Barring a patch in remote Zansakar, the Panchayat elections are over. Now every village of the state has its representative and a stake in functioning of the institution that is being revived after an ordinate delay. Now the government must move as quickly as possible towards setting up the next tier at block level and the district level. But the bigger challenge is empowerment of the elected representatives.
For the last many weeks politicians from all political parties are gathering the elected Panchs and making speeches to them. This is creating captive audience out of an institution that is supposed to be at the frontline of the socio-economic development of the state. Instead, the government should have started training the elected lot and educated them about their responsibilities, privileges and the mandate.
The process of empowerment should start as soon as possible. Setting up of a group of officers at the tail-end of the polls smacked of dithering on part of the government. While the group would take its time in discussing the transfer of functions and responsibilities, the government should start notifying the results so that the pancahayats are constituted.
Constituting the panchayats would immediately pave way for block councils which would contribute their bit in implementation of the developmental activities as district development boards are about to start meeting.
Holding polls is just a start. The policy makers in the state should immediately look into the problems that the law enshrines. The government, in wake of opposition from BJP in March, decided to have an elected vice chairman as deputy to a minister heading the district development board. But it is an aberration which needs to be corrected. The law has to be amended to pave way for an elected person to head the district development board.
While the government is busy identifying the areas in which it would be comfortable in shifting the responsibilities to the Panchayats it must also ponder over creating the facilities that would help people to manage the basic services.
One thing that can easily be linked with the Panchayats is the common service centres (the Khidmat centres) that J&K Bank has set up across the state. Though less than half of 1100 centres are up, they could be a great help to Panchjayats in managing the basic facilities like revenue records, policies of the government that people need to know.
The government should stop shouting from the rooftop that it has done something great. The fact is it is just the first step towards a long process of creating an institution that delivers.