In an effort to bolster local governance in the State, the Jammu and Kashmir government has released funds worth Rs 53.55 crore under the 13th Finance Commission for construction of panchayat ‘ghars’.

The funds for construction of these panchayat offices were sanctioned at a meeting chaired by Rural Development Minister Ali Mohammad Sagar here last evening, an official spokesman said.

At the meeting, the minister directed officials to ensure that these ghars are constructed within 18 months and called for a monitoring mechanism to be put in place to oversee the same.

Asserting that strengthening of the panchayati raj was a “top priority” for the Omar Abdullah-led government, Mr. Sagar said funds under various rural development schemes like the MGNREGA, Indira Awas Yojana and National Rural Livelihoods Mission have already been provided to local bodies in several districts.

Besides, the government has also passed the Act for State Finance Commission which will help identify sources of income for panchayat institutions and serve as a framework for equal distribution of funds, he said.