Cabinet accepts CS-headed panel report on transfer of powers to PRIs21 September 2011
The Daily Excelsior
Jammu: In a landmark decision, State Cabinet today accepted in totality the recommendations of a Committee on Devolution of Powers to the Panchayats headed by Chief Secretary, Madhav Lal. This would pave the way for transfer of funds, functions and functionaries of 14 key departments to the Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) and ultimately achieve the objective of empowering these grass root level democratic institutions for effective governance, better delivery, accountability and transparency in the system. The Cabinet, which met under the chairmanship of Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah, at Srinagar this afternoon, briefly discussed the report of the panel, the copies of which had already been given to the Ministers and found the recommendations sufficient enough to empower all the three-tiers of the Panchayati Raj Institutions. The report was unanimously accepted by the Cabinet in totality and it was decided that the same would be implemented with immediate effect. The necessary orders for elaborating the planning functions assigned to the 3-tiers of the local Government and also for release of funds and maintenance of accounts will be issued by the Planning and Finance Departments during this week. The other members in the Committee, which was constituted by the Government on April 13, 2011, were B B Vyas Principal Secretary, Planning and Development Department, Sudhanshu Pandey, Commissioner Secretary, Finance, Mohd Sayeed Khan, Commissioner Secretary, General Administration Department and Yedullah, Commissioner Secretary, Rural Development Department. It is pertinent to mention here that the elections to the Panchayats were held almost after three decades and with the devolution of powers the Panchayati Raj Systemís fundamentals have been strengthened in the State. The Committee has recommended devolution of all the major functions as contained in the 73rd Amendment without carrying amendment in the Section 45 of the J&K Panchayati Raj Act. Against 29 subjects listed in the 73rd Amendment, the Committee has recommended devolution of 23 functions of 14 key departments to the Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) at all the three tiers in order to empower the grass root democratic institutions like those in other States of the country. These Departments are Agriculture, Animal and Sheep Husbandry, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution, Education, Fisheries, Forest, Health and Family Welfare, Horticulture, Industries and Commerce, Public Health Engineering, Public Works, Revenue, Rural Development and Social Welfare. As the Panchayati Raj Institutions cannot deliver much in the absence of assured resources and require appropriate grants for administering the tasks and functions assigned to them, Committee has recommended the release of 1-4th of the budgeted amount of these departments to the PRIs just at the beginning of the year from 2012-2013 financial year onwards. After the receipt of Utilization Certificate in respect of the money initially deposited in the bank accounts of the PRIs, the administrative department will authorize credit of further 1-4th of the budgeted amounts by way of withdrawal from the amount held under Civil Deposit. Any unspent balance remaining available in the Civil Deposit Account at the end of the financial year would be non-lapsable and released as soon as the UCs against earlier amount are received by the concerned administrative departments, the recommendations said. The District Development and Planning Boards, which are yet to be constituted, would have new set of guidelines. As far as powers of Vice-Chairman of the District Planning and Development Board, who will be elected by electoral college of Panches, Sarpanches of Halqa Panchayat and Chairman of Block Development Council, are concerned, Vice-Chairman of Board, as per the accepted recommendations, would be the Chairperson of all the Committees on Planning and Budget, Social Sectors like Health, Education and Social Welfare and Works relating to PWD, PDD, PHE and Irrigation and Flood Control. Moreover, the Vice-Chairman will have mandate to chair quarterly review meeting, recommend re-appropriations authorized at District level which will be considered for approval by the Chairman, guide and monitor working of grievances redressal system at various levels in the district and approve the agenda for District Planning and Development Board. As far as CAPD Department is concerned, Halqa Panchayats would act as grievances redressal agency and issue directives to fair price shops, Government sales Centres, identify and recommend elimination of bogus ration cards and issuance of new cards, assist in preparing plan of action to link PDS with ICDS Mid Day Meals Scheme. Similarly, Panchayats will have powers to ensure full enrolment of school age children, transition of students from one class to other in Primary School to reduce drop outs, oversee utilization of School Maintenance Grants, maintain vigilance on regular attendance of primary school teachers, non-teaching staff and students and monitor mid day meal scheme in Primary Schools etc. As far as Forest Department is concerned, the Panchayats will ensure implementation and monitoring of micro plans, assess availability of minor forest produce and report any incidence of its misuse and report the encroachment cases to DFO concerned and supervise afforestation, plantation and nursery works within their area and report to the concerned Forest Officer. The powers and functions of the Panchayats vis-√†-vis Health and Family Welfare Department include facilitating organizing school health check up programmes, chlorination of wells- bowlies, clearing of roads, drains, sanitation and destruction of stray dogs, constitution of health and family welfare committees for sub-centres to oversee the functioning of each health institution and maintenance and up keep of ISM dispensaries and quarters. As far as Public Works Department is concerned, the Panchayats will identify, construct and maintain village paths, culverts, lanes and drains, keep vigil and bring to the notice of appropriate authority of the PWD the cases of gross misutilization of funds, corrupt practices by the staff of the Department, contractors and sub-contractors. The Panchayats will ensure maintenance of the community assets-Panchayat Ghars, Common Facility Centres, identify and select beneficiaries for SGSY-NRLM, to assist banks and other financial institutions in the recovery of loans etc. Among the other agenda, the Cabinet gave nod to the introduction of Bills to give property rights to permanent residents living in slums under Rajiv Awas Yojna and to carry out amendments in the State Vigilance Commission Act to harmonize it with Central Vigilance Commission Act during the ensuring session of the State Legislature. It also approved the agreement between recently established committee and the employees. Meanwhile, Minister for Revenue, Relief and Rehabilitation, Raman Bhalla raised the issue of electricity crisis being faced by the Kashmiri Pandit migrants in Jagati township before the Cabinet. 'The inmates of Jagati township have been facing prolonged power curtailments and the prevailing situation has been creating numerous problems for them particularly the students', he informed the Cabinet, adding 'the curtailment should be reduced for the convenience of the inmates and their family members'. Reacting to the issue, the Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah informed the Cabinet that the issue would be raised before the Joint Secretary of Union Ministry of Home Affairs during his forthcoming visit and solution would be found to this grave issue.