Binoo Joshi

Effective Panchayati Raj institutions have been set up in Jammu and Kashmir, perhaps for the first time in the history of the state when they have been given adequate powers that had earlier eluded them for decades.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah made a statement of facts in Lok Sabha on Friday while piloting a bill seeking extension of President’s rule in the state, when he said that the Panchayats elections that were due for years were held during the BJP’s rule at the Centre, and also during Central rule in Jammu and Kashmir. Much of the credit goes to Delhi and Governor Satya Pal Malik for performing this feat- first Municipal polls were held and immediately thereafter these were followed by the panchayat polls.

Amit Shah pointed out some of the fatalities that the political governments had brought to the Panchayati Raj Institutions – first there was always a delay in holding the polls, ad even when the polls were held, Panchayats were not given powers under 73rd and 74th amendment to the Constitution. The Panchayats were subjugated to the Assembly and their powers were encroached upon by MLAs.

In the recent memory , the 2011 Panchayat elections were held on non-party basis , these elections were held after a gap of over a decade- in 2001, the panchayat elections were boycotted by most of the people , and before that these polls were held in 1980s. So there was no fixed calendar for holding of the panchayat elections in the state, hence the grassroots democracy never flourished in Jammu and Kashmir.

Even going by the flawed schedule and powerless panchayats – the polls held in 2011 should have been held in 2016 – but the Mehbooba Mufti government refused to take a call despite having pledged the same to the then Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh. The PDP-BJP coalition government skipped many deadlines and finally, it was left for the Governor Malik to hold the polls.

Amit Shah also highlighted that how the panchayats have been empowered by  direct funding to them amounting to Rs. 3700 crore. This way 4,000 Panchayats, with 40,000 panches and sarpanches have been empowered to undertake the development of their areas on priority basis. This is the essence of the development and grassroots democracy, he emphasized.

The government will also provide additional Rs. 3,000 crore to panchayats in J&K.