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Panchayati Raj Institutions in Jammu and Kashmir.

Panchayati Raj is an indigenous and time-honoured concept in India. The form may vary, but the spirit has always been part of India's socio-cultural ethos. Its origin can be traced back to ancient ages where community spirit was the main force not only to keep village communities united but to help them to manage local affairs independently. Sir Charles Metcalfe characterised them as small 'republics having nearly everything that they want within themselves' (Kumar, 1992).

Panchayat Raj, as a system of governance at the grassroots level in rural India has rightly been conceived as the most viable and proper mechanism of realising the goals of democracy and decentralisation. After independence efforts have been made to create the units of self-governance at the grassroots level but all in vain since they could not produce the desired results. After independence efforts were continued to create the Panchayats as units of self-governance but the committed Central Government's initiatives came out with 73rd Amendment for the establishment of Panchayat Raj institutions in India (Sisodia, 2012).

The state of Jammu and Kashmir has its own unique history as far as Panchayati Raj is concerned. As Panchayat Raj is a state subject, each state was free to evolve its own system depending upon local needs, circumstances, administrative conveniences and experiences. Unlike other states of the country which have the three tier Panchayat structure as per the provisions of the 73rd Constitutional Amendment of 1992, Jammu and Kashmir has its own Jammu and Kashmir Panchayat Raj Act of 1989, which is at variance with the 73rd Constitutional Amendment. Because of Article 370 of the Constitution of India, the central bill does not apply automatically to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. It had in any case to pass its own law without having to conform to the new constitutional provisions on Panchayati Raj. The state has adopted Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Act, 1989 before the passage of this Constitutional Amendment. Nonetheless after the enactment of 73rd Constitutional Amendment act, state of Jammu and Kashmir has introduced Jammu and Kashmir Panchayat Raj Rules, 1996 in exercise of the powers conferred by section 80 of the Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Act, 1989. With the approval of the Amendment concerning the reservation, the state has tried to make it on the lines of 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act (Sharma, 2012).

Brief Profile of the State

The state of Jammu and Kashmir is often termed as the 'Paradise on earth'. Until the partition Jammu and Kashmir was the largest among the princely states (Khan, 2011). The state of Jammu and Kashmir in total covering an area of 2,22,236 sq.kms., of which 78,114 sq.kms., are under illegal occupation of Pakistan and 37,555 sq.kms. under China. In addition to this, 5180 sq.kms of Jammu and Kashmir was illegally ceded to China by Pakistan under the March 1963 Sino-Pakistan Boundary agreement (Sadiq, 2016).

According to Census 2011 the population size of Jammu and Kashmir is 12,541302 which is 1.035 per cent of total population of India, out of which population size of male is 52 per cent and female is 47.04 per cent. Rural population is 72.6 per cent and urban population is 27.3 per cent. Currently, the state has 6551 villages, 4128 panchayats, 143 blocks, 82 tehsils and 22 districts.

The Backdrop of Panchayati Raj System in Jammu and Kashmir

The basic objective of Panchayati Raj is rapid and all round rural development. The desire of development among the rural people is age old, but in the light of the changed political conditions at national and state levels, the need to improve existing standards has tremendously pressing. Consequently public institutions like Panchayati Raj designed for development, have to work, on the one hand in most difficult and demanding situation, and on the other hand, have to struggle hard to strike roots in an unfavourable society (Bora and Darshankar, 1992).

In Jammu and Kashmir, the roots of Panchayati Raj were planted by Maharaja Hari Singh in 1935 by promulgation of the Jammu and Kashmir Village Panchayat Regulation Act. A special Department of Panchayat and Rural Development was created in 1936 to administer the 1935 Regulation. By an Amendment in 1941, the list of functions of the 1935 Regulation were widened. By an Act of 1951, the Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRI), was adopted to be re-established. The Jammu and Kashmir Government thereafter enacted the Village Panchayati Act in 1958 replacing the 1951 Act and in 1989 Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Act came into existence (Sheikh, 2014). Nonetheless after the enactment of 73rd Constitutional Amendment act, state of Jammu and Kashmir has introduced Jammu and Kashmir Panchayat Raj Rules, 1996 in exercise of the powers conferred by section 80 of the Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Act, 1989. With the approval of the Amendment concerning reservations, the state has tried to make it on the lines of 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act (Sharma, 2012).

Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Act, 1989

The Jammu and Kashmir Panchayat Raj Act, 1989 was introduced in the Jammu and Kashmir assembly in April 1988 and passed in March 1989. The Governor gave his assent to the bill in July 1989. For the first time an Act was named as 'Panchayat Raj Act' rather than a 'Village Panchayat Regulation Act'. The former implies the promotion of Panchayat Raj in the state (at village, block and district levels) whereas the latter was confined to Panchayats at the village level only. This was certainly a very positive development. The Act has been described as a 'radical' step as it aims to, 'promote and develop the Panchayat Raj system in the state as an instrument of vigorous local self-government to secure participation of the people in the implementation of development planning' (Govt. of Jammu and Kashmir, 1996). The full involvement of the people was proposed to be secured by the process of direct election of the Panch, Sarpanch and Chairman of the Block Development Council. The Preamble of the 1989 Act states, 'whereas it is expedient to promote and develop Panchayati Raj in the state as an instrument of vigorous local self-government to secure effective participation of the people in decision making process and for over-seeing implementation of development programmes' (Choudhary, 1990).

This Act provides for a three tier system (Village, Block and District levels) for governance at the grassroots. The institutions thus created are called Halqa Panchayat, Block Development Council and District Planning and Development Board respectively. Every Halqa Panchayat has 7 to 11 Panch and a Sarpanch (who lead the Halqa Panchayat). The Sarpanch and Panch are elected directly by the people. There is also another person by the name of Naib Sarpanch and he is nominated by all the Panch of a Halqa Panchayat. Naib Sarpanch would perform the same duties as the Sarpanch in the event of Sarpanch not being in a position to fulfil his/her duties. Village level worker is the secretary of the Halqa Panchayat.

The 73rd Amendment Act that came into force in the year 1993 laid down constitutional provisions for formalising Panchayats as institutions of local governance at the district, block and village levels in India. Halqa Panchayat is the village level unit in the three tier structure of Panchayat system. In a given block, all Sarpanch would collectively constitute the Block Development Council (BDC). Similarly, all the Block Chairpersons together constitute the District Planning and Development Board (DPDB). The adoption of Jammu and Kashmir Panchayat Act of 1989 was indeed a pioneering step as Jammu and Kashmir joined the league of Assam, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka who already had their own state laws. However, all the other states dissolved their state acts to adopt the 73rd Amendment Act, 1992 (Government of Jammu and Kashmir, 1989). The 73rd Amendment lays down principles for devolution through Panchayati Raj Institution, the state of Jammu and Kashmir has the prerogative to include or exclude provisions of this Amendment as per its needs (Sheikh, 2014).

Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj and 73rd Amendment Act, 1992

Article 370 of the Indian constitution grants special status to Jammu and Kashmir State. This article defines that except for the subjects like defence, foreign affairs and communications, the Indian Parliament needed the State Government's concurrence for applying all other laws. This article provides greater sovereignty for Jammu and Kashmir as far as the matters of the state are concerned. Therefore even in the case of 73rd Amendment that lays down principles for devolution through Panchayati Raj institutions the state has the prerogative to include or exclude provisions of this Amendment as per its needs.

The State Act has already incorporated some features of the 73rd Amendment Act, including State Election Commission. There is already State Finance Commission Act in vogue serviced by the Finance Department and its jurisdiction has been extended to the Panchayats also. The State Act contains the main features of the 73rd Amendment Act which include three tier Panchayat Raj System, the concept of Gram Sabha, reservation for SC/ST proportionate to their population and one third reservation for women, constitution of State Election Commission and Finance Commission and implementation of the developmental functions commensurate with the 11th schedule of the Constitution of India. But the state Act had adopted different pattern for the political empowerment of women and other weaker sections i.e., 'nomination rather than reservation of seats'.

The Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Act, 1989 was amended in 1999 and a new provision was substituted by virtue of which the number of women members to be nominated by the prescribed authority shall not exceed 33 per cent of the total number of elected panch. But the Act also provides that while making such nominations the representation of SC/ST and other weaker sections shall be given due consideration. At block level the 'prescribed authority' (Director Rural Development and Panchayats) is having the power to nominate two members to give representation to women including SC/ST or any other specified class (Lone, 2014).

Jammu and Kashmir Panchayat Elections: Ups and Downs

In the year 1989, the militancy stormed the whole state and has paralysed the process of development of the state. Panchayat Raj institutions have not been actively and effectively involved in the developmental activities (Koul, 2002). Not any meaningful strategy has been adopted by the State Government to curb this violence as the state machinery has totally failed. All this led to a worst effect on the development in the state. The majority of the damages took place in the year 1990, the emerging year of militancy but in the preceding years this number decreased in the state. From 1990 upto September 2005, 655 schools, 340 bridges and 1168 government buildings were either burnt or damaged (The Daily Al-safa, 2005).

Despite inhospitable security environment and desperate attempts of the State Government to hold Panchayat elections, the State Government succeeded in conducting Panchayat elections during the first quarter of 2001 after a very long gap of 22 years. During the period from 1989 to 2000 no such elections were held in the state because of the threat of militancy and during this period the Panchayats were dysfunctional. The election in 2001 was conducted in phased manner. The election of 2700 Sarpanch and 20548 Panch constituencies was conducted in a staggered electoral process by the state election authority on non-party basis and with a high degree of transparency, impartiality and fairness. During the period of Eighth Plan expenditure incurred on the Panchayats, community development and national extension service was Rs. 1954.93 lakhs which increased to Rs. 12531.60 lakhs in Ninth plan (Sadhotra, 2001).

