The Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is preparing a programme to train all newly elected sarpanchs in Jammu and Kashmir on how to take various Central government schemes that will now be extended to the bifurcated state.
The programme will also make the sarpanchs aware of various new laws that will now be applicable to the two Union Territories – Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.
A senior MHA official said: “A draft proposal has been prepared and is being sent to the Ministry of Panchayati Raj. Officials from the ministry will be given the responsibility of this training. They will be trained in batches.”
As promised earlier, the government has also increased the insurance cover of sarpanchs from Rs 2 lakh to Rs 4 lakh