Srinagar – Asserting that empowerment of people through elected institutions was an important aim of his party the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) patron Mufti Mohammad Sayeed has urged restraint in the debate over security and empowerment of Panchs and Sarpanchs to help their functioning and well being. He was addressing a workers meeting of Noor- abad constituency of Aharbal today.
Mufti said it was unfortunate that the government had allowed a golden opportunity for democratization of our polity offered by Panchayat elections to go waste as a result of its inefficiency and political bankruptcy. He said after decades the state had witnessed grass roots political recruitment through seriously contested elections and people had expected the Panchayat institution to deliver at the village level. But the government failed to seize this opportunity and tried to use the elected village representatives as propaganda tool and ready made audience for their political meetings instead of empowering them to carry out development tasks in accordance with the spirit of Panchayat raj he said.
Mufti stressed the PDP would use its political space, moral authority and legislative strength to amend the state law in order to establish a genuine and effective three tier Panchayat raj system in the state which would allow the people to run their affairs in accordance with the requirements of their area. He said this system had worked well throughout the country and for this purpose PDP has already submitted a bill to amend the state law governing the Panchayats and would welcome support from likeminded parties. He said Panchayat system should lead to reduction in bureaucratization of administration whereas the present government has converted the panchayats into yet another client group of officials and politicians which is unacceptable to PDP.
Mufti said it was unfair and unwise to make Panchayats a part of the conflict discourse around Jammu and Kashmir. He said J&K faced a tremendous deficit on account of democratic institutions and Panchayats could be instrumental in giving a new direction to governance in state. Linking the Panchayat elections to the larger Kashmir issue was neither desirable nor feasible he added and said this fallacy made the panchs and sarpanchs vulnerable.
Expressing concern at the degeneration of overall security scenario Mufti said instead of providing an enabling environment and the required powers for Panchayats to carry out their tasks effectively the state government was talking in terms of unified command and security forces domination. This he said was a complete reversal of the situation that had been created by the PDP led coalition government. He said it does not do any honor to the state government that Kashmir observed a strike on the arrival of president of country on his first visit here. Infact ever since this government took over, Mufti said whenever a national leader like the president or prime minster visited Kashmir it was to be managed through rigorous security amidst protest strikes. This he said reflected the general situation of drift, fear and instability in the state in which the panchs and sarpanchs have to discharge their duties. The security for them he said would have come from the community that they represent if they had been able to function in accordance with the expectations of the people. But in absence of the required institutional framework and empowerment they stand alienated from the masses. PDP will change this scenario with the support of people he asserted.
Referring to the announcement of the government that it would conduct the elections to block councils next month, Mufti said this had to be done within one month of the elections to the Panchayats. But by delaying this process for one and a half years the government has rendered it useless especially in the present environment of fear among the panchs and sarpanchs. He said it looks that the government was waiting for such a scenario to build for conducting these elections for the National Conference (NC) to benefit from the inability of electors to participate in voting. NC has always benefited from tension and fear and it seems they allowed the situation to deteriorate for their petty partisan interest he said and urged people to see through this game plan.
Flaying the government for bringing the development process to a halt Mufti said it was the absence of political direction which has resulted in a complete collapse of developmental process. He said the corruption at the top had made everybody in the administration immune to accountability or peoples needs. The allegations of corruption at the highest level has made difficult for the leadership to ask questions or enforce discipline with the result that from fixing a tender or securing a job, organizing a transfer or obtaining a certificate everything has a price tag. He said it was a positive development that people were now assessing the functioning of the present government in comparison with the PDP led coalition which should guide them in future to make a correct choice of their representatives.
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