Indicating elections of Block Development Council of Panchayats in next few weeks and reaffirming his government’s sincere commitment for empowered 3-tier Panchayat Raj System in the state, Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah Monday said that some elements are bent upon derailing this process.
“Despite these threats, the panchayat members are firm on ground to serve people and full-fill their objective of mitigating the difficulties of people”, Omar said and lauded them for this spirit.
“The government is with you at all levels and our commitment for an empowered Panchayat Raj system is firm and final”, he added while expressing solidarity with panches and sarpanches assuring them all support in performing functions of public service in a smooth way.
Addressing an interaction session of district level government functionaries from Jammu division representing 14 departments from where functions and powers have been transferred to panchayat institutions, Omar said that the establishment of Panchayat Block Development Councils would further strengthen the process of utilization of powers transferred to these institutions.
“We expect elections of Panchayat Block Development Councils (BDC) within some weeks which would enable the panchayat institutions to utilize all powers transferred to them”, he said impressing upon the officers to develop a mindset of working in tandem with panchayat members respecting their representative character and making them fully aware of their involvement and powers in the development process.
“Our aim is to establish a powerful Panchayat Raj system and transfer governance from Civil Secretariat to grass roots”, he said adding that the election to these institutions along with transfer of powers from 14 departments is aimed at realizing this goal. He told the officers to locate shortcomings or themselves, if any, in smooth devolution of powers to the ground level elected democratic institutions and take immediate corrective measures in this regard. He said Jammu and Kashmir with difficult topography, remoteness of areas and hilly terrain requires a well defined and powerful panchayat system to attend to the public needs and deliver.
Omar asked the MLCs representing panchayats in the Legislative Council to hold regular joint interactions sessions with officers and panchayat members at all levels and resolve any difficulty they feel in the functioning of administration and the elected public representatives. “Wherever they feel any intervention of the ministers concerned, Chief Secretary or the Chief Minister, they should immediately bring the matter to their notice”, he said directing the officers to be readily available for attending such interaction sessions.
“Besides capacity building trainings by IMPA the Rural Development Department should also explore the possibilities of roping in reputed NGOs in this field so that the training could be comprehensive and result-oriented”, he said adding that involvement of panchayat members in planning, implementation, supervision and completion of schemes in accordance with the aspirations and needs of local people should be underlined as essential ingredient in the administrative functioning.
Omar said that the huge budgetary provisions and mammoth development programmes under implementation in the state need involvement of panchayat institutions to realize the targets. “This essentiality needs to be driven home by the government functionaries. They and panchayat members need to move forward jointly for the good of the public”, he said.
“This is the keen desire of the government and all in administration have to work towards achieving this objective”, he added.
Minister for Rural Development, Ali Mohammad Sagar in his address said that the fast measures taken by the Omar-led coalition government for empowering panchayats and transferring powers from 14 departments to these institutions is a record in itself. “In so many states in the Country we have not found so much powers transferred to panchayats”, he said. However, he said that much has to be done to translate the objective of transferring these powers to panchayat institutions into reality.
Sagar suggested placement of Rs. 5 lakh by the government at the disposal of each panchayat halqa with financial powers for undertaking smaller works. He also underlined the need for fast tracking the proposal of insurance cover and honorarium for panches and sarpanches moved by the Rural Development Department.
The interaction meeting was also addressed by Minister of State for Rural Development, Ajaz Ahmad Khan who underlined the need for direct flow of funds to panchayats from other departments.