Large number of constituencies were left vacant in 2001 Panchayat elections because of the call for boycott given by the separatists and militants. Yet, surprisingly, the Panchayat election of 2011 was quite different. Everyone was taken aback as the Panchayat elections in Jammu and Kashmir did not evoke any untoward happening in 2011 as was seen in previous election. The Halqa Panchayat elections were conducted under the Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Act of 1989 in order to take the development process to the grassroot level (Sheikh, 2014). In this election, 4130 Sarpanch and 29719 Panch were elected in 143 CD Blocks falling in 22 districts of the State. (Panchayat Elections, 2011). People participated with great enthusiasm; about 80 per cent turnout was recorded. However some Panch and Sarpanch were later shot dead by militants. Recently in April, 2016 Panchayat institutions completed its term successfully. Fresh elections got delayed by few months due to Kashmir unrest on killing of Burhan Wani (Militant Commander). It is expected that the new Panchayat election will be conducted soon.

Functioning of Panchayati Raj Institutions in Jammu and Kashmir

Panchayati Raj Department is an important department of Jammu and Kashmir related to the rural development. The main objective of this department is to strengthen the Panchayati Raj System so that Panchayats can realise the dream of rural administration and rural development with complete coordination and transparency. The state of Jammu and Kashmir has adopted Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Act, 1989. The Panchayat Raj Act, 1989 provides for a three tier system (i) Halqa Panchayat, (ii) Block Development Council, and (iii) District Planning and Development Board at Village, Block and District level respectively.

Halqa Panchayat

The Act has conceived the Halqa as a crucial tier for the entire process of democratic decentralisation by giving it wide ranging functions. Every Halqa shall have a Halqa Panchayat consisting of such number of Panch as the prescribed authority may, from time to time, fix in this behalf. Every Halqa Panchayat consists of not less than seven and not more than 11 Panch, including the Sarpanch, as the prescribed authority may, from time to time, fix. Provided that if the prescribed authority is satisfied that women or Scheduled Castes or any other class are not represented in the Halqa Panchayat, it may nominate not more than two persons to be members thereof. Sarpanch is elected directly by the electorate of Halqa Panchayat while as Naib-Sarpanch is elected by the Panch of the Halqa Panchayat. The village level worker is the secretary of the Halqa Panchayat. Halqa Panchayat performs a number of functions subject to availability of funds (Mathew, 1990). There is hardly any development activity left out which does not fall within the purview of the Halqa Panchayat. The role/functions of Halqa Panchayat in rural development are: (Government of Jammu, 2011).

* It prepares plans for the development of the Halqa.

* Regulation of buildings, shops and entertainment houses and checking of offensive or dangerous trade.

* It supervises the implementation process of rural development schemes.

* It assists the banks and other financial institutions in the recovery of loans.

* Regulation of sale and preservation of fishes, vegetables and other perishable articles and foods.

* Maintenance of community assets created under MGNREGA and other rural development schemes viz., Panchayat Ghars, common facility centres, community latrines etc.

* Maintenance of cremation grounds and grave yards is done by Halqa Panchayat.

Block Development Council

For every Block in the state, there is a Block Development Council bearing the name of the Block. The Block Development Councils consisting of Chairman, all Sarpanch of Halqa Panchayat falling within the block and chairpersons of marketing societies within the jurisdiction of the block. Provided that if the prescribed authority is satisfied women or Scheduled Castes or any other class are not represented in the council, it may nominate not more than two persons to be the members of the Block Development Council. The Block Development Officer shall be Secretary of the Block Development Council (Methew, 1990). The role/functions of Block Development Council in rural development are:

* It provides administrative and technical guidance to Halqa Panchayats and review of their works.

* It ensures that the funds provided by the DRDA to the Halqa Panchayats are utilised as per the scheme guidelines within its jurisdiction.

* It monitors the use of community assets created under various rural development schemes.

* It supervises plans relating to agriculture, rural development, animal husbandry, social forestry, education and public health.

* It prevents the misuse of community assets of the Halqa Panchayats.

* It supervises and monitors the Rural Sanitation Programme (Central/State) executed by the Halqa Panchayats.

District Planning and Development Board

Each district has a District Planning and Development Board comprising of the chairman of the Block Development Councils of the district, members of parliament and State Legislature representing the area, chairman of the town area committee at the district and president of the municipal council, if any. The chairman of the District Planning and Development Board is nominated by the government from amongst the members of the District Planning and Development Board. The District Development Commissioner is the chief executive of the board to be assisted by district level heads. The role/functions of District Planning and Development board in rural development are:

* It develops marketing infrastructure/marketing network/tie up arrangements for the marketing of products in rural areas.

