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J&K panchayats demand 73rd Amendment

Jehangir Rashid, Srinagar

Once again panchayat elections are going to be held in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) this coming April. They were last held — after a gap of 33 years — in 2011, when Omar Abdullah of the National Conference was Chief Minister. People had participated enthusiastically with hope in their hearts.

But representatives of local self-government — sarpanches and panchs — are demoralised and saddened by their experience. They say they have been unable to fulfill their responsibilities because devolution of powers to panchayats has not taken place. They feel a ‘cruel joke’ has been played on them.

The problem is that the 73rd Amendment of the Panchayati Raj Act, which advocates decentralised planning and gives more powers to panchayats, is not applicable in J&K.

“Panchayati Raj institutions cannot function effectively in the state unless the 73rd Amendment of the Panchayati Raj Act is introduced. We have been knocking at the doors of the concerned stakeholders for years now, but there has been no response from the other side,” says Anil Sharma, President, All Jammu & Kashmir Panchayat Conference (All J&KPC).

Sharma points out that the 73rd Amendment has provisions for a separate Finance Commission and Election Commission for Panchayati Raj institutions. He says the autonomous character of Panchayati Raj institutions is not possible without extending the provisions of the 73rd Amendment to the state.

“There is no point in holding panchayat elections without extending the provisions of the 73rd Amendment. We are not against the holding of elections, what we want is that there should be a separate Finance Commission and Election Commission for Panchayati Raj institutions in J&K,” says Sharma.

Since there is no popular government in the state, Governor N.N.Vohra can bring in an ordinance and issue subsequent orders for the extension of the 73rd Amendment to the ...

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