Strengthening grass-root democracy: Rs 1,500 cr allocated to Panchayats post Art-370

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Rohit Chopra

With an aim to strengthen grassroots democracy in Jammu and Kashmir, Rs 1584.25 crore has been sanctioned for Panchayati Raj Institutions, Urban Local Bodies, District Development Councils and Block Development Councils for initiating developmental activities in rural or urban areas, said Jammu and Kashmir administration. After successful implementation of the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendment Act, and conduct of Panchayat/Urban Local Body, District Development Council and Block Development Council elections, the main focus of the Government is to empower these Local Body Institutions with 3Fs (Funds, Functions and Functionaries). “The Government is providing Rs 1,000 crore as a grant to 4290 Gram Panchayats, Rs 200 crore to 20 District Development Councils (DDCs) at Rs 10 crore to each DDC, Rs 71.25 crore to 285 Block Development Councils (BDCs) at Rs 25 Lakh to each Block Development Council (BDC) and Rs 313 crore to 30 Urban Local Bodies for initiating developmental activities in rural and urban areas,” the official statement reads. 27 functions have been transferred to Panchayats and functions of 7 departments to Urban Local Bodies and nearly Rs 1,727.50 crore have been devolved under MGNREGA, 14th Finance Commission, Midday Meal Scheme and Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) to the Panchayats. Rs 1,455.62 crore have been devolved to Urban Local Bodies in the last two years, besides 1,889 Panchayat Accounts Assistants have been recruited. The objective of the government is to provide transparent, responsive and accountable governance for which the Government of Jammu and Kashmir is focusing on unique initiatives of ‘Back to Village’, ‘My Town My Pride’, ‘Jan-Abhiyan’ and ‘Block Diwas’ for bringing Government programmes and initiatives at the doorsteps of the people. A massive public outreach programme was conducted last year across Jammu and Kashmir with as many as 73 Union Ministers and various Parliament Committees visited all the districts for public interactions and gathered grass-root level feedback on government policies. Interactions were held with representatives of Panchayati Raj Institutions, other important stakeholders from trade, industry etc, over a period of two months which is expected to improve governance and implementation of various developmental schemes and initiatives. The introduction of principles of financial prudence, transparency and zero tolerance to corruption have revolutionized the project implementation and enhanced financial inclusion and social equity. Several important reforms have been undertaken to ensure transparency and accountability in the administration. Today a fear-free, corruption-free system of governance has been established through a paperless, faceless procedural framework. “No work is allotted without following tendering process and without having Administrative Approval/Technical sanction. No bill is passed without geo-tagging of photographs through PROOF (Photographic Record of On-site Facility) application and physical verification of works. Every single penny is now spent for welfare of people,” it added. “With the help of ‘Empowerment’ (Enabling Monitoring and Public Overview of Works being Executed and Resources for Meaningful Transparency)/ Janbaghidari (janbaghidari.nic.in) an Information Technology enabled programme, the common citizens of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir can overview works/projects being implemented in their areas and become a partner in the process of development,” it said. Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir has become the first among States or Union Territories in the country to have a District Good Governance Index for assessing the efficiency of the public delivery system at the district level. This index is expected to foster transparency and accountability in the basic unit of governance and fulfil the aspirations of citizens. Best practices are being identified in each district for replication in others. e-Office has been implemented in Civil Secretariat including Raj Bhawan. It will be implemented in all offices of Jammu and Kashmir in 2022-23. The online system has been created for uploading of Annual Property Returns by all the employees. An online Annual Performance Report system in respect of all employees will be created. E-Audit will be introduced with the strengthening of Virtual Inspection Systems. A historic initiative ‘Aapki Zameen Aapki Nigrani’ has been launched in which the scanned data of Jamabandi, Girdawari, Mutation and Musavi of all the 20 districts of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir have been made available to the common citizens. Taking another step towards the empowerment of landowners, land passbooks have been issued in three languages.