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Panchayat Raj Institutions armed with powers of funding, functioning: Govt

SRINAGAR, OCTOBER 12: The J&K Government Tuesday said it has devolved powers of funding, functions and functionaries (3Fs) to 4128 Halqa Panchayats in the state.

This was revealed during a discussion in the Legislative Council on a notice by MLC Ghulam Nabi Monga regarding empowerment of PRIs and enhancement of remuneration of the Panchayat Representatives.

In a written reply, the Department of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj said the concerned administrative departments issued individual government orders on devolution of ‘3Fs’ to PRIs. These departments include Agriculture Production, Animal and Sheep Husbandry, CAPD, Education (School), Fisheries, Forest, Health and Family Welfare, Horticulture, Industries and Commerce, PHE and I&FC, PWD, Revenue, Rural Development and Social Welfare.

The Government said that the Panchayat Raj Institutions are empowered to assist Agriculture, Horticulture, Animal Husbandry, PWD, Rural Development and Social Welfare departments in preparation of annual plans. “PRIs will supervise and monitor distribution of food grains, sugar, kerosene and other essential commodities at the ration depots of CAPD, besides identification of BPL/AAY families,” it said.

It said the PRI are empowered to supervise in afforestation, plantation and wildlife jointly with officers of forest department, “In Health and Medical Education department, the PRIs have been entrusted the job of supervision/ monitoring of different centrally sponsored schemes running under health sector,” the response noted.

“The Halqa Panchayats shall directly identify artisans and weavers for social security schemes of the Handicrafts and Handloom Development Department such as JBY, BBY, ELS, HIS, etc. in association with assistant handicrafts training officer/assistant extension officer of Industries and Commerce Department,” the response added.

The response states that the PRIs have also been empowered to monitor and supervise revenue functionaries of the concerned Halqa Panchayats. “Besides, maintenance of drinking water and irrigation schemes provided by the PHE and I&FC department and supervision of works programs under various schemes of Social Welfare Department,” it said.

“Besides, consolidate school development, Mid Day Meal plans of primary schools, the Halqa Panchayats shall supervise the works under execution for construction of primary school buildings, etc. and shall keep vigil on the primary school teachers and students to ensure their regular attendance,” it added.

The response by the Panchayat Raj department notes that there are 4128 Halqa Panchayats in the state of which only 2185 are housed in buildings while 1943 are running without any building. “1678 Panchayat Ghars have been taken up under 13th Finance Commission while 265 buildings are without buildings,” it said.

Earlier participating in the discussion, Member of Legislative Council, Zaffar Iqbal Manhas, urged the members to stop playing politics over Panchayat Raj Institutions (PRIs). He said devolution of powers to PRIs will gradually strengthen the roots of democracy in J&K.

“Change won’t come overnight. Don’t score brownie points on such a serious issue. The previous government has only created liabilities. We must strengthen the PRIs which will evolve a system of self-governance and bring accountability into the system,” Mr Manhas said.

MLC Ghulam Nabi Monga said the PRI representatives were being allegedly ignored by the 14 departments where the devolution of powers has been affected to the Panchs and Sarpanchs by the State Government.

Recounting the history of PRIs, MLC Dr Bashir Ahmad Veeri said politics is being played on the members of PRIs who have sacrificed their lives for strengthening the roots of democracy in the State.

Speaking on the issue, MLA Qaiser Jamsheed Lone said the PRIs have been demoted under political considerations, “All centrally-funded schemes have a clear role for PRIs but they have been ignored. The developmental plans approved by the PRIs are getting caught in legal tangles. The government must protect these institutions,” he said.

MLC Naresh Kumar Gupta called for delimitation of Panchayats in the state while MLC Firdous Ahmad Tak urged the government to strengthen these institutions.