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Panchayat Raj devoid of politics may address peoples’ problems, achieve development

Amin Masoodi
Agence India Press
April 28, 2011
Srinagar:
Will Panchayat Raj help achieve the much sought after objectives of overall development at the grass-root level in the state?
People at large believe that if elected representatives (Panchs and Sarpanchs) were given full liberty to exercise their duties without any political interference and allowed to have legitimate say in fund distribution, the objectives of development at grassroots level can well be achieved.
Held after a decade in the state, the 16-phase polls panchayat polls would be completed till June 30. Unlike assembly and parliamentary elections in the state, which over past two decades have witnessed low to average-good turnout mainly due to separatists’ poll-boycott calls, the panchayat polls so far have witnessed a good turnout.
“Panchayati Raj if implemented properly would give a chance to people to actively take part in building infrastructure and achieve development at village level. The village head (Sarpanch) however, should not be made to work under the influence of politicians or bureaucrats but allowed to have his say in fund distribution,” opined Mohammad Sultan, a farmer from Halmatpora Kupwara adding that at times people like him fail to have access to the deputy commissioner’s office and even the Tehsildar’s.
Omar Abdullah led coalition government already reeling under credibility crisis for failing to deliver especially on the developmental front despite its claims of spending adequate funds on works can utilize the local system of governance to emerge from the credibility crisis and earn peoples’ goodwill.
By proper implementation of Panchayati Raj, the state government can also showcase its grip on the situation to silence its critics in Delhi and the state.
“The state government can achieve developmental objectives by allowing the Panchayats to have legitimate hand in fund utilization on building infrastructure and executing developmental works at village, tehsil, and block levels. The successive governments’ have been accused of ignoring especially the far flung areas in the valley on developmental front and this time the Panchayati Raj if implemented properly could help bring about the much-needed development,” a teacher viewed.
In this age of information and technology, even some areas not so far from towns are still devoid of basic facilities. “Ignored by the successive governments, Hayhama Batpora, which is just 14 kilometers from Kupwara town is devoid of electricity, water supply and macadamized roads even in this hi-tech age. Safawali and Kumkadi fall under the Line of control (LoC) areas. People here hope that Panchayati Raj, which is all about development at grass roots level would help bring about development. This time government seems to be serious in implementing this from of governance and people are hopeful that ignored areas may receive some attention on developmental front,” Showkat Raina, who was recently elected Sarpanch of Batpora told Agence India Press.
Unlike Uttar Pradesh or Bihar, where Panchayati Raj has limited political relevance, Jammu and Kashmir has a wider political relevance to this traditional system meant for the empowerment of people at the grass root level.
“Ideally, this traditional system of governance at local level should be devoid of political interference to achieve desired results. However if the Sarpanchs and Panchs were held hostage to security cover like the ministers, they would also become inaccessible to the people and the basic purpose of sharing of ideas on developmental works at local level would be marred,” viewed Noor Ahmad Baba professor and head of department of Political Science Kashmir University.
“Panchayati Raj would facilitate building of infrastructure at local level and also achieve all round development but the elected representatives’ should have legitimate say in fund distribution,” he added.
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