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 .