The delay in empowerment of panchayats in Jammu and Kashmir by the Omar Abdullah government drew flak from Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi Wednesday as panchs and sarpanchs raised anti-state government slogans at a rally in Jammu.
As Rahul promised to continue exerting pressure on the Congress-National Conference (NC) government in the state till it empowers panchayats as per the 73rd amendment to the Indian Constitution, some panchs and sarpanchs stood up to say they had been receiving such assurances for the past three years.
“When will that day co-me?” they said. When Congress vice-president and Minister of State for Rural Development and Panchayats Viqar Rasool Wani tried to raise pro-party slogans to divert attention, the agitating panchs and sarpanchs said they were being muzzled.
“The state government does not want our grievances to reach you,” shouted Parikshit Singh, a sarpanch from Ramnagar constituency.
Rahul responded that he had come to Jammu only to meet them. He even asked the sarpanch to take the mic. However, before that could happen, another group of panchs and sarpanchs joined by party leaders started raising slogans and Rahul left. In his 15-minute address earlier, he emphasised on empowerment of panchs and sarpanchs in Jammu-Kashmir, saying schemes such as MNREGA and food security could not succeed otherwise.
When he asked the elected village heads if they had any power in Jammu and Kashmir, they promptly replied “No”.
“The role of legislators is confined to enacting laws, it is the job of sarpanchs and pan-chs to carry out development works at the local level,” Rahul said, adding that it was a prere-quisite if the state had to cha-nge. The other prerequisites, he said, were training and employment to youth and helping women become self-reliant.
Empowerment of panchayats has been a bone of contention between both the NC and the Congress. The NC is opposed to implementation of the 73rd and 74th amendments to the Indian Constitution in Jammu-Kashmir in toto.