Reaching to the roots

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As fourth phase of Back to Village (B2V) programme is going on in full swing across the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, the initiative, one may hope, will help bring governance to the grass roots level and thus ensure the upliftment of J&K’s rural populace. The basic concept of the B2V programme is to reach to the real stake holders and not the other way round. The initiative is aimed at ensuring participation of the populace in the developmental process of the UT. As rightly pointed out by the Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha, during such a programme, the administration has do away with ‘one size fits all’ policy as the needs of the public, their issues and their expectations vary from place to place. In this backdrop, people’s participation in the development of UT’s villages is significant for social advancement and unleashing the spirit of self-reliance as their involvement and administration’s pro-active approach provides an opportunity for effective planning and a roadmap for execution with PRIs to help boost rural economy and ensure a hasslefree development of the people.

As has been mentioned earlier in these columns, B2V initiative has the potential to revolutionize developmental process in the villages because the villagers here are provided a platform wherein they can directly communicate with the representatives of the administration and thus guide the administration to take proper, practical and feasible steps to address the issues of the people.  Theinitiative that was started way back in 2019 and was aimed at directing development efforts in rural areas through community participation, also was aimed at to create among the villagers a serious desire for decent standard of living besides making them participants in local governance. The programme has been conceived with the objective of ensuring that developmental initiatives are built on the feedback and cooperation of the people, thus being more result-oriented with a greater probability of success.It goes without saying that ‘Back to Village’ is an initiative with incredible potential for bridging the communication gap between administration and the common people. As the officials arrive at peoples’ doorsteps to understand and address their grievances, they are providing a sense of agency to them in determining their own developmental future. This approach can build trust among the people and strengthen their ties with the government.

However, much needs to be done to institutionalize the initiatives to ensure that the exercise helps in delivering the aimed objectives. Though during earlier three phases, the administration reached to the door steps of the public in rural areas and listened to their grievances, not much has changed. There need to be a mechanism in place for follow-up. Top government functionaries visit villages, note down the issues raised by the public, pass on orders for redressal and that is it. There is no mechanism in place to check whether the directions passed were ever followed.The concept is beautiful and if properly institutionalized, ithas the potential to take democracy and development to the grass roots. For that, the administration should appoint one official for a cluster of village who would act as a bridge between the rural population/the local Panchayats and the bureaucracy and it should be the joint responsibility of the Panchayats and the appointed official to ensure that the resources devolved to the Panchayats for the sake of development are used judiciously and effectively. Besides, during the present phase of B2V, the administration should make it mandatory that the unfulfilled promises made during the last three phases are identified and redressed. The execution of the majority of the identified infrastructure works in the first three phases is abysmally low and therefore in fourth phase, that should be the focus of the administration.

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