Strong PRIs will strengthen democracy

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Jammu and Kashmir government has enhanced financial powers of PRIsto empower them to set their own priorities for development of respective areas. The decision was made by the Administrative Council which approved the delegation of powers for granting Administrative Approval to Gram Panchayats, Block Samitis and Zila Parishads for execution of works whose expenditure will be met out of Panchayats’ own resources.Gram Panchayats, Block Samitis and Zila Parishads are the basic units of democracy and by strengthening these, the democratic set-up would get automatically strengthened. To ensure strengthening the grass root democracy, it is necessary that PRIs are actively involved in developmental process and thus strengthen Panchayati Raj.

In this backdrop, government’s decision to vest Gram Panchayats with an authority to accord Administrative Approval to works from Rs 1.00 to Rs 5.00 lakh, the Block Samitis to accord Administrative Approval to works ranging from Rs 5.00 to Rs 20.00 lakh and the Zila Parishad to accord Administrative Approval upto Rs. 1 crore is appreciable. From past nearly four years, Jammu and Kashmir is under direct rule of the Centre and there is no elected government in place. In absence of an elected government, the PRIs are the only connect between the administration and the people. They are the elected people who know pretty well about the issues and concerns of the people of their respective areas.

Bureaucratic rule, no matter how efficient it may be, can never replace popular government. Now that there is no elected government in place in J&K, PRIs are the only democratically elected ones who have the mandate of the people and therefore should be the ones making decisions about the developmental process of their respective jurisdictions. Panchayti Raj institutions are the soul of democracy. These institutions make ordinary citizens as stake holders in deciding about the developmental process and thus need to be strengthened. While the decision of enhancing financial powers of PRIs comes as a significant step towards empowering PRIs as it shall enable them to set their own priorities and help them in timely execution of works out of the own resources of the panchayats, the administration need to ensure that the public representatives are taken on board while making decisions on developmental issues. Government’s decision will help enhance inclusive growth of rural areas in the Union territory and will also promote self reliance in financial matters. However, need is that the bureaucracy is made more friendly towards public representatives and they are allowed to function without being bogged down by red tapism.

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