SAC approves amendments in Panchayati Raj Act-1989
Funds, functions, functionaries placed at disposal of PRIs; JTFRP integrated with J&K ERA
SRINAGAR, OCTOBER 4: In a significant decision aimed to strengthen the grass root democracy and participative planning in J&K, the State Administrative Council (SAC) which met here today under the chairmanship of Governor, Satya Pal Malik approved the required amendments in the Panchayati Raj Act, 1989.
The amendments with far reaching consequences will assure placement of funds, functions and functionaries at the disposal of PRIs. A similar attempt had been made in the year 2011 through a government order but by making the devolution a part of the Act, the government today has not only given adequate teeth to the Panchayats but also made it binding for the government departments to follow it, an official communiqué issued after the meeting said.
The most significant change is the addition of specific schedules in the Panchayat Act giving extensive powers to Halqa Panchayats and Block Development Councils in many areas, covering almost 20 Departments. There are also specific schedules with financial powers for Halqa Panchayats and Block Development Councils, said the communiqué.
To make the PRIs the true harbingers of socio-economic development, the amendments will ensure well defined taxation powers to the Panchayats for generation of adequate resources by themselves. The amendments define the role of ward majlis/sabha and halqa majlis (Gram Sabha) in detail, placing the power to plan, implement, monitor and supervise various government schemes/ programmes in the hands of people themselves. The implementation of important schemes like MGNREGA, Pradhan Mantri Aawas Yojana, Mid-Day Meal and ICDS has been devolved to the Panchayats.
The communiqué further said that monitoring and supervision of schools and health institutions has also been passed on to the PRIs to make them accountable to the society. The Panchayats shall also be conducting concurrent/ quarterly social audit of works/ programmes in their area. However, along with all the authority, responsibility to ensure socio- economic and human development of the area including literacy, sex ratio, water conservation, natural resource management, agriculture/ horticulture development, health etc has also been placed on the shoulders of the panchayat. They have also been made the agents of change through sensitization and awareness generation.
The SAC, in yet another decision, accorded sanction to the proposal of the Planning, Development & Monitoring Department (PD&MD) to integrate the ‘Jhelum Tawi Flood Recovery Project’ (JTFRP) as a Project (unit) with the J&K Economic Reconstruction Agency (ERA) and authorized ERA to make such consequential changes in the processes or structures as may be necessitated by the integration and also to enter into any correspondence or discussions with the Department of Economic Affairs (DEA) of the Union Ministry of Finance and the World Bank, as may be required.
In the aftermath of devastating floods of September 2014, the Project ‘Jhelum & Tawi Flood Recovery Project’ (JTFRP) was sanctioned by the World Bank for an amount of 250 million U.S. Dollars.
The society (J&K ERA) was constituted as a Special Purpose Vehicle for Implementation of Externally Aided Projects within the territorial limits of the state (J&K) as its operational areas. The agency works under the guidance and supervision of a Board of Governors headed by the Governor.
The issue of poor performance of projects under the JTFRP since the inception of the project has been under review at various levels for quite some time now with only 2% expenditure so far in 3 years. In this process, the constraints and institutional bottlenecks hampering the accelerated pace of execution have been identified. The matter was further discussed in the 21st meeting of the Board of Governors of J&K ERA. Given, the mandate of ERA to conceptualize and implement EAP and PPP projects, it was noted that ERA had acquired the requisite expertise in the procedures and guidelines followed in the case of externally funded projects and would ensure a seamless and quick execution process. Therefore, developing a parallel expertise in another agency would not only be time consuming but unproductive too.
In view of this, the SAC decided to integrate the JTFRP as a distinct unit (Project) within the overall ERA structure. Consequently, CEO ERA will now be the overall CEO of the integrated unit, while the Planning Development & Monitoring Department will be the administrative department of the integrated unit.