Relevance of 3Fs and the Role of Necessary and Sufficient Conditions in Devolution

Dr B P Syam Roy, West Bengal 

Abstract : The core of the Seventy third Amendment of our Constitution is devolution –a functional concept which is yet to take universal shape in the decentralised Local governance in our country. It is in fact a classical case how erratic understanding of devolution at different levels of stake holders derails a functioning process. Devolution is organically connected with devolution of functions only, which includes functional autonomy in respect of defined subjects for decision taking, financial autonomy on resource raising and implementation autonomy on schemes designed by them. The catchy phrase  ‘3Fs’, which tends to cover devolution of fund and  devolution of functionaries as well ,has  corrupted the entire conceptual scenario on devolution and has done incalculable harm to its cause through  its multiplier effect. For the devolution of functions to be effective and meaningful, a set of necessary and sufficient actions, both legislative and executive, have to be put in place. As required under Article 243G, which mentions ‘the devolution of powers and responsibilities upon Panchayats, at the appropriate level’, the respective State Panchayat Act has to incorporate tier specific distinct powers and responsibilities from the Eleventh Schedule through the State Legislature. The sufficient action relates to ensure that there does not exist any concurrent jurisdiction on devolved items of function  among the tiers of Panchayat. The functions  so devolved  have  to be  reflected in  the notification issued under Rules of Business  of the State Government as per Article 166(3).

 Background

Democracy and democratic governance have become the order of the human civilization and are also the very attributes of any modern state. Gone are the days when the citizens of a state looked forward for the amenities of life on the benevolent dictator. It was totally a destiny driven life of inequity and uncertainty. It does no longer fit in with the concept of ownership and participation of the modern mind. It is not the chance factor but opening up of opportunities that characterizes democratic governance. Democratic governance is now the ultimate destination point of all governance system around the world. Its formal structure may vary from one country to another on ground of geo-political and cultural diversity but the inherent fundamental of popular participation is the hall mark of decentralised model of governance everywhere in the world. The traditional system of governance by remote control from distant location is also no substitute for a system of local governance and local participation. The local participation  enables  not only selection of locally relevant schemes with its bearing on living environment, it also promotes  cost efficiency by subjecting openness to public scrutiny and by institutionalizing accountability to the  stake holder community and  other individuals. Further, involving local people may also result in investment in socially desirable services, particularly in drinking water, health care and primary education and in the process meets development deficit of the locality to a great extent. Additionally, decentralization can increase economic participation by facilitating local entrepreneurial activity, and thus increasing employment, in several ways.

Types & Forms of Decentralisation

Decentralised governance may have different character and forms. From an operational angle, it might be divided into two ways – horizontal and vertical.

Horizontal decentralisation is characterised by dispersal of power among institutions at the same level e.g. decision of any government to concurrently empower its line departments to take spending decisions, like those of  its finance department ,belongs  to this category .Here financial power is spread across the line departments without keeping it concentrated within the finance department only.

Vertical decentralisation is distinguished by delegation of some of the powers of the central government to the lower tier of authorities –to states in federal countries and further down to regional and local governments or  to village institutions. Vertical decentralization of any government can itself take three forms as follows :

Deconcentration

It is the primary stage of decentralisation where limited power and authority are passed down. It is confined to exercising administrative discretion at the level of local offices of the ministries of the government. In this system although it does take place some dispersal of power, few decisions can be taken without reference to the government.

Delegation

This falls in the intermediate stage of decentralisation where some defined  authority and decision-making powers on specified items  are passed on  to local officials. But the government retains the right to overturn local decisions and can, at any time, take these powers back. Like deconcentration, it is confined to among the officials of the government. It does not cover local level institutions.

Devolution

It is the strongest form of decentralization .It covers local level institutions only. In this form of decentralisation, full decision-making powers are granted to local authorities and allowing them to take full responsibility without reference back to the government. Such bodies are empowered with financial power as well as the authority to design and execute local development projects and programmes. It is also instrumental to pave the way for fiscal decentralisation.

