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Redefining the role of ‘PANCHAYAT GHAR’

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By: Mudasir Nazir Wani

Panchayati Raj plays an important role for the development of a state at the grass root level if it is established in its true spirit. In fact the term ‘Panchayati Raj’ refers to a system in which Gram panchayats are basic units of administration and this has been established in all the states of India by the acts of the state legislature to flourish democracy at the grass-root levels.

The government of India appointed ‘Balwant Rai Mehta Committee’ in January 1957 to study the Community Development and National Extension Service programs, especially from the point of view of assessing the extent of popular participation and to recommend the creation of institutions through which such participation could be achieved. The Committee recommended the constitution of statutory elected local bodies with the necessary resources, power and authority and a decentralized administrative system working under their control. Rajasthan was the first state to establish Panchayati Raj.The scheme was inaugurated by the first Prime Minister of India-Jawahar Lal Nehru on Oct 2, 1959, in Nagaur district in Rajasthan.

It has come a long way and now we have fully established Panchayats and the construction of every Panchayat Ghar, lets say in Kashmir, is done at the cost of more than 20 Lakh for raising the infrastructure of every Gram Panchayat in a phased manner. New concrete Buildings have been constructed for Panchayat Ghars at huge costs.

Do they really serve the purposes they have been established? One wonders as huge funds have been spent on the construction of Gram Panchayat's which almost remain locked throughout the year except on a few occasions or on the visit of concerned BDO's or other officials one's or twice a year during Gram Shabas. As a result, the vicinity of these Gram Panchayat's are turned into a hub for all the illegal activities including smoking, playing cards or for other immoral activities since there is no one to guard the spaces and neither is there any function held on daily basis.

In majority of the villages, these Panchayat Ghars and their surrounding areas have turned dumping sites as most of the domestic garbage and wastage are piled up here as Panchayat's often remain locked for most of the year and are being opened only on few occasions.

The huge incidents of burning of Panchayat's in last year were reported from different parts of kashmir, these are mostly the handwork of miscreant's as only an insane person can think of that because these buildings are the asset's of every village and can be used for various productive works which can benefit the village as a whole. But unfortunately they remain mostly sealed throughout the year and there is no innovative idea to utilize such spaces for a range of meaningful functions.

The government must realize that even after investing huge amounts for the construction of such infrastructure, these buildings remain unoccupied and dysfunctional-isn’t it a shame? The Government must utilize these Panchayat Ghars for the maximum benefits of the concerned villages and to ensure that money taken from public exchequer isn’t wasted this way.

Every Panchayat consists of almost 3 rooms which includes a meeting hall as well. Hardly people visit these Panchayat's except when gram Shaba’s are organised for the small works or to register their works under NERGA and other schemes. Majority of the villagers don't even visit on these days too while youth are mostly disinterested in such functions.

The best the government can do is to keep these Panchayat's open throughout the year by establishing small libraries-cum-reading rooms in every Panchayat Ghar. It will help to make these Panchayat's functional which mostly remain locked throughout the year and it will give people a reason to go there at least not for their individual motives but for a larger motive. Such initiatives can turn Panchayat Ghars into information and knowledge hub rather than the fish-market-of-political-dissents-and-disagreements.

Such facilities in every Panchayat will not cost lakhs as it needs only an investment of a small scale to engage people in a healthy and fruitful engagement at these buildings.  This job can also be accomplished by local volunteers if they are given a go-ahead

The writer is columnist and can be reached at wanimudasir@gmail.com

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