‘Govt initiating some far-reaching changes to make Panchayats powerful decision-making bodies’

SRINAGAR, SEPTEMBER 25:Chief Secretary BVR Subrahmanyam today said that Rs 4335 crore will be devolved to the Urban and Rural Local Bodies for developmental activities immediately after the conclusion of the ongoing poll process.

“This huge chunk of funds allocated to the State under the 14th Finance Commission award has been withheld as no elected Urban and Rural Local Bodies are in place in the State,” the Chief Secretary said at a press conference here this morning.

He was flanked by Secretary Rural Development & Panchayati Raj, Sheetal Nanda and Secretary Information, Sarmad Hafeez at the press conference. Director Information, Tariq Ahmad Zargar and Joint Director Information Kashmir, Mohammad Ashraf Hakak were also present.

Giving a breakup of the funds withheld, the Chief Secretary said that Rs 3029 crore are pending for Panchayat bodies while Rs 1306 crore are pending for Municipal Bodies.

Chief Secretary said while Jammu and Kashmir hasa most comprehensive and robust Panchayati Raj Act in place, the government is initiating some far-reaching changes that will make Panchayats even more powerful decision-making bodies with extended reach.

He said in addition to the funds awarded under 14th Finance Commission, the State Government is also planning additional devolution of resources to the Panchayats under MGNREGA, PMAY, NRLM, ICDS, NHM and other similar flagship programmes to undertake targeted development at the grassroots level. “As per rough estimates each Panchayat would be entitled to a cumulative allocation of Rs 50 lakh to Rs 1 crore per annum,” he said and added that the Panchayats would be also vested with taxation powers on Bus Stands and Mobile Towers to generate additional resources locally.

He said each Panchayat will have an accountant for keeping books while an Ombudsman will be appointed for transparency and accountability.

Chief Secretary said there are 4,490 Panchayats in the state and as many Sarpanches are to be elected. The total number of Panchs in the state will be 35,000. There will be around 39,500 elected representatives in these Panchayats, he said.

Subrahmanyam also said that there are 79 urban local bodies and about 1200 wards — 600 each in Kashmir and Jammu region.

The Urban Local Body (ULB) polls will be conducted in four phases starting October 8, whereas the Panchayat polls will be held in 9-phases from November 17. He said the notifications for all the eight Phases of Municipal Polls have already been issued by the Chief Electoral Officer, J&K which would be now followed with notifications for Panchayat Polls.

Regarding security arrangements, the Chief Secretary said that adequate security arrangements have been put in place for the smooth conduct of polls and 400 additional companies of paramilitaries are reaching Kashmir for election related security arrangements.