The Union Home Minister of the GOI, Amit Shah, met with a delegation of Sarpanches of the entire state of J&K at SKICC, Srinagar, on the 28th of June. It was seen as a positive step taken by the Home Minister as Panchayati Raj plays an important role at the grass-root levels of Indias democracy.
Article 40 of the Constitution states that, The State shall take steps to organize village panchayats and endow them with such powers and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as units of self government. Thus, to strengthen the panchayat system, it was given constitutional powers. The 73rd amendment was added to the Indian Constitution in the year 1992, which provides a three-tier system of Panchayati Raj in India and authority to independently manage 29 social sectors including public health, education and water. In J&K the 73rd amendment hasn’t been implemented due to the provisions in Article 370.
We elect the MPs and MLAs of our constituencies but rarely get to meet and interact with them. To strengthen our democracy the government needs to strengthen the governance at the grass-root levels, i.e. the urban and rural local bodies.
As per a 2011 census report, a little more than 72% of the total population of J&K lives in rural areas. The concept of local self government raises the expectations people in rural areas have from their representatives as Panches and Sarpanches are reachable to everyone in the area because they dont live in sarkari kothis like our MLAs and MPs. Until the 73rd amendment isnt implemented in the state, the power, leaders at the grass-root levels have will be minimal and the basic and fundamental needs of these areas will remain neglected.
Panches and Sarpanches often face threats from the militancy. Also, in the elections of the Panchayat held last year, the major parties (NC and PDP) of our state boycotted the elections which indicates their unwillingness to decentralize power. But, the people have shown that they believe in democracy and took part in the panchayat elections which had a voter turnout of around 74%.
In conclusion, the central government as well as the Honourable Governor must take steps to strengthen the Panchayati Raj Institutions by implementing the 73rd amendment in J&K, and strengthen our democracy.
Er. Abhishek V Tagotra