Riyaz Ul Khaliq
Jammu and Kashmir lawmakers on Tuesday listened patiently to a colleague from South Kashmir who was detailing his experience as Sarpanch.
Advocate Aijaz Ahmad Mir represents Wachi assembly segment in Lower House of J&K Legislature represents ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the house. Before being voted to make laws, Mir was elected as Sarpanch in his area.
Participating during the debate over grants to Rural Development Department (RDD), Mir detailed his experience as Sarpanch. Members of Panchayati Raj System implement major works of RDD.
Asserting that the Panchayati Raj System needs to be strengthened Mir, however, cautioned his government to bifurcate the powers of MLAs and Sarpanchs/Panchs before holding elections to the village level governance system.
PDP-BJP government informed the assembly a few days ago that it will hold elections to Panchayats in 2016 only. Last time it was in 2011 when people voted Panchs and Sarpanchs after almost 36 years in J&K state.
Omar Abdullah led NC-Congress government had asserted that holding such elections will “strengthen the democracy at grass roots level”.
“It was for the first time that 82% voting was registered in 2011,” Mir told the house, “but people hold their representatives accountable.”
Mir said after Omar Abdullah led “empowered” the grass roots level representatives, “tussle between Sarpanchs and MLAs started”.
“IAY (Indira Awas Yojana, renamed by BJP led union government as PM’s Awas Yojana) cases were recommended by MLAs but since 2011 elections, Panchs/Sarpanchs started recommending the cases,” Mir said, “this infuriated the lawmakers.”
He informed the house that now people would approach Panchs and Sarpanchs for majority of the cases and their redressal. “MLAs felt powerless,” he said, “they started talking: hamary powers hi to gaye.”
“But one should know: while empowering somebody, you are depowering yourself,” he told the house.
“From here started the tussle between MLA and Sarpanchs/Panchs,” he said and added that a deputation of 35 MLAs knocked doors of then CM Omar Abdullah.
“The MLAs told Omar: It is a wrong step to give powers to Panchayats; what will we do now?”
Lauding the previous government of giving life to Panchayats, Mir, however, said, “it itself violated the law by not holding elections to Block and District levels.”
Following meeting with then CM Omar Abdullah, Mir said, an order was issued and Panchs/Sarpanchs were given powers to monitor and work in fifteen departments.
Alerting government not repeat the mistake, Mir said, “If we are holding elections this year, we need to have a clear policy. Which powers belong to whom?”
Mir believes it will help end the crisis at ground zero. “Otherwise, we sell dreams to common people who have witnessed mayhem since 2011 elections. It should not happen at all!”
Explaining the powers allotted to them after Panchs/Sarpanchs Omar and then RDD Minister A M Sagar, Mir said, “we were empowered to ban and fine those who puffed cigarettes. But when we tried to enforce it, we faced humiliating situation.”
“We were asked to get PDD agreements done but it created social problems for us,” Mir said, “this is how institutions are being degraded.”
“People started seeing us second class citizens,” Mir said, “Panchayats were seen as dens of corruption.”
The Wachi lawmaker added, “Rishwat khoori and corrupt practices started thereof.” “But there was no check on these issues.” “People hold us accountable,” he said, “government needs to take care of all these things.”
He said until 2011, government officials would spent from their pockets to get work done “but now it is Panch and Sarpanch who is held responsible by people”.
Later, Mir demanded a Munsif Court fro his constituency.
Intervening, Deputy Speaker, Nazir Ahmad Gurezi told the RDD Minister, Abdul Haq Khan to look “seriously into the matter”.
“By listening to respected MLA, I am myself impressed because these are ground report.” “Whatever the powers, have a clear cut break up; bifurcate what belongs to MLA and what goes to Panchayats,” he told the government.
While lawmakers were discussing rants to RDD, the lower house witnessed ruckus for er five minutes after a BJP lawmaker pronounced IAY as PM’s Awas Yojana. This angered Opposition lawmakers who ridiculed Union government for changing the name of the scheme.
The IAY scheme was launched by the UPA led union government and named after India’s first woman and Congress Prime Minister, Indira Ghandhi. “We can’t accept humiliation of late Indira Ghandhi. She sacrificed he life for Indian integrity and sovereignty,” MLA Inderwal and Congress state vice-president, G M Saroori said.
Responding to concerns of Opposition lawmaker, Minister Ab Haq Khan said, “respected Opposition members know it that with change in governments, change the names of schemes.” This invited sarcastic laughter from Opposition to the government.
Participating in the debate, Langate lawmaker, Er Sheikh Ab Rasheed impressed upon government to have clear policy as what powers belong to MLAs. “Such is the situation that no one listens to MLAs now,” he told the house.
Seeking a Munsif Court for his area, he asked government as “why there is no state flag in JK House New Delhi and why can’t MLAs use it”.