Being a student of good governance, we need to have an analytic look on Back to village programme initiated by the Jammu and Kashmir Government. From governance point of view, if the programme is for good governance, it has to pass by certain parameters namely transparency, accountability, fairness and timeliness. But the implementation part could not seem stranger to allegations of corruption, inefficiency, unaccountability and lack of transparency. Known for their reluctance, the visiting officers in collaboration with corrupt PRIs members cannot be trusted for materializing it. The programme may have drawn attention of almost everyone. After third phase, it may influence every political discourse or speech during the Panchayat polls with its claim of successfully recording the rural issues. But people are asserting over its implementation for not resolving anything on the ground. The administration on the basis of what they have recorded or surveyed has failed to convert the same into reality. This seems the case in majority of villages. At least not so far, significant issues listen in last two phases under the programme have been resolved in any remote rural area. The promise to deliver the services at the door step or resolving the grievances on the spot has been merely a cultural fest. It even could not handle the issues related to current pandemic. It only spurred the launching of their supporters for local election by the ruling party rather showing any signs of resolution of the issues in concrete sense. Though, distribution of some certificates among the villagers in certain areas has taken place. Neither has there been any visible establishment of durable assets nor has been any prolonged issue resolved. The villagers’ anger against the inadequate medical, educational, infrastructural and developmental facilities still flourishes. Since the programme took place, very little information has come from the villages on how it has helped in easing their life. The third phase will therefore be a barometer of what matters to the administration or visiting officers. Rarely have developmental issues been a factor on priority; in spite, they have been mostly focusing on the interaction, promises and meetings only.
There are cries that the visiting officers interact with only either the Panchayat members or pro local power people. There is very less encouragement for the powerless i.e. women, illiterate, schedule tribe and scheduled caste or any other disempowered community to engage them into the process. The recent phase has exposed to huge resentment through the mediums of media or and village society. The highlights emphasis on that it has less to do with delivery of services or redressal of grievances and more with politicization of governance. There is a need to do more with an underlying anger and helplessness in larger sections of the villagers. The administrative response to their long pending issues is addressed only with the initiation of new phases based on communication only. If people are looking at Lt. Governor in preference to political representatives, under whose rule governance should eventually get improved especially in post-special status scenario. Why the Governor’s campaigning is not able to bail out the beleaguered villages through effective implementation of programme? When will his administration go to unearth hidden crisis villagers confront today even after third phase of B2V. There is little chance of the transparent Local government and visiting officers in Jammu and Kashmir. Like other schemes and programmes, where the local government could play a major role in their implementation, were indulged in corruption, could not work for transparency. What is the way out to check the old nexus that always exists between officials and PRI members to implement any initiative? How can we escape from the corruption that always guides the implementing agencies? Whatever be the hopes that current Lt Governor Administration may harbour about the outcome of back to Village programme, but hardly unfolds the malpractices present in its implementation.
Both PRIs as well as visiting officers with their prolonged engagement with selfishness, corruption and injustice cannot become all of sudden active for materialization of rural governance. How the Corruption and irresponsiveness, deep rooted issues exit in no time from the minds of government officials and PRIs members in Jammu and Kashmir? Is the back to village programme an antidote to these evils? In a negative response, what are the processes to monitor the programme in a transparent mode? How the agents have switched to the transparency and efficiency abruptly? The new LG. Administration not only needs to analyze the contents but also the context of programme. He needs to guarantee the social audit of all the existing developmental projects at departmental as well as Panchayat level. Jammu and Kashmir has 2234 Panchayats and 11170 of its dedicated members i.e. 5 from each, are enough to bring a revolution to villages. The 11170 persons constituting the whole Panchayat membership is propped up in power since decades should have transformed the rural scenario to its maximum extent. And if this is not the picture, the things need to be put under scanner. How can then Back to Village programme rely in the similar hands for its proper implementation? The Panchayat members and government officials engaged for the programme are the old friends in looting the public money. If these are the only managers of the programme, they will be able to cobble together an environment with the help of each other and protect their black side from public exposure. More than the survival of the programme, what are at stake in Jammu and Kashmir includes the efficiency, transparency, fairness and accountability of the PRI members and officials.
But so far, reaching people is concerned, the first time officials have been moving towards the people. Before the initiative, the people’s perception had been that it is service receiver who has to visit the service centre for the services. The current government made it the reverse. But no attempt yet has been made to check the transparency so far as implementation of programme is concerned. And the one likely to be affected badly the most is again a poor, illiterate, depressed villager who could not spoke against of the malpractices of the Panchayats and now defects of “Back to Village Programme”. It will lead to the further underdevelopment and dependency of villagers on the vicious group in this modern digitalized and democratic world. Few of them who have BALLS to express their critique are also targeted by the sitting Panchayat members and officers.
No doubt, the members and officials were pointed out at the meetings for their usual irresponsible attitude towards the good governance. But, the people have hardly any independent, secure and reliable grievances redressal mechanism. The block development officers or Tehsildar who are supposed to take care of justice, themselves run the cycle of corruption. The role Governor will come to play in this new Union territory will be directly changing the governance scenario through emerging as an instrument for change in the services delivery and grievances mechanism. Or will he be consigned to the sidelines of the selfish groups and their fake promises. The stakes are equally high for Lt. Governor. The best case scenario would be to implement the Back to Village in its true sense without relying completely on the Panchayat members and officers and also not trusting those having their own vicious circle to use the programme for their own political benefits. Practically speaking, the visiting officers and Panchayat members to implement the programme are the same who failed to provide the services to the villagers for decades. “To them, the Governance, schemes and programmes have been merely the chickens; these officials have been the eaters rather serving hands”. Given the fact, the Lt. Government has to contend with the checks and balance on every agent for effective implementation of the programme. Moreover, there is a need to consider the difference between plains and hilly areas to achieve every set goal. The major question that can be drawn from above discussion is this: if the villagers are gripped by anger, exclusion, lack of infrastructure and other facilities even after the third phase of the programme,does not status of B2V confirm about that it is being treated as a chicken rather a force of revolutionizing the socio-economic and political life of the villages?