Strengthening grass-root democracy

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The Lieutenant Governor administration of the Union Territory has approved Rs 12,600.58 crore District Capex Budget for Jammu and Kashmir for current fiscal for equitable development of UT with active involvement of Panchayats, BDCs and DDCs. The budget is more than double of the previous year’s budget and was announced following the brief overview given by 20 chairpersons of District Development Councils and all Deputy Commissioners of their respective District Plans. As per the administration, the community need-based plan has been prepared through public/PRI’s participation which focuses on a rapid rise in the standard of living of the people, employment opportunities to the locals, ensuring better roads, potable water and electricity, tourism potential, empowering youth and determining other priorities as per the public demand. It is a healthy sign that after the detailed deliberations, a plan has been prepared with collective efforts of the PRIs and the administration and the active participation of the public and their representatives in the planning process has laid a strong foundation for the developmental plans at Gram Panchayat, block and district levels. It is for the first time that the suggestions have come even from Panchayat level and through BDC and finally reached to the DDC.

Involvement of Panchayats, BDCs and DDCs in the planning is a welcome sign. From past few years, what Jammu and Kashmir misses is a public representative governance. Now that the representatives have been roped in the process of budget planning, it is expected that peoples’ genuine issues would have been taken care of. The initiative has also strengthened and empowered the three-tier Panchayati Raj system has been further empowered through funds, functions and functionaries. At the moment there is no peoples’ government in Jammu and Kashmir and if there are any public representatives they are the ones in Panchayats, BDCs and DDCs. Therefore, till the decision is made to have assembly elections here so that people can chose their representatives, these are the people who should be listened to because they have the peoples’ mandate. No matter how good direct Centre’s rule may be, it can never be an alternative to peoples’ government. It is therefore necessary that the LG administration ensures that these representatives are given a chance to be part of the policy making as they are the ones who are directly answerable to the common people. There are some apprehensions that a few within the bureaucracy want to fail these institutions of grass-root democracy and are not allowing these representatives to be the stake holders. Such elements should be told in no nonsense terms that till Jammu and Kashmir has its own elected assembly, these are the people who represent common masses and therefore have every right to be part and parcel of all the decision making process.

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