autonomous and independent body but here it is behaving as an extension and subordinate department of government,” they alleged.

AJKPC also urged the elected DDC members not to cross the legal framework and respect separation of power as enshrined in the PR Act and the Constitution.

“Today it’sPanchayats and BDCs, whose lawful powers are being snatched but tomorrow the elected DDC members may also face the same fate,” AJKPC members cautioned.

Besides Anil Sharma, other AJKPC functionaries, who addressed the press, included Ram Saroop Sharma; Ravinder Singh; Vijay Kumar and Avtar Singh.

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