‘Sab Ka Saath, Sab Ka Vikas’: In ‘Naya J&K’, panchayats get enhanced financial powers

Srinagar, Nov 28 (IANS) In yet another step towards making the grass-roots democracy stronger in ‘Naya Jammu and Kashmir’, the government has enhanced financial empowerment of Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs).
The Administrative Council led by J&K Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha has accorded approval to Gram Panchayats, Block Samitis and Zila Parishads for execution of works whose expenditure will be met out of Panchayats’ own resources.
Gram Panchayats have been vested with an authority to accord administrative approval to works from Rs one lakh to Rs five lakhs, the Block Samitis can accord administrative approval to works ranging from Rs 5 lakhs to Rs 20 lakhs and the Zila Parishad can accord administrative approval up to Rs 1 crore.
Gram Panchayats, Block Samitis and Zila Parishads are the basic units of democracy and by strengthening these, the grass root democratic set-up in J&K has been made more vibrant.
PRIs have turned ordinary citizens into equal stakeholders in J&K’s development process.
The government’s decision to parovide direct financial powers to PRIs would help in enhancing inclusive growth of rural areas in the Himalayan region and would also promote self reliance in financial matters.
The empowerment of PRIs would enable these institutions to setup their own priorities and help them in timely execution of works out of their own resources.
For seven decades the PRIs existed only on papers in J&K as the former political regimes did not make any sincere attempt to include these institutions into the system.
Erstwhile rulers, irrespective of any party they belonged to, did not believe in decentralization of power. They kept all the powers vested with them. They were aware of the fact that if they empower the grass root democratic institutions it would mean sharing the power and they were not ready for it.
PRIs become functional
After August 5, 2019 – when the Centre announced its decision to abrogate J&K’s special status and bifurcated it into two Union Territories – the government focused on making three tier PanchayatiRaj system completely functional in J&K.
It ensured that the PRIs get funds, functions and functionaries. Initiatives taken during the past three years have changed the face of the rural areas in the Union Territory.
Participation of all the stakeholders in the activities being carried out by the PRIs has led to these institutions emerging as the symbol of empowerment in ‘Naya Jammu and Kashmir.’
These institutions are brimming with funds support and powers to spend for the overall development of the respective villages. ‘Jan Bhagidhari’ (people’s participation) has provided much needed impetus to the development works.
Sarpanchs, Panchs leaders of ‘Naya J&K’
Sarpanchs and Panchs have emerged as the leaders of ‘Naya J&K’. For the first time since Independence, they have been given a formal protocol to unfurl the National Flag on Republic and Independence Days.The government has provided an insurance cover of Rs 25 lakh for each Panch and Sarpanch, in case of death in terrorism -related incidents.
The Panchayats have been empowered to conduct social audits, address grievances and generate resources. Panchayat accounts assistants and Panchayat secretaries have been appointed by the government to ensure
that PRIs function smoothly.
During the past three years more than 200 new buildings of Panchayat ghars have been approved and constructed in J&K, while old buildings have been renovated.
Panchayat representatives are taking decisions about the developmental process of their respective jurisdictions and financial independence to a great extent would end their dependence on the government officials.
The government has vested PRIs with complete authority to decide what needs to be done and how fast it has to be done.
PM Modi’s brainchild
To empower PRIs in J&K was the brainchild of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
In 2018, PM Modi in his Independence Day speechfrom ramparts of Red Fort in New Delhi announced that holding Panchayat elections in Jammu and Kashmir figures among the top priorities of the government. He had reiterated that the dispensation led by him believes in ‘Sab Ka Saath, Sab Ka Vikas’ and for taking everyone along the empowerment of PRIs was must.
After his announcement the ball was set rolling to hold the Panchayat elections in J&K and these were conducted before the abrogation of Article 370, a temporary provision in the Constitution.
Soon after scrapping of J&K’s special status and dividing it into two Union Territories in 2019 the Centre sanctioned Rs 1,200 crore for PRIs.
Since that day funds have been flowing into PRIs. Prime Minister Modi has kept up his promise to carry everyone along and not to leave anyone behind.
PRIs have emerged as new power centers in the Himalayan region with common man being the biggest beneficiary.
PRIs become nodal points
Politicians, who ruled J&K for 70-years, are finding it hard to explain why they couldn’t take the empowerment to the last level? What stopped them from working towards the welfare of a common man?
Leaders, who used to claim that Article 370, is a binding force between J&K and New Delhi, have been left with no words to utter as PM Modi’s mantra of taking everyone along has forged unity among the people.
In ‘Naya J&K’ every denizen is aware of his role. The steps taken by the government after 2019 have rebuilt his faith in the system. Common residents have realized that for politicians they were nothing but vote banks.
Empowerment of PRIs and these institutions becoming a nodal point between the people and the government have sent a clear message that New Delhi always wanted to help J&K people but the leaders, who used to project themselves as “Messiahs” of people, were nothing more than power seekers, who believed in centralization of power, and monarchial form of the government.
Abrogation of Article 370 has ended the rule of politicians, who promoted autocracy and tyranny, and never allowed the democratic institutions to flourish.

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