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Mainstream, VOL LX No 31, New Delhi, July 23, 2022

The Panchayat Raj Plant In A Barren Soil | Farooq Ahmad Bakloo

Friday 22 July 2022

by Farooq Ahmad Bakloo *

Panchayati Raj means to uplift the common people socially, politically, and economically and also connect them with the governance. In India, the Panchayati Raj system is one of the significant cornerstones of the democratic structure. This Panchayati Raj system is also acknowledged by the constitution of India under the 73rd constitutional amendment. Its prime purpose was to provide the citizens with the right to run their local administration themselves according to their native needs. These local institutions are also called the apparatus of democratic seed drilling in the Indian soil. However, these institutions face a lot of hurdles at the grassroots level. The antagonism from bureaucrats and politicians has hindered decentralization, the Panchayati Raj exists solely by name (Minwalla Shabnam, 2002). According to the former Union Minister for Panchayati Raj Mani Shankar Aiyar, the lack of bureaucratic desire and understanding has led to disappointment to empower the Panchayati Raj (Tiwari Ruhi, 2013). In addition to this, the Mani Shankar Aiyar committee (2013) also reported that due to the lack of political will and rigid bureaucracy, the progress of Panchayats is unsatisfactory (Report of the Expert Committee on Leveraging Panchayats for Efficient Delivery of Public Goods and Services, 2013). Furthermore, there are a lot of studies conducted by scholars on the challenges of Panchayati Raj in India, the foremost observation these studies reported are discourteous behaviour of rigid bureaucracy towards these Panchayati Raj institutions. Bureaucrats do not want to devolve powers to bodies due to the fear of power encroachment (Paliath, Shreehari 2018). The bureaucracy of the country is not comfortable seeing these panchayats as a unit of local governance (Mathew George, 2013).

In the milieu of Jammu and Kashmir, the climate and fertile soil for this Panchayati Raj plant are missing in present times. Here, this Panchayati Raj plant is administered by bureaucrats. This resulted in a great tussle between this Panchayat system and bureaucracy being reported at the grassroots level.

The 73rd constitutional amendments are already implemented in these states, even before the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir. In these states, elections were held at regular intervals, with all three tiers elected. We witness in the official annual Panchayati Raj reports from the Ministry of Panchayati Raj Government of India. In these reports, we continuously notice one thing: there are only a few south Indian states and some north Indian states that are doing well in the context of Panchayati Raj. These states are also by some means facing the rigidity of the bureaucrats. These challenges to these Panchayati Raj institutions are also noticeable in a highly growing state like Kerala (Mathew George, 2017).

Keeping the antagonist behavior of Bureaucracy in mind that is reported by several studies towards these institutions, then it is doubtful how the present bureaucratic environment of Jammu and Kashmir could be worthwhile for these institutions and make these institutions energetic. No doubt, the administration has taken a lot of steps for the betterment of Panchayat Raj but still, these institutions are working under the cloud of bureaucrats. After listening to the experiences of the elected Panchayati representatives of the erstwhile state, it is reported that there is a wide tussle between Panchayats representatives and the administrative heads. The government servants and officers neglect the views of these Panchayat elected representatives; they understand them as a turban to stick in Kashmiri phrase as Lodi Disteer (means a person with no power only for show) The Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj is gradually losing its worth due to the conceit of the bureaucracy and its dictatorial working manner. These administrative heads did not bother to discuss the developmental plans with the Panchayat Representatives (Rather Abas, 2021). According to the Provincial President of the Jammu and Kashmir Panchayat conference Arun Kumar Sharma, only dreams were shown to these Panchayati Raj representatives, giving lectures and making big posters did not help the Panchayati Raj bureaucracy is the big hurdle there is a complete dictatorship of bureaucracy (Sharma Arun, 2022).

In a nutshell, it is apparent from the studies that the bureaucratic environment is not fertile in which the Panchayat Plant can blossom. Therefore, how this same bureaucratic atmosphere could be fruitful for the Panchayats of Jammu and Kashmir. And it has been also reported from the grassroots that these bureaucrats even did not consider the opinions of these Panchayat Raj representatives. Unless the restoration of state would not take place, then there will be no meaning for these Panchayati Raj institutions. Ironically, the higher democracy in the erstwhile state has been suspended since the modification of Article 370. Therefore, in this entire bureaucratic environment, it looks like the administration tried to Plant Panchayat Raj in infertile soil.

(Author: Farooq Ahmad Bakloo, Research scholar Department of Political Science Kumaun University Nainital Uttarakhand.)

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