In other words, for qualifying devolution there needs to exist three essential requisites namely,

  • functional autonomy in respect of defined subjects for decision taking
  • financial autonomy on resource raising
  • implementation autonomy on schemes designed by them

The Constitution of India, while institutionalising local governance in the country under the 73rd and the 74th Amendments, adopted this devolution mode of vertical decentralisation as described above and  accordingly enshrined ‘ ..the devolution of powers and responsibilities upon Panchayats, at the  appropriate level’ under  Article 243G  and ‘….. the devolution of powers and responsibilities upon Municipalities’ under Article 243W . In other words, it is not the old PRIs concept of undivided family and togetherness as such but that all tiers of Panchayat would need to have distinct devolved powers and responsibilities from the Eleventh Schedule, as institutions of self-government. Similarly, the Municipalities need to have distinct devolved powers and responsibilities from the Twelfth Schedule, as institutions of self-government. The quality of democratic governance in our country depends on our ability to follow the constitution mandated path of devolution.

Conceptual clarity is an essential prerequisite for the way forward on devolution. The diversity of views is not devolution-friendly and created a lot of confusion in the operational process to obtain the desired outcome. In fact, such plural, diverse and erratic understanding of devolution at different levels of stake holders derails a functioning process, as it happened in our country. Devolution is organically connected with devolution of functions only, which includes functional autonomy in respect of defined subjects for decision taking, financial autonomy on resource raising and implementation autonomy on schemes designed by them. The catchy phrase ‘3Fs’, which tends to cover devolution of functions  along with devolution of fund and  devolution of functionaries as well, has  corrupted the entire conceptual scenario on devolution and has done incalculable harm to its cause through  its multiplier effect.

In the given background, it would be desirable to take up a number of related items for conceptual clarifications:

3Fs and Devolution

The Constitution of India has not defined Devolution .It has accepted the generic meaning of devolution. The absence of any constitutional definition of devolution has given rise to plural understandings .One of such interpretations  is in terms of catchy phrase 3Fs.The use of catchy phrase linked with any functioning process  usually  serves to unearth its inherent meaning. The coinage of 3Fs is sought to mean and include (i) devolution of functions, (ii) devolution of fund and (iii) devolution of functionaries. This is, however, far from its real meaning of devolution.  Surprisingly, this catchy phrase ‘3Fs’ has wide acceptance in the Decentralization Community and at various levels of government functionaries. The espousal of an erratic understanding has road blocked the process of devolution and instrumental in not furthering the cause of devolution in our country at all. Let us now spell out 3Fs and understand its implications.

Devolution of functions

As earlier pointed out, the Constitution of India has not defined Devolution. The absence of any clear definition on devolution has given rise to plural understandings on devolution among stake holders leading to a state of confusion across the States. Devolution is very often equated with agency function and assignment of schemes. Such understanding has not helped in the growth of local governments. The possible correct meaning of devolution, as accepted by the international community, may be found in the Human Development Report, 1993 published by the UNDP. It states that of the three forms of decentralisation namely, de-concentration, delegation and devolution, the strongest form of decentralization is devolution. It empowers decision-making powers to local authorities and allowing them to take full responsibility without reference back to government. This includes financial power as well as the authority to design and execute local development projects and programmes. The said statement points out three components of devolution namely,

  • functional autonomy in respect of defined subjects for decision taking,
  • financial autonomy on resource raising and
  • implementation autonomy on schemes designed by them.

The Constitution of India, while institutionalising local governance in the country under the 73rd and the 74th Amendments, adopted this devolution mode and accordingly enshrined ‘ ….. the devolution of powers and responsibilities upon Panchayats, at the  appropriate level’ under  Article 243G  and ‘…. the devolution of powers and responsibilities upon Municipalities’ under Article 243W. In other words, all tiers of Panchayat would need to have distinct devolved powers and responsibilities from the Eleventh Schedule, as institutions of self-government. Similarly, the Municipalities need to have distinct devolved powers and responsibilities from the Twelfth Schedule, as institutions of self-government.

