August 5 , 2019 – A year after
J K News Today
Ever since the abrogation of Article 370 , the definition of the political space and parties has grown. The August 5 decision changed the whole view about the kind of politics that J&K needs – development oriented not in the election promises but work on the ground . This new era had dawned with the empowerment of Panchayats and Urban Local Bodies that ha been deprived of their due over the decades . They wee subordinate, even when these grassroots democratic institutions were in place , to the whims and fancies of MLAs. Their powers were usurped. Now, not only these powers have been restored to the Panchayat members , and that of the ULBs, but those have been enhanced with the 74th amendment and extension of other laws.
There are few problems as the elections to all the Panchayats were interrupted by certain factors and when the process was sought to be renewed in February-March 2020 , Covid 19 caused by novel corona virus , halted the move. Since Corona is continuing and its cases are on rise , the whole of the union territory is yet to get the fruits of the governance and vibrant democracy at their doorsteps. This shortcoming, it is hoped will be fulfilled soon depending when the life of corona virus would be cut short.
One of the primary objectives listed in J&K Organization Act is to empower the people at the grassroots level through these institutions that are in their vicinity . Something extraordinary has happened that the Panchayat members don’t have to visit MLAs ( of course, now there is no Assembly nor its members), nor rush to the authorities for getting the issues of their areas resolved . They are empowered to settle the issues at their own level as their financial powers to spend on the development works as per need of the rural areas have been enhanced.
That being the one part of this emerging story of expanding democracy at the grassroots level , there is a still brighter side, officers of high ranks have started visiting the panchayats under “ Back to Village” programme. They listen to the grievances and settle the issues then and there itself , and all the projects for which the people raise demands are listed and instructions are issued for starting and completing the works . That’s a great transformation – there is no political sloganeering , no promises based on vote bank politics , no paraphernalia of ministers and a cavalcade of officials in tow with elaborate tea and lunch . It is simple work and work alone .
This difference has reduced the dependency on the democratically elected representatives in the Assembly. There is an independent space for the panchs and sarpanches and ULB members to work and strengthen their network of projects . Their level of accountability is much higher than those who believed and perpetuated an unwelcome era of no accountability and concentration of powers for their respective constituencies .
Accountability at all levels has begun. This is new era of democracy and political system in J&K that was unthinkable under the political dispensations that looked for their survival under the narrative of Article 370 .