In a veiled attack on the National Conference-Congress coalition government, chairperson of the National Commission on Minorities Wajahat Habibullah today said except announcements nothing had been done on ground to empower the Panchayati Raj Institutions in the state.

He also took on the government for its failure to constitute an independent election commission for panchayats in the state.

“The 73rd Amendment of the Indian Constitution provides an independent election commission for panchayats – a provision which is not available in the J&K Panchayati Raj Act 1989. Except J&K, all the states have election commissions for panchayats. Similarly, there must be an independent and autonomous state finance commission which decides about the devolution of financial powers to the panchayats,” said Wajahat.

He was speaking at the inaugural of a three-day national seminar on “Devolution of Powers in Jammu and Kashmir” at the University of Jammu this evening.

The seminar was being organised by the Dean, Research Studies and Post Graduate Department of Sociology, University of Jammu, in collaboration with the Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation (CDR).

He said there should be regularity in the conduct of panchayat elections after every five years. “The panchayat elections, which are executive at the grass-roots level, should be held every five years. There must be an independent election commission which the state Panchayat Raj Act doesn’t enshrine.

The non-conduct of timely elections has rendered the panchayats defunct and all powers remain with block development offices which have become the epicentre of corruption across the country,” said Wajahat, adding that corruption has been decentralised.

He targeted the state for its failure in devolving judicial powers to the panchayats. “The judicial powers must be devolved to the panchayats to make them effective at the grass-roots level,” he said.

 

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