Let us now examine the two other components of 3Fs, namely, Devolution of funds and Devolution of functionaries:

Devolution of funds: The Constitution of India has not included  the word devolution of funds either in Article 243G or  under 243W nor even when setting up SFC under Article 243I and Article 243Y.The Constitution makers were aware about the need of back-up fund support for performing devolved responsibilities. It is worth recalling in this connection that prior to devolution of specified functional items to the tier of Panchayats or the Municipalities, the departments of the state government have been performing these functions from state resources .Therefore, with devolution of functions, the tiers of Panchayat or Municipalities are also entitled required fund to perform their devolved responsibilities. The institution of State Finance Commission (SFC ) has been put in place to award these  entitlement by way of transfer from the state finance.  Article 243I or 243Y refrained from using the word devolution of fund; it has instead used the word of distribution between the State and the Panchayats /Municipalities of the net proceeds of the taxes, duties tolls and fees leviable by the State for implementing devolved responsibilities. Such recommendation is of a kind of entitlement of fund for implementing constitutional responsibilities. There is no scope for any further funding support under ”devolution of fund”for devolved responsibilities as per the Constitutional provision  The word devolution of funds is ,therefore, confusing and misleading and  may not be used at all.

Devolution of functionaries :  The Constitution of India has not provided for anything called devolution of functionaries .Such coinage is anything but absurd. It is possible to speak of deputation of functionaries from the Establishment of the State Government to the tiers of the Panchayat or to any of the Municipalities of the State in the short run. There could as well as be  deployment of functionaries from the Establishment of the State Government to the tiers of the Panchayat or to any or Municipalities of the State under defined terms. There cannot, however, be anything called devolution of functionaries. This idea is not only non-implementable but has generated in the process tremendous harm in the conceptual domain. As a matter of fact, from the long term perspective of any local body, it has to organise its own staff for implementing its devolved responsibilities from entitlement of fund receivable for implementing constitutional responsibilities .Additionally, while recommending award for the grants-in-aid to the Panchayats from the Consolidated Fund of India  under Article 243I(a)(iii) or to the Municipalities under Article 243Y(a)(iii)  the SFC need  as well to address the cost of functionaries/personnel support  in its recommendations.

Incidentally, the cost of functionaries/personnel support  for assigned schemes is outside the perview of  the SFC and has to be addressed by the concerned assignee at the time of settlement of assignment package. There  is nothing to link assignment package with devolution.

It is a matter of concern that the country is still to witness constitution ordained local self governments discharging devolution based functional powers and responsibilities. Even at the risk of being looked repetitive, it would nevertheless be desirable at this stage to revisit, separately, the necessary and sufficient actions to put in place devolution.

Necessary Actions

The necessary conditions stipulate that following issues have to be kept in the upfront while addressing devolution of powers and responsibilities. They may be as follow:

Understanding the Premise

The devolution of functional items depends on clear understanding of the premise of functional distribution of powers and responsibilities of the Union Government ( Union List) and the State Government (State List) on the one hand and the State Government and the Panchayats(Eleventh Schedule) or Municipalities(Twelfth Schedule) on the other. Devolution of functional distribution of powers and responsibilities can flow out  only  from  powers and responsibilities of the State as per State List .There is no scope to flow out such functional  powers and responsibilities from the Concurrent List  in favour of  the tiers of the Panchayats or to the Municipalities. In order to ensure that devolution of functional distribution to the tiers of the Panchayats or to the Municipalities is lawfully done, and not notionally, the Constitution of India has enshrined Eleventh Schedule and Twelfth Schedule, for the Panchayats and Municipalities respectively  and requires in Article 243G and Article 243W that such devolution has to be  passed by the Legislature of a State. When it is so passed and becomes a Law, such devolved functional items would cease to remain as functional items of the departments of the State Government. It is for the same reason that neither the department of the Panchayat nor does the department of Municipalities of the State Government have any authority to order devolution of any functional responsibilities through  any notification.

