Jugal Kishore GuptaMahatma Gandhi laid much emphasis on Panchayati Raj because he knew that it is the bed rock of Indian Democracy and its functioning is essential for the success of all developmental programmes in India. Balwant Rai Mehta, Bharat Rattan J.P. Narayan and Gulzari Lal Nanda, to realize the vision of Gandhi Ji, founded All India Panchayat Parishad which is presently a Government Recognized apex federation of PRI’s in India. The AIPP has lead a strong movement for constitutional empowerment to PRI’s. The movement got momentum with formation of its units at State, Zila, Block and Gram Panchayats. For the purpose National/ State Level conferences were organized from time to time and resolutions were adopted in favour of constitutional empowerment to PRI’s. In 1983 a State Level Conference on Panchayati Raj was organised by its State Unit President, Hakim Habib Ullah – Chairman, J&K Legislative Council, at Pahalgam in Srinagar (J&K State). Lal Singh Tayagi – President AIPP was the Chief Guest. Among other resolutions adopted, a strong demand was raised for constitutional empowerment of PRI’s. Later in 1986, AIPP organized 13th National Conference in Delhi under the presidentship of Lal Singh Tayagi. Rajiv Gandhi – Prime Minister of India was the Chief Guest. Gandhi was convinced with the AIPP movement for constitutional empowerment to PRI’s. For the purpose his Government brought a bill in the Parliament which could not get through in Rajya Sabha. The impact was deep and visible in Jammu and Kashmir. In an effort to revive the democratic process at the grass root level, the Jammu and Kashmir Government enacted J&K Panchayati Raj Act 1989. The AIPP had gained much towards Constitutional Amendment 73rd/ 74th empowering 3 – Tier Panchayati Raj in whole of India in 1992. However, the benefits under J&K State Act 1989 and 73rd and 74th Amendment rarely reached down to the people at grass root level under false and fabricated excuses by J&K State Government from time to time. On some rare occasions the exercise to hold elections was conducted just as an eye wash mainly with the greed to get Central Government grants meant for development through elected PRI’s. The J&K State Unit of AIPP continued its movement to achieve the mission of Gandhi’s Gram Swaraj. Under Pressure, in 2015 a sort of stunt was enacted in J&K State. The then State Government announced elections to the 3-tier PRI’s. The State unit of AIPP lead by Jugal Kishore Gupta thanked the Government for acting wisely and timely. The AIPP President -Subodh Kant Sahai wrote a congratulatory letter to the State Chief Minister and appreciated the efforts of the State Government for restoring democracy at Grass Root Level. However that elections were never held for the next about 2½ years. In 2016, Satya Parkash Thakur – Vice President AIPP and ex-Minister Himachal Pradesh and S. S. Vijai Mishra – General Secretary AIPP conducted extensive tour to J&K State. The President of JKPP accompanied them. The AIPP met a large section of the stake holders, officers and representatives of PRI’s in seminars, meetings, group discussions held at various levels. During the press conference at Jammu on the concluding day, Thakur and Mishra underlined the need for early holding of elections to PRI’s to solve the miseries/ problems of rural masses and to strengthen the roots of democracy at grass root level. In 2018, a bold and decisive action was taken by Satya Pal Malik – Governor J&K to hold Panchayati Raj elections in phased manner. It was a great occasion to celebrate. S. S. Vijai Mishra – General Secretary AIPP duly congratulated the Governor and his administration for deciding to hold elections to the Panchayati Raj Institutions. Mishra thanked the Government of J&K for acceding to the demand of AIPP. He also highlighted the fact, in his letter dated 07-08-2018, that about 40,000 representatives of PRI’s were to be elected from 4400 Panchayats scattered over more than 316 blocks from among 50 lac rural voters between 17th November to 11th December in 9 phases across Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. It is a matter of great satisfaction and achievement for AIPP and the State Unit that most of Gram Panchayats and Block Development Councils have been organised and are functional. Prime Minister Modi’s directions in January’ 2020 to the J&K administration to carry forward the process of restoration of democracy at grass root level by conducting elections to the 3rd and final tier of the PRS i.e. District Planning and Development Boards (DPBD’s). It shall be for the first time in the history of J&K Panchayati Raj that the 3-tier Panchayati Raj shall be established. Till now the Chief Minister or his cabinet colleagues headed DPDB’s. Hopefully the process shall be complete as soon as the weather conditions in J&K – Ladakh become conducive. The Chief Election Officer have briefed Lt. Governor J&K, G. C. Murmu, about the various activities to generate awareness of electoral process and sensitizing the voters especially newly eligible youth. The preparations for the elections to vacant seats of Panchayats and BDC’s were also discussed. The Chief Executive Councillor (CEC), LAHDC, Leh Gyal P. Wangyal along with EC Agriculture Stanzin Phuntsog visited a large number of villages in Shoram region. SDM Khaltsi Tsering Motup, Councillor Sonam Phuntsog, Team of Engineers and Officers accompanied. The tour to rural areas was mainly conducted to assess people’s basic problems and to solve them on priority basis. At Fotoksar, SarpanchDorjey highlighted the local problems. In a significant decision of the Government Rs 15,000 and Rs 3,000 per month as emoluments to Chairpersons of BDC’s and Sarpanchs respectively shall be paid. The monthly honorarium of Sarpanchs have also been raised from Rs 2,500 to Rs 3,000 per month. Ministry of Home Affairs have also approved Rs 400 crore for development works in Ladakh UT. The Government of J&K UT have announced the implementation of 73rd and 74th Amendments. Efforts are being made to clear the previous liabilities under MGNREGA. Appreciably robust mechanism is in place to dispose of people’s grievances and the public, particularly in Ladakh need to participate in the Public Welfare Schemes especially in rural and far flung backward areas. More efforts are needed to complete remaining 50% projects and SAGY in UTs of J&K and Ladakh for better development there. To help monitor work in villages, the Governments plan for paperless Administration Panchayats is appreciable. Panchayats, BDC’s are being given full powers. Member Parliament Ladakh, Jamyang Tsering Namgyal – a young and dynamic public representative is keenly interested in the smooth functioning of PRI’s to achieve Gandhiji’s Gram Swaraj in the real sense. The re-election of Subodh Kant Sahai (Ex-Ministers) as President of AIPP has given renewed hope and inspiration. The election of 10 members AIPP EC in 2019 general elections have also boosted the morale of all those who are associated with AIPP movement. Presently J&K UT Unit of AIPP under the President-Ship of Dr. Kuldeep Sharma is performing nicely. About 70% of the district bodies have been reconstituted. Awareness campaign is going on. The organizational set up in Ladakh UT is under process and shall be completed soon. It can be safely concluded that the PRI’s in J&K – Ladakh UT have new hopes and high aspirations and shall achieve the maximum towards empowerment in letter and spirit under the dynamic and progressive leadership of AIPP.
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