Since the independence, our country has been focussing on implementation of Panchayati raj System and local governance. To achieve this goal, we have adopted Gandhian Dream of peaceful, free and harmonious rural society. Gram Sabha and Village Panchayat, the main instruments are shouldered with bringing liberty, services and securities at door steps. According to Gandhi, ‘an ideal village has to be free from quarrels and theft; there is harmony among the communities and absence of untouchablity. The Sarpanchs are the leaders and accountable for registering and resolving the villager’s grievances. They are elected to work for the development of the villages rather to instigate any conflict, theft and nepotism for their personal benefits. Panchayat Raj implementation is not to be perceived only a prohibition of mal practices but also a zero tolerance to no change on the ground. The post of Sarpanch cannot be used merely for passing the prescribed tenure and taking the Nazrana or Shukerana (i.e. part of bribe). The post is not a profession to serve the family or relatives. Rather, it is a judicious and proper utilization of public funds for an inclusive development of whole Panchayat. The members of Panchayat are voted and elected to serve the public and are expected bridge between a common person and government. They have to actively engage the people for both policy formulation as well as its implementation at gross root level.
Case of Saroor Loundri Panchayat
Today after 75 years of independence and despite second term of current Sarpanch i.e. Ved Prakash, the Shirote-Loundri Panchayat in Drabshalla Block Kishtwar is disconnected from the rest of the world. There is a total exclusion so far as road connectivity, adequate communication, educational and health facilities are concerned. Amidst such conditions, the Sarpanch hardly worked or voiced for these issues i.e. road and communication facility, school building, regular electricity, primary health centre to avail the various services to the villagers. The poor people have to walk thousands of miles on their bare feet to reach the service centres. Educationally, every year, the students may complete their foundational courses but cannot qualify any higher educational degree on regular basis. After their prolonged wait for decades, the villagers were unable to see the transport, school building and health centre. The MGNREGA has been reduced to the disbursement of some money to only voters and supporters. This multifaceted and revolutionary scheme, having potential of changing the socio-economic, political and geographical scenario of a village was hardly understood and implemented in its true sense. For years, no focus was laid on durable assets for rural infrastructure development. Despite, the Sarpanch has been an ignorant, arrogant and an irresponsible public fellow to receive the public questions. His constant silence over the lack of basic facilities especially road disconnectivity and educational deprivation is just to continue the misgovernance in the Panchayat. On the other hand, unfortunately and surprisingly, so was the behaviour of MLAs or MLCs who also did not do anything for the Panchayat throughout their tenure. All of them agreed to continue the exclusion of the village to continue their rule through suppressing mass and the opposition.
Being always ignorant and arrogant, the Sarpanch is not deceiving only the public but violating the fundamentals of Panchayat Raj Act. On ground, his seven years of tenure highlights no change and only incompetency to implement the equality, liberty, fraternity, change and development. He did nothing on the ground to materialise the local democracy and holds public seat only for personal power, money and prestige. He not only deserves penalty but also imprisonment for entire tenure he has consumed to only deceive the common masses.
Some fundamental Questions
Recently, the abolition of J&K’s special status was justified and supported for an inclusive development and complete integration at length in the country. The power was centralized to address the various issues which in power view otherwise remained unresolved under the separation of power. This is how; an alternative strategy was put forward against the J&K state’s monopolistic and unaccountable politico-administrative behaviour caused by special status. The logistics were put for the implementation of good governance i.e. people participation and good services in the state. Implementing this very governance and developmental model for politically disturbed J&K, cannot the centre apply the same logistics for eliminating the anarchy in the Panchayats? Why cannot be there an end to irresponsible local governments through proper central check and balance policy. Under the local representative democracy, when the Sarpanchs and panches are selfish, corrupt and partial, Why the Sarpanchs or Panches are left free to govern the villages on the basis of their whims and fancies? Why they are taken for granted and sacrosanct without analysing their ground reality? Most importantly, why did the higher authorities not take the cognizance of defective local government in Loundri Panchayat that keeps the area backward? Why cannot the party in power use its logistics to punish an unaccountable and irresponsible Sarpanch for not serving the people in the Panchayat for years as it did to local state leaders?
An Applicable Resolution to be adopted by the UT administration
The educational infrastructure with road connectivity not only connects the people but has an instrumental role in bringing the good governance in any area. It can expose them to external world and an enlightenment to oppose the deficient and defective public bodies. It may enable them to access the higher authorities (largely located in the town) in no time to lodge their grievances. Now it will be better, if, the current UT administration takes no time to connect the whole Panchayat (i.e. Village Shirote) with modern transport, educational and other facilities so that the villagers may enjoy good governance and an effective and quality delivery of services. It should take every step to reconstruct the village in a modern ways and direct the anti corruption authorities to record the ground picture in Loundri Panchayat. Even, an outside UT level independent body, having a thorough knowledge and experience about local governance need to be established to prepare a report on exclusion, arrogance and misgovernance in the Panchayat. The body should also have an authority to work and guide for its reconstruction and development. Usually, it seems the decision of Sarpanch and his panches alone to frame and execute the plans keeping in view their own personal interest. Thus, economic and other assets of these agents also need to be scrutinised and audited to confirm a transparent and fair implementation of public schemes and programmes. The irresponsible Sarpanchs who could not show any performance on the ground should be recalled and barred from re-election completely.