Further, consequent on devolution of powers and responsibilities to the local self governments, there will be  five Constitutional units (i.e. State Government, Gram Panchayat, Intermediate or Block Panchayat and Zilla Panchayats and Municipalities ) for discharging duties and responsibilities in the geographical area of the State (in addition to Central Government for Central Sector Schemes, if there be any). For effecting devolution ,therefore, a thoughtful exercise has to be preceded on functional mapping for items to be administered by the departments of the State Governments and the tiers of Panchayats and Municipalities.

Listing out of Functional Items 

Listing out of functional items is the crux of the whole issue on devolution. Based on the State Government’s vision and the infrastructural strength of the local government bodies of the day, it has to decide what parts of functional items have to be devolved. Before taking decision on it, generic nature of functional items of the Eleventh and the Twelve Schedule needs to be broken up, clearly and unambiguously, in functional components and language. The clarity on functional items and its pragmatic dis-aggregation determines the quality of devolution. It also shapes the functional and institutional image of the local bodies.

Incidentally, it may be kept in mind that devolution of functional responsibilities may take place in one installment; it can as well be effected by phases depending on the maturity of the concerned tier of Panchayat to absorb the intended load, perform its given responsibility and ensure its delivery of outcome. There is no bar if any state government decides to devolve such functional responsibility in more than one phase. The Constitution of India in Article 243G has not set any time limit nor it has mentioned that it has to take place at one go. However, it is desirable that based upon the spirit of the amendments of the Constitution, devolution of functional items need to be good enough to build up an institutional character at the first instance.

Mapping of Functional Items

For effecting devolution among the tiers of Panchayats it would be necessary to have detailed functional break-up for the components of functional items to be devolved to the Panchayats as a whole and then map its components as village-centric, Block-centric or District-centric. The relevance of functional areas, its possible interconnectedness and the availability of infrastructural support etc are to be factored in for decision on devolution. At this stage, the principle of subsidiarity as recommended by the Second Administrative Reforms Commission (2nd ARC) for devolution may be given due consideration. The 2nd ARC recorded its recommendations at para 2.2.3  as below:

“The principle of subsidiarity stipulates: functions shall be carried out closest to citizens at the smallest unit of governance possible and delegated upwards only when the local unit cannot perform the task.”

Having due importance to the principle  of subsidiarity , ground realities  have also to be given its appropriate  weightage e.g. the load-bearing capacity of the first tier of local governance and its  institutional limitation. Besides, other tiers of Panchayats are also required to perform Constitution mandated role as institutions of local self-governments.

The same process need to be carried on for the Municipalities as well.

Activity Mapping vs Functional Mapping

While undertaking functional mapping of components of development functions, it is to be guarded against the confusing concept of activity mapping. Activity mapping and functional mapping are two different concepts. Functional mapping, as earlier mentioned, is   a kind of listing of possible functions relevant for decision on devolution. Activity mapping on the other hand is an exercise to catalogue activities relevant to perform any task or defined function e.g. implementation of a scheme. Functional mapping is an essential requisite for effective devolution while activity mapping is an exercise for quality performance of any work. For the same reason, the Constitution of India in Article 243G or 243W speaks of devolution of functions and not devolution of activities.

The functional mapping means that subject areas of any development functional  items e.g. Drinking water items do have different layers of functional components –  for the Nodal department of the State Government, for different tiers of the Panchayats and also for the Municipalities. Unless the functional components of programme partners on Drinking water are mapped out, it would not be possible to work out confusion-free realistic devolution in between the line departments of the Government and the units of local governments in the Panchayats or the Municipalities.

