‘Back to Villages’- A unique Opportunity to infuse life in dead Panchyats!

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By: Umar Firdous Ahmad

Back to Village programme has its roots in the Nepal’s Panchyat regime from 1967 to 1975; it was originally known by the name of ‘Back to village National Campaign’. The programme then used to direct the Gazetted officers to the rural hinterlands were majority of Nepali people live.

This year Governor’s Administration of Jammu and Kashmir came up with ‘Back to villages’ programme as envisaged by planning, monitoring & Development Department, in collaboration with Rural Development Department. The programme is first of its kind in the state of Jammu & Kashmir. As the name suggests, the programme has been devised , developed, fabricated in such a way  that each Panchyat in the state is touched so as to infuse a sort of new life and energize these virtually defunct institutions.

Under the Progamme, Gazetted officers, even of the rank of Principal Secretary, have been assigned a Gram panchyat where he/she has to necessarily stay for one night and two days to listen to people’s grievances, bring problems faced by people to the notice of the Government, create awareness among masses about various schemes presently run by different Department, receive feedback from Panchyat representatives, elders and local people. It is also important for the official to record the vital data regarding road condition, water usage, electricity issues and population and, or, any other issue (s) confronting the people of the said panchyat. During the week long programme, the visiting officer is also expected to inaugurate any launching projects or projects which are already completed.

The programme that commenced from 20th of June and is expected to end on 27th of June, entire vital data regarding 4483 panchyats of J&K State gathered by visiting officers during this course is expected to land in highest corridors of governance i,e civil secretariat after which the details shall be further considered, sorted and processed  in order to finalize a ‘Vision document’ that will serve as a guiding document for the policy makers to focus on the specific areas that need an immediate policy intervention.

The data shall also serve as an important database to the policy makers while assessing the importance or relevance  of any contemporary schemes run by  Government and the  continuation of the schemes in future or weeding out unnecessary or defunct detailsfor a better fiscal management.  The Programme will also focus on energizing panchyats, collecting feedback on delivery of Government schemes/programmes, capturing specific economic potential and undertaking need assessment of villages. Given the scale of data that will be gathered during the course of this programme, it will help government for evolving a good governance model, wherein all the elements regarding policy, planning, management and monitoring could be subsumed for collective and better governance at the panchyat levels.

It seems that Governor administration has evolved this programme with a view to stabilize the PRI’S decentralize the Governance, reaching out to the maximum people and listen to public grievances, hear problems and evolve a joint mechanism to redress them while allocating funds to panchyats. The programme is aimed to serve as a shadow of all such things which are likely to usher an environment of Good Governance in future.

‘Back  to villages’ has unleashed a sense of brotherhood among the community dwellers, who in one voice raise their issues before  the Government  and in a way have found a say in the policy making concerning  their community, area, etc. The current dispensation must make it mandatory for every Gazetted officer to adopt one village, similarly on the patterns of central Government SAGY scheme, wherein every Member of Parliament has been assigned at least two villages.

Being the part of this programme myself, I have realized that this unique opportunity has been afforded to general public for the first time while devising policy in future concerning them. The programme, besides receiving feedback from general public at the panchyat level, has also generated a wave of mass awareness among general public about various central and state government schemes, which are currently in place for them.  I hope that this programme will go a long way for a better tomorrow for the entire J&K State and it is also hoped that important and forgotten primary units of Government- Panchyats- are infused with a new and fresh life.

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