Laxity in governance

Kashmir Times. Dated: 1/10/2018 12:51:48 PM

Devolution of powers through meaningful and empowered panchayats and local bodiescan reverse the trend

Governor NN Vohra's reminder to the Jammu and Kashmir government about administrative reach out must not fall on deaf ears. Rather it should provide an opportunity to the state government to fairly introspect its multiple administrative laxities and make suitable amends that match the promises laid out in the Agenda of Alliance. The coalition government was formed on certain principles and common ground, despite extremely different ideological components, certainly needs to be carried to its logical conclusion, not only for the sake of pelf, prestige and power but for delivering and meeting the needs of the public. That sadly has been missing due to four main reasons. One is the huge trust deficit between the coalition partners, making them pull in different directions. Second is the precarious situation in the Valley and on the borders. Third is the inability to operate with multiple limitations of the government in face of a Hindutva inspired government in New Delhi and its increasing penchant for remote controlling the politics of the state. Fourthly and significantly, the present state government has also been guided by its own inherent lethargy and failing to gear up its administrative machinery in areas where it can have optimum control and opportunity to work. The governor was perhaps conscious of all the three limitations and the inherent complacency of the government while making his remarks on Monday during the first Mufti memorial lecture. His sanguine advice, without reflecting on the limitations of the present government or the bickerings stemming from ideological asymmetrical positions, is for the government to act by responding to the basic needs of the larger public, irrespective of the political situation of the state and internal political and social diversity. There definitely is immediate need to focus on a couple of issues in pursuit of good and transparent governance and economic growth and development.
Sustainability of development and accountability agenda hugely depends on the devolution of powers through the three tiered structure of Panchayats, municipalities and municipal corporations. Decentralised structure of polity with empowerment of institutions at the grassroots level can go a long way in ensuring both development and sustainable growth as well as bring the much needed transparency and accountability in governance. After being in power for almost four years, the PDP led coalition government has finally given the go-ahead for Panchayat elections but shown no inclination for effectively empowering the Panchayats and the local bodies to discharge their statutory functions effectively and efficiently by giving them functional roles and fiscal responsibilities. It is not known whether the Panchayat elections are aimed at over-all development through devolution of powers or simply to act as a cosmetic ploy to cool down the frayed tempers across the state for different reasons. The government should not forget recent history of Panchayat polls. The last time these were held in 2010, they witnessed an unprecedented verve during the polling process but ultimately metamorphosed into despair and deep rooted anger and alienation. The entire electioneering process aimed at mollifying anger only ended up flaring it and invoking a deeper distrust in the functioning system of democracy, which tends to centralise authority in the hands of a few and forbids a culture of accountability and transparent and thus hampers the prospects of equitable development which can be best achieved through devolution of powers. If the present government is to repeat such follies, it would indeed be a wasted opportunity and every other move with regards to development and accountability would seem half hearted as the devolution of powers through local bodies and Panchayats lies at the core of equitable development that this new government talks about and good governance. The road to future and also for the health of this coalition government is in introducing an element of some dignity to the institution of Panchayats by amending the Panchayat related laws suitably and at par with rest of the country, also by bringing some zest and life into the other local bodies to fulfill the greater ambition of equitable development as promised in the Agenda of Alliance.



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