Further, there are common items in the Eleventh and the Twelfth Schedule on education, health and sanitation, drinking water, roads, energy, poverty alleviation, and welfare of the weaker sections. All these items are also administered by the departments of the State Government under its Constitutional obligations. All Constitutional partners-the line departments of the State Government, the tiers Panchayats and the Municipalities- need to have clearly demarcated functional items, as per their relevant Schedule, which will  be the basis for its planning .implementation and monitoring.

Incidentally, the Task Force on Devolution of Powers & Functions upon Panchayati  Raj Institutions, of the Ministry of Rural Development, GoI  way back in 2001 brought in the concept of   activity mapping  as essential requisite for devolution and which  in fact created the nationwide confusion  and  has not helped  in operationalizing devolution  at all in the states of India. As a matter of fact, the concept of Activity based  functions is anathema to  the concept  of local self-government and perforce subordinate functional relationship among the tiers of Panchayat – an area totally alien to the high valued concept of devolution.

Further, the very idea of relaying the baton of performance of one activity of one tier on to the next tier is anything but practical. The dependence on time sequenced performance of an activity of another tier brings in its turn dependence syndrome, uncertainty and tension in the area of programme implementation. Besides, when such activity is linked with a number of units of one tier (i.e.Gram  Panchayats) to another tier ( say, Block Panchayat), the chance of performance of complementary activity by the next tier becomes all the more uncertain in a time-line. Further, budgeting for activities of a part of a function across the tiers of Panchayat is an unusual concept and hardly implementable. Needless to mention, output of a scheme is a wholesome concept and depends on performance of all activities. Additionally, it is impossible for the District Planning Committee (DPC) to consolidate plans prepared by 3-tiers of Panchayats based on activity planning.

Finally, it is just not  possible to  effect  any legislation on devolution, based on activities linked items, as  per Article 243G or  Article 243W .

Devolution & Centrally Sponsored Schemes 

Another confusing area on devolution is with reference to Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CSS). The CSS fall in the jurisdiction of Concurrent list and are funded by the Union Government and the State Government on a shared basis ( i.e. 90%-10%,80%-20%,75%-25%,50%-50% etc.). The functional domain of CSS is outside the domain of devolution.

The current practice of issuing CSS by the Union Government under Article 282 and earmarking particular role of the tiers of Panchayat has added confusion on the devolution scenario. The assignment of such CSS  to local self governments, if considered necessary, has to be in keeping with the structure of devolution as enacted by the concerned State Government. Interestingly, such CSS are seldom formally assigned by the State Government. Since such CSS fall in the jurisdiction of Concurrent list, the assignment of any scheme to the tier of Panchayats or the Municipalities has to take the route of the concerned State Government  only by way of notification. Further, it is desirable that such CSS need to be assigned, as far as possible ,to any given tier of Panchayat and not all the tiers at the same time to ensure focused outcome. Finally, it is  reiterated once again that assignment of CSS to the tiers of Panchayats or Municipalities can never be equated  as proxy indicator of devolution.

Devolution and the Assigned Schemes

Assigned schemes are those entrusted to any tier of the Panchayats or to the Municipalities by the departments of the State Government under the respective State Act through a notification under defined terms and conditions. Since the State Panchayat Act/Municipal Act does not keep any  provision for  any role of for   the Ministry of the Central Government , the later cannot assign any scheme directly to  any tier of the Panchayats or to the Municipalities. Assignment of schemes can only be effected  by  any department of the State Government. Unlike devolved responsibilities, it is, however, not a kind of institutional empowerment by the Legislature of a State. It is scheme specific assignment only and valid for the term of assignment.  In other words, while devolution leads to empowerment through state legislation, assignment is a task concept of implementation of schemes by the departments of the state government. There does not exist any scope for devolution of any scheme, what so ever. It is for the same reason, Assigned schemes are not qualified to pass for proxy indicator for devolution.

The compliance of necessary conditions by itself is not good enough for putting in place devolution. Unless the sufficient conditions are met, it will not be possible to ensure devolution to take place firmly. The non-compliance of the sufficient conditions explains why the country is still to institutionalize constitution ordained devolution. The sufficient conditions are discussed below.

