Where are the funds for Panchayats
Elections for the urban local bodies and Panchayts in Jammu and Kashmir were held with much fanfare. The union government as well as the state administration made it a point that the elections are crucial to be held as the funds that are allocated to the Panchayats and local bodies will get lapsed and will impact the development in the state.
The elections were conducted in such haste that even no consideration was given to the fact that the major political parties announced a boycott of these polls and only Congress and BJP participated in the polls.
The elections to these local bodies were hyped as the federal government announced that financial powers of the panchayats are being enhanced 10 times from Rs 10,000 to Rs1 lakh.
The federal government made it a point that panchayat polls in the State would pave the way for making available Rs 4,335 crore in Central grants under the 14th Finance Commission to the local bodies.
This meant that on an average, every panchayat will get Rs 50 lakh-Rs 80 lakh a year for implementing schemes. To further strengthen the panchayats, additional posts were also sanctioned for accountant, data entry operator, block panchayat inspector and others.
The local bodies were also assured that primary health centres, primary schools and anganwadis will come under the administrative control of the panchayats when the elections are completed. The panchayat could also generate their own funds through fees for building permission and taxes on entertainment, advertisement, hoardings and businesses.
These functions and functionaries of all 29 subjects were shifted to the panchayats under the 73rd amendment to the Constitution. Though Jammu and Kashmir partially adopted the recommendations after the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act was passed by Parliament in 1993. The amendment gave constitutional status to the panchayati raj institutions.
However, what has come as surprise is that the panchayat heads have been begging for the funds after the completion of the poll process but they have been denied the same.
The local body heads after failing to get the funds released have now decided to approach Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress president Rahul Gandhi and Governor S P Malik to seek help in this regard.
The non-release of funds for the local bodies has once again brought to the fore the level of mistrust that New Delhi has cultivated vis-s-vis Jammu and Kashmir.
If the funds allocation and their subsequent lapse was made a point in getting through the process of election’s in such haste then why are these funds being withheld, is a question that haunts these councilors and panches who have contested the elections.
The fact is that the government has not been able to provide funds and other facilities required for development of wards to municipal committees/councils, particularly in respect of sanitation, construction of lanes, drains, hygiene, shifting of garbage from interior and main roads and manpower.