Rise above politicking, pick up any bill: Beig

KT NEWS SERVICE. Dated: 10/9/2012 12:12:38 AM

Panchayat empowerment debate in LA

SRINAGAR, Oct 8: Stating that panic resignations of Panchayat members would rock the boat of entire political process if it remained unaddressed, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) today urged the state government to rise above political considerations on Panchayat empowerment.
While initiating a two and half hour discussion on Panchayat empowerment in Legislative Assembly today, Muzaffar Hussain Beig, senior PDP leader today observed that PDP could not allow itself to become a party to the shadow boxing between Congress and NC and would instead focus on institutional empowerment of Panchayats as the gross root level instruments of change and development.
He said the government can pick up any one of the bills that have been submitted to the legislative assembly to bring amendments in states Panchayat Raj Act with out getting into controversy over the 73rd Amendment to constitution of India.
Beig said the insensitive and unwise handling of Panchayat elections and empowerment had made the village representatives vulnerable to mischief from any source. He said it was neither realistic nor wise to project Panchayat elections as people’s verdict on Kashmir issue.
“Unfortunately such hype was created by the government leaders from both ruling parties leading the unprotected members of Panchayats to become cannon fodder in the larger discourse over Jammu and Kashmir,” Beig said. He added that there was no point in raising figures against each other for responsibility of targeting Panches and Sarpanches but “there are many indicators that suggest political mischief beyond militancy. A Sarpanch in Baramulla district who refused to resign faced stone pelting on his home for three nights”, Beig said and wondered in a lighter vein whether Laskar-e-Toiba had now abandoned guns and resorted to stones.
Beig said it was futile to talk about 73rd Amendment and relate it to the autonomy of the state. The basic objective of PDP and all right thinking people, he said is to empower the Panchayats so that they can carry out the task they have been elected for. The first requirement for this is providing finances for the Panchayat institutions, he said.
Beig said the failure of the coalition government to provide any funds in two successive budgets since last year for the purpose is a clear evidence for its malafide intentions. This, he said has resulted in understandable alienation of this new elected class from the community that had voted for them for addressing local developmental issues. He said the election to the block development councils had to be completed in first two months but this government consumed two and half months in just notifying the names of Panches and Sarpanches and has moved to hold BDC elections one and a half year later in an atmosphere full of fear and scare. That he said is a clear index of the non seriousness of the govt, in allowing Panchayats to become part of the democratic system.
Beig said our aim should be to provide a fully elected three tier Panchayat system upto the district level. For this the state legislature could take up any one of the bills that have been submitted “by me, M Y Tarigami and another one submitted in the legislative council by the PDP.” He said the government was acting with short sightedness by insisting on having a minister as the Chairman of the District Development Board which would defeat the whole purpose of empowerment and convert Panchayat system into another government department. He said if the government is sincere it could bring its own bill on the subject and the PDP would extend full support to it.
Referring to the insinuation about his association with a committee constituted under the Article 72 for determination of powers for the legislators Beig clarified that even though he was offered the Chairmanship of this committee he on the advice of Mufti Mohammed Sayeed declined it. “ Mufti Sahib said that this committee which was constituted last year would send a wrong signal about the empowerment of Panchayats and it would look that the legislators were engaging in a turf war with them” he said and added that it was unfortunate that NC spokesman were always using negative language against such a visionary leader.
Referring to the larger concerns about democratization of institutions in the state and the political process Beig said it was an acknowledged fact that the urban population of Kashmir still had reservations about the electoral exercise. It was only the rural voter who had lent credibility to the process by its overwhelming participation in successive elections. “ We would let down those who have given a helping hand to the democratic process if their representatives are denied the resources , powers and protection to run their elected institutions and this could have far reaching implications of a dangerous nature”, Beig cautioned. He said if the present drift on the subject continued it could cost all of us the hard earned democratic space in which we operate.
Referring to the NC’s autonomy noises in relation to Panchayat empowerment, Beig reminded the ruling party of the fall out of 1975 accord that had resulted in near completion of its demolition. He said after Sheikh Saheb took over in February 1975, in July that year he surrendered the right of the state legislature to bring any amendment in the nomenclature of state governor and chief minister. “By making noises about it now the party is only trying to hoodwink people once more which it would find difficult now in view of the raised levels of awareness in the state,” Baig added.
Taking part in the discussion, Choudhry Mohammad Ramzan, senior leader of National Conference (NC) said opposition parties have started a negative campaign against the Omar Abdullah led coalition government. He said that instead of appreciating Omar’s effort of successful conduct of Panchayat elections after 33 years, they are opposing him.
He said that State Panchayat Raj Act has all those provisions already included which are in 73rd amendment of Indian constitution. He also said Panches and Sarpanches have already been giving powers of 14 departments and it was aimed for their active participation in the decision, execution and monitoring process.
Over the mass resignation of Sarpanches and Panches, the NC leader said resignation of Panchayat members will not make any major impact in Panchayats. He said such resignations have been witnessed in past also but the Panchayats also worked.
Congress leader, G.A.Mir said that the state Panchayat Raj Act came into force 30 years back and it needs to be amended and incorporate those amendments like 73rd amendment of Indian constitution to empower Panchayats.
He said that under state Panchayat Raj Act, the Panchayats can be dismissed by the state government, but under the 73rd amendment, the government cannot dismiss them, if after their change.
The Congress MLA also said that under the implementation of the 73rd amendment the Panchayats will act as an institution without any interference from the government.
CPI (M) state secretary Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami said that it is highly unfortunate that Sarpanches and Panches have been killed and it should be the utmost priority of the state government to provide them security.
He also said Panchayat members are becoming target as they have been used by political parties for their political gains. He said that party will support all those moves which will empower the Panchayats.
BJP MLA, Jugal Kishore said that party is strongly demanding that 73rd amendment of the Indian constitution should be implemented in the state so that Sarpanches and Panches will get real powers at the grass root level.
Independent MLA Engineer Rashid said that Sarpanches and Panches are being used by Army and Police as informers. He said that these Sarpanches and Panches are been invited to Sadbavna operations, Iftar parties and other occasions for their interests. “The Army and police should keep away from using these innocent people. They would become targets later,” he said.
He also said that external affairs minister and other central leaders are linking Panchayat elections with referendum. He said these elections are been conducted for roads, water, and electricity. He said UJC supremo Syed Salah–u-Din even said Sarpanches and Panches contested the elections for basic needs.
Congress leader, Mohammad Sharief Niaz also supported the implementation of 73rd amendment of Indian constitution in state Panchayat Raj Act. He said that it has become important for the state government to implement the amendment in absence of weak state Panchayat Raj Act. Ashwani Kumar Sharma also supported amendment in the state Panchayat Raj Act.

 

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