Sufficient Conditions

No Concurrent Jurisdiction

The concept of devolution does not permit concurrent jurisdiction. The tiers of Panchayat( Gram Panchayat, Intermediate Panchayat or Block Panchayat and Zilla Panchayat) are units of local self government. Such local self governments are sovereign within their own functional areas and are not subordinate to another tier of Panchayat. Article 243G clearly mentions for devolution of powers and responsibilities upon Panchayats at the appropriate level. This means that there has to devolve distinct powers and responsibilities in favour of Gram Panchayat, Block Panchayat and Zilla Panchayat. In order that the devolution of  powers and responsibilities is made tier specific, the  sufficient action requires  to ensure that there does not exist any concurrent  jurisdiction on devolved items of function  among the tiers of Panchayat.

Government’s Rules of Business and Devolution

The devolution of powers and responsibilities need also to be looked from other administrative and procedural angles. The State Government publishes notification of Rules of Business for the departments of the State Government under Article 166(3) of the Constitution indicating therein the kind of business that would be performed by the respective line departments in the State as per the List II – State List of the Seventh Schedule. This is the most crucial area for effecting devolution. Unless the devolved items meant for either of the panchayats or the municipalities are excluded from the purview of Rules of Business of the line departments, the devolution would not have any functional meaning. There is no scope for concurrent jurisdiction of  the departments  of the State Government over such devolved items.

References

  1. Government of India : The Constitution of India.
  2. UNDP : Human Development Report, 1993.
  3. Government of India : Report of the Task Force on Devolution of Powers & Functions upon Panchayati Raj Institutions. New Delhi, Krishi Bhawan, 2001.
  4. Government of India : Report of the Second Administrative Reforms Commission, Vol 6.
  5. Comments on Solution Exchange of UNDP, Decentralisation Community.
  6. Dr. B P Syam Roy : The Niceties of District Planning-An operational framework.  New Delhi, Gyan Publications, 2010.  

NB : Dr B P Syam Roy was in the Indian Administrative Service and was a member of the Third State Finance Commission (SFC), West Bengal. To download a copy of this article in word format (.docx), please click this link.


Participatory Budgeting : Porto Alegre Innovation


Abraham Karammel
Mainz, Germany
(A retired NRI with over 35 years overseas life experience)
Email: karammela@yahoo.com

As an overseas Indian from Kerala, I realised that Kerala’s and India’s development have been slow, erratic and imbalanced. During the last years of my working life, I tried to find an efficient governance model for the fast socio-economic development of my native state Kerala and my motherland India. My first discovery was Singapore, the most successful city of the 20th century. Its system of ‘Meritocracy’ is very efficient and highly productive; it made a city of superlatives. Singapore’s institutionalisation is worth emulating. But, the small city-state’s authoritarian and restrictive rule is not practical in Kerala and India.

On further search, I discovered ‘Porto Alegre Innovation’. The Brazilian city of Porto Alegre was bankrupt in 1988, spending 96 percent of its revenue for salaries and routine expenses – no funds for development projects! On pressure from local NGOs, the new Workers Party Mayor Mr. Olivio Dutra, together with the NGOs, devised and introduced a yearly cyclic Participatory Budgeting (PB) Process in 1989. This PB process evolved into world’s most systematic, very flexible and highly efficient proceess for fast, comprehensive, equitable and sustainable socio-economic development. Thru this process, Porto Alegre became Brazil’s city with the best quality of life in 12 years! Thus, the process became world famous as ‘Porto Alegre Innovation’!

It is simple and decentralised at the bottom level. Its flexibleility, people centred process etc make it suitable and acceptable to any village, town or city in any country. The well defined, self-improving and adapting process spread in Brazil and outside. In addition to about 300 communities in Brazil, more than 1200 communities in over 40 countries like Argentina, Chile, China, Ecuador, Paraguay, Uruguay, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, UK, USA etc are adapting the PB process! But, most are doing simple versions of PB! The innovative PB is a real panasea for socio-economic ills. Only a close study will reveal the ‘Angels in Details’ and provide the specifics, which if adapted can transform Kerala and India very fast.

