Vohra establishes grass-root democracy in J&K

RATTAN SHARMA
JAMMU, JUL 12: Perturbed over continuous delaying tactics adopted by the previous regime of PDP-BJP to hold elections for Panchayats in Jammu and Kashmir, the aspiring candidates for nearly 4500 Rural Bodies have finally a reason to smile after the Governor-led State Administrative Council (SAC) approved the proposal to amend the Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Act, 1989, for conducting elections of Sarpanches of Halqa Panchayats directly.
With this amendment, Sarpanches will be elected by the electorate of Halqa Panchayats and not by indirect method of electing Sarpanches from among the Panches themselves.
The restoration of the original position in the Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Act, 1989, which provided for direct elections of Sarpanches, a position altered by an amendment passed in 2016 was widely welcomed.

It is pertinent to mention that Governor, N N Vohra today chaired the 4th meeting of the SAC to accord approval in this connection.

The need for doing this amendment was to restore the primacy and importance of the Sarpanches in the Panchayati Raj System and giving them the necessary legitimacy to be able to discharge their functions.
Welcoming the decision, All Jammu Kashmir Panchayat Conference has expressed its gratitude to the Governor for approval to hold elections of Sarpanchs directly.
“It is a welcome step by the Governor-led government in the state. We have been demanding the 73rd Amendment since long. The amendment should be implemented in the state so that the J&K can lead an example by proving Best Panchayti Raj in the state,” said Shafiq Mir, Chairman, All Jammu Kashmir Panchayat Conference.
The approval will not only provide stability in the Panchayati Raj System but will also ensure accelerated development to meet local needs. Direct elections also make the Sarpanches accountable directly to the people rather than to an intermediate group, Mir said.

Reacting over the approval, State president All Jammu Kashmir Panchayat Conference Anil Sharma said that they have already appealed to the Governor to hold elections of Sarpanchs directly.
“We welcome the decision. Governor N N Vohra is an experienced administrator and is the right person to take such decisions,” Sharma said.
Flaying the previous regime of PDP-BJP in the state, Sharma said the popular government in the state left no stone unturned to demoralise the Panchayat institutions in the state by adopting delaying tactics to hold elections. They have failed to hold Panchayat elections despite the fact the Governor had asked the previous government a number of times for the same.
With the holding of elections to the Panchayats, the institution of local self-governance at the village level will be revived in the state, thereby furthering inclusion and percolation of benefits of decentralized planning at the grass-root level, Sharma said. All Jammu Kashmir Panchayat Conference has been struggling for the welfare of Panchayats and would continue the same in future too, he added.
Former Sarpanch Bhupinder Singh Manhas also welcomed the decision and said it will ensure greater participation of people in planning and formulation of area specific policies and programmes and hence their involvement in decision making process.
It is to mention here that number of Panchayats has been raised to 4500, an increase of 334 over 2011 when last elections were held to the rural bodies while number of voters has gone up to 57 lakh.
Number of Panchayats, where elections will be held, have gone up to 4500 as compared to 4166 in 2011. Last elections to Panchayats were held in 2011 and the elected Panchayats had completed their term in June 2016. Presently, there were no elected Panchayats.
Official data revealed that out of 334 newly carved out Panchayats, 165 have been increased in Jammu division and 169 in Kashmir division. With this number of Panchayats in Jammu division has increased to 2121 as compared to 1956 in 2011, Number of the Panchayats has gone up to 2379 in Kashmir division as against 2210.
On August 16, 2016, the then Jammu and Kashmir government had issued a notification for dissolution of Panchayats on completion of five years term and conferred the powers of Panchayati Raj Institutions on Block Development Officers and Panchayat Secretaries.