* It monitors and evaluates all poverty alleviation programmes and the coverage of women, SC, ST and other BPL beneficiaries in these programmes.

* It monitors loan and subsidy disbursement in coordination with Banks and other financial institutions in rural development programmes.

* It prevents the misuse of community assets of the BDC.

* It arranges wide publicity of watershed guidelines amongst people of the concerned areas.

* It approves the budget of the Block Development Council and supervises and coordinates their work.

Conclusion

Panchayati Raj Institutions have been in operation in Jammu and Kashmir since long time but these institutions have not been developed fully and are not able to acquire the status and dignity of viable and responsive people's bodies due to a number of reasons like corruption, terrorism, irregular elections, irregular representation of weaker sections, lack of people's participation etc. The state of Jammu and Kashmir has adopted its own Panchayati Raj Act, 1989, which is at variance with the 73rd Amendment Act 1992. In 2011 for the first time Panchayat elections were held with great enthusiasm, earlier Jammu and Kashmir witnessed the first Panchayat election in 1974, after that a few Panchayats went to the poll in 2000, large number of constituencies were left vacant in these Panchayat elections. However, 2011 election was quite different and was held in all Panchayats. These institutions are playing an important role in the development process at grassroots level. To build a strong and vibrant civil society, it is necessary to make these institutions more democratic and effective instruments of change and development. There is the need to empower these institutions to take decisions freely which are bestowed to them and without any political interference.

References

Bora, P.M. & Darshankar, A.Y. (1992): 'Panchayati Raj Institutions: Institutions of Development or Extended Arms of the State Government', in G. Vidya Sagar, K. Chakra pani and K. Sateesh Raddy (eds.) Rural development and Local Participation, New Delhi: Anmol Publication, pp. 36-37.

Choudhary, S. (1990): Does the Bill give power to people? In G. Mathew's (Ed.), Panchayat Raj in Jammu & Kashmir (p. 154): New Delhi: Concept Publishing House.

Government of Jammu and Kashmir, Panchayati Raj Act 1989 and Panchayati Raj Rules 1996, P. 1.

Government of Jammu and Kashmir, Panchayati Raj Act, 1989.

Government of Jammu and Kashmir. (2011): Report of the committee on Devolution of Powers to the Panchayats, p.58.

Khan, Gulam Hassan (2011): Government and Politics in Jammu and Kashmir, Srinagar Kashmir: Gulshan Books, p.1.

Koul, S.N. (2002). 'Internationalisation of Kashmir Issue', New Delhi: Rajat Publications, p. 212.

Kumar, Sharad (1992): 'Panchayati Raj in Jammu & Kashmir', Srinagar: Popular Publications, p. 27

Lone, Mehraj ud din (2014): 'Problems of Women Panchayat Representatives in District Baramulla of Jammu and Kashmir', Indian Streams Research Journal, Volume 4: Issue 1, Feb., p.1.

Mathew, George (1990): 'Panchayati Raj in Jammu and Kashmir', New Delhi: Concept Publication, pp.131-132.

Panchayat Elections, 2011, http://ceojk.nic.in/pdf/PRESS%20NOTE%20ON%20PANCHAYAT%20ELECTIONS%20(CORRECTED).pdf assessed on 27/07/2016.

Sadhotra, A.K. (2001). 'Panchayats and Jammu and Kashmir', National Convention of Panchayati Raj Representatives, ISS, New Delhi: Dec., pp. 22-23.

Sadiq, M. (n.d.). Retrieved feb. 17, 2016, from http://www.Jammu-Kashmir.com/basicfacts/tour/region.html

Sharma, Pankaj Kumar (2012): 'Panchayati Raj in Jammu and Kashmir: Progress or Rip-Off', Epilogue, Volume 6: Issue 12.

Sheikh, Younis Ahmad (2014): 'Journey, Hurdle and Challenges before the Panchayati Raj Institutions in Jammu and Kashmir', Research on Humanities and Social Sciences, Vol.4: No.14, p.16.

Sisodia, Y.S. (2012): Dynamics of Local Governance in Post 73rd Amendment Scenario: A Study of Functioning of Panchayt Raj Institutions in Villages of Madhya Pradesh. Report submitted to ICSSR, New Delhi.

The Daily Al-safa (2005). Srinagar: Oct. 23.

Younis Ahmad Sheikh (*)

(*) Research Scholar, M.P. Institute of Social Science Research, Ujjain (M.P.). E-mail: unisrashid@ymail.com
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Author:Sheikh, Younis Ahmad
Publication:Madhya Pradesh Journal of Social Sciences
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Dec 1, 2017
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