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Kashmir: Dance of Grassroots Democracy


Dr Geoge Mathew
Chairman,
Institute of Social Sciences
New Delhi 110070

The 33 km. drive from Srinagar to Nagam block, Badgam district in the summer goes through beautiful landscapes. The apple groves welcome you, but the village roads are pathetic, no maintenance. My mission was to meet the villagers of Karkpura ward, Shakarpura Halqa Panchayat where Hassina was killed on 15 April during the second phase of the 2011 Panchayat elections in Jammu and Kashmir. Hassina’s eldest daughter, son, sisters and neighbours welcomed us with tears in their eyes. The elections were scheduled to be held on 17th April. On 15th night about 10 o’clock, Hassina (45) was preparing to sleep. Her dream was to win the seat. But seven men knocked at her door, pulled her out and shouted at her: how dare you contest the elections? Withdraw from the poll. Hassina agreed. But they wanted Hassina to make statement to that effect before the Numberdar. She refused, but they forced her to walk in the dark to the village headman’s residence with her son. Midway through, the seven men disappeared and she was shot dead by a person who was hiding nearby. Why did she contest the panchayat elections? Hassina was suffering from extreme poverty; her husband had deserted her. Her friends and neighbours convinced her that if she contested the panchayat election and won, that would be the best way to overcome her miseries. Hassina is no more. Her dream also died with her. She had dared to fight the panchayat elections, a legitimate democratic aspiration. I was eager to meet her rival candidate Taja. This 65 year old woman was very disturbed. The same night Hassina was killed, five men went to her house as well and physically abused her, they swore vengeance if she defied their diktat.
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Impact of Rural Job Scheme on J & K Panchayat Polls

Dr. P.P. Balan
Director
Kerala Institute of Local Administration (KILA)
Mulagunnathukavu P O, Thrissur – 680581
Moblie: 09915535656
E-mail : balanpp25@gmail.com

Fifteen voters from each Community Development Blocks of Kupwara,  Budgam, Kangan, Qoimoh Samba and Udhampur in the Jammu and Kashmir regions were interviewed on the day of first phase of Election. In addition to this, government officials who were involved in the election process were interviewed. Discussions were also conducted with the Chief Electoral Officer, representatives of the media and political parties.

Introduction

After a decade of gap, election to Panchayat Raj Institutions has been  held in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Unlike in the 2001 elections polling  percentage turned out to be relatively good. Vote percentage of 2001 election  was very low leaving nearly half of the seats vacant. In spite of 1/3 of  reservation for women, the state was able to fill only 6% of reserved seats. It  is important to say that in case of many seats, there was not even one  contestant. The militant and separatist groups called for boycotting the election and disturbed the election process in many places in Jammu and  Kashmir.

Polls to the local governments were not held in 2006 in Jammu and  Kashmir due to security concerns. However, elections this year gives an  entirely different picture. Panchayats Election was conducted in sixteen phases  starting from13th of April. This process ended on the 8th  of June. Over 50 lakh eligible voters participated in the electoral process to  elect 4130 Sarpanches[i]  (2164 in Kashmir and 1966 in Jammu) and 29,719 Panches[ii]  (15,959 in Kashmir and 13,760 in Jammu). There are 143 Block Panchayats (77 in  Kashmir and 66 in Jammu) and 22 District Panchayats in state went for polls.

The Panchayat election was held in the backdrop of a boycott call by  some of the separatists groups who burned down some Panchayat Ghars[iii]  and attacks on some political party  activists which even went up to the murder of a woman candidate. The murder of Moulana  Showkat Ahmad, president Jamiat-e-Ahliadees (JeA) in an improvised explosive device  near Maisuma mosque in Srinagar created chaos in the valley just before the  first phase of election

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