NATIONAL

Government to amend Panchayati Raj Act

Jammu Dec. 25. In a landmark step towards empowering people at the grassroots level, the Jammu and Kashmir Government has decided to amend its Panchayati Raj Act of 1989 and bring it on a par with the provisions of the 73rd Amendment to the Constitution, which is not applicable to the State under Article 370.

This was announced by the Deputy Chief Minister, Mangat Ram Sharma, on the last day of the two-day convention on `Panchayati Raj in Jammu and Kashmir', organised by the Institute of Jammu and Kashmir Affairs, Jammu, and the Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi.

The 73rd Amendment refers to the empowerment of panchayats and was passed in 1989 at the initiative of the former Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi.

Votaries of panchayati raj have been crusading against government control over the institutions at the grassroots level.

Mr. Sharma said, "I concede that the present Panchayati Raj Act of the State is retrograde and undemocratic, especially those provisions regarding nominations for women, the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes as also the Chairman of the district councils."

Describing the present Act as outdated, the Deputy Chief Minister said, "It legitimises centralisation and regimentation. Instead of nomination, there will be 33 per cent reservation for women and also reservation for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes in proportion to their population. Grants to the panchayats will be made by the State Finance Commission and not by the State Government."

"The need of the hour in Jammu and Kashmir is to empower the people in the real sense of the term; power should trickle down to the lowest tier of governance.

We want to change the Panchayati Raj Act and make it a role model for the rest of the country to follow," Mr. Sharma said.

In the last session of the convention, the State Minister for Panchayati Raj, Peerzada Mohammad Sayeed, was grilled by panchayati raj functionaries. In response to their queries, the Minister announced some major policy decisions.

He said, "Orders will be issued within a week to all departments to release funds to the panchayats for the 18 subjects delegated to them."

Mr. Sayeed also announced that elections to the remaining panchayats, block councils and district councils would be completed within three months.