‘Ready To Incorporate Any Provisions To Strengthen Panchayat Raj Institution’
Srinagar, Oct 9: Asserting that no elections could be the substitute to the permanent settlement of the Kashmir issue, the government Tuesday said it was open for discussion to incorporate any provision that would strengthen the existing Panchayati Raj Act in the State.
Replying to the discussion, in the lower house, on recent killing of Sarpanchs and Panchs and strengthening of democratic institutions, Minister for Rural Development and Panchayati Raj, Ali Muhammad Sagar said the government is not against incorporating anything in the existing Act. “We are open to incorporate any provisions that would further strengthen the Panchayati Raj system in the state,” Sagar said.
He said it was wrong to project the elections as a vote for the resolution of Kashmir issue. “No election can have its bearing on the Kashmir issue. It is an issue historically agreed between India and Pakistan. Linking the massive participation of people with the Kashmir resolution would be totally misplaced,” the Law Minister said.
He said it was not the question of extension of 73rd amendment. “The question is how the Panchayat institutions can be strengthened. We made a committee under the chairmanship of chief secretary Madhav Lal. The committee studied the models of other states and prepared a draft that was approved by the cabinet,” Sagar said and added that apart from the powers suggested by the committee, Sarpanchs and Panchs enjoy the powers under the existing Act, 1989 as well.
Sagar said the government would welcome any suggestion or provision that will further strengthen the rural local bodies in the State. About the security of Sarpanchs and Panchs, Sagar said it was not possible to give security to every member. “Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has already directed the Home Department to workout a plan to ensure safety of Panchayat members. Besides, the issue was also discussed in the recent unified headquarters meeting,” the Law Minister said.
He said in the UHQ meeting, it was decided that the vulnerable areas would be sanitized and night patrolling would be ensured. “It was also decided that the security agencies will work in close coordination to ensure safety of Panchayat representatives,” he said.
Sagar said it was wrong that government had not provided any funds to the Panchayat Halqas. “We have been releasing funds under a proper mechanism. Special training is being imparted to the Sarpanchs and Panchs by a prominent NGO PRIYA,” he said.
Sagar said there were guns and grenades to disrupt the democratic process. “Certain elements will never like to see democracy and democratic institutions flourish in the State,” he said in an obvious reference to militants. “But government has taken a pledge that it will defeat such people and their designs. We will not bow before them and complete the three tier process soon.”
Reacting to the statement made by the senior Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leader Muzaffar Hussain Baig that NC founder, Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah had compromised on Article 360 in 1975, Sagar said every legislator should think before speaking against such tallest leader.
“Sheikh started a movement in 1931. It is because of his contribution, we are enjoying a democratic set up in the State. He never expected defeat,” the Minister said, adding that in the Naya Kashmir document, Sheikh had talked about the empowerment of Panchayats way back in 1975. “It is not true that he compromised on any of the article. When 360 was amended, he was in jail,” Sagar said and added that in the budget, we have kept Rs 253 crore for the Panchayat Halqas.
Sagar sought the support of every legislator in completing the three-tier election process in the State.