Srinagar: The Jammu and Kashmir Panchayat Raj Movement (PRM), an organisation of rural local body representatives, here on Thursday urged the government to “define powers” of local representatives like panches, sarpanches, Block Development Council (BDC) chairperson and District Development Council (DDC).
“The powers of BDCs and DDCs should be defined so that tomorrow when an MLA is elected no conflict arises which is why we are demanding that the powers of each representative is defined,” PRM’s president Ghulam Hassan Panzoo said.
Panzoo added that the honorarium of these rural local body representatives should also be increased. Currently, a panch and a sarpanch receive an honorarium of Rs 1,000 and Rs 3,000 per month, respectively.
PRM claims to represent as many as 37,000 panchayat members in the Union territory which has been advocating for the implementation on constitutional 73rd Amendment Act in the region for nearly a decade.
The body said that the government, which earmarked Rs 25 lakh as Block Development Fund at the disposal of BDC chairpersons months back, have not been released yet. “We demand that the fund be disbursed as soon as possible so that the local representatives are able to do the developmental work in their respective constituencies,” Panzoo said.
In 2018, elections were held in Jammu and Kashmir to elect panches and sarpanches which was followed by BDC elections a year later and recently in December last year, the DDC polls were concluded to enable the completion of all the three tiers of the Panchayati Raj system in the union territory. DDC polls, the first major electoral exercise since the abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcation of J&K into two Union territories on August 5, 2019, was exercised in as many as 280 constituencies across 20 districts of the region.
Ahead of the elections, the mainstream political parties, who formed the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) to restore the ‘special status’, contested the polls on seat-sharing basis. The Panchayat Movement, however, claimed that the panchayati representatives are being “unnecessarily politicised” something they say should not happen.
Mohammad Abdullah Lone, a sarpanch from North Kashmir’s Wagoora area told NewsClick that the honorarium is too low for the kind work they do. “It is too less and also we do not receive this amount regularly which hampers our developmental work in our respective areas,” Lone said.
Lone added that that the honorarium for about 18 months from his previous term is still pending with the authorities.
The body also called for the creation of a separate District Development Commissioner. “The commissioner’s work should purely be dedicated towards panchayats so that the money from Delhi comes directly into the accounts of panchayats and there is no interference from intermediaries,” Panzoo said.