CM Reviews devolution of powers to PRIs in Kashmir Division

SRINAGAR:  Reviewing status of devolution of powers to panchayats in Kashmir Division at a marathon interaction session with officers of 14 departments of whose various functions have been transferred to Panchayat Raj Institutions (PRI), Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah Tuesday expressed satisfaction over the process of transaction of powers and laid emphasis on capacity building of panches and sarpanches to utilize these powers in full.

“Elections to panchayats in the State were held after over 30 years and the period of transition from one system to another takes some time”, he said adding that the feedback he received at Jammu and Srinagar interaction sessions regarding the transfer of powers and their utilization reflects positivity. However, there is need to further gear up in this direction and build necessary capacities in panchayat members so that they utilize these powers fully”, he said.

The Chief Minister said that the commitment of government for an empowered 3-tier Panchayat Raj system in the State is firm and final. “We are creating an atmosphere in which panchayats will be responsible for plan formation and implementation of development schemes at panchayat Halqa, Block and District levels”, he said adding that BDC elections are in offing which will further catapult the process of involvement of panchayats in the plan formation and development.

“Sometimes we come across with stories in media about empowerment of panchayats. Had we not transferred powers from 14 departments to panches and sarpanches, the criticism could have been well taken but when the fact is that government has already transferred powers to panchayats and these are being utilized by them, and the high level nodal officers of the rank of Additional District Development Commissioners are monitoring the utilization of these powers by panches and sarpanches in each district, then one gets surprised on such stories which are devoid of facts”, he said maintaining that there may be gap in the utilization of powers by panches and sarpanches in some cases but the commitment of transfer of powers by the government has already been fulfilled and the process will continue. He said stressing on upgrading awareness in this regard at all levels.

“We expect elections of Block Development Councils (BDC) of panchayats soon which would enable these institutions to be more involved in plan formation and implementation of development schemes”, 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 alongwith transfer of powers from 14 departments is aimed at realizing this goal. He told the officers to locate shortcomings for themselves, if any, in smooth devolution of powers to the ground level elected democratic institutions and take immediate corrective measures in this regard.

The Chief Minister 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. He said the government is committed for this system and officers have to devote sincere attention towards this commitment of the government.

Omar Abdullah said that in his Republic Day address he told panchayat members that besides focusing on the works of financial implications they should also concentrate on ensuring attendance of teachers in schools, availability of ration at ration depots, functioning of aganwari centres and so many other services entrusted to them by the government for better service delivery and good-governance. “I reiterate this once again so that these powers are fully utilized by panchayat members for public good”, he added.

Omar Abdullah said that government is actively working on a proposal of providing honorarium, insurance and security cover to panchayats and necessary provision for the same will be incorporated in the next year’s Budget.

The Chief Minister directed the Rural Development Department to prepare a comprehensive feedback report of interaction sessions held at Jammu and Srinagar. “I would discuss the details with the concerned Ministers to make the process of devolution more smooth and fast”, he said asking the concerned department to also arrange joint meetings of panchayat members and officers in which the matters pertaining to the devolution could be discussed threadbare and solution sought to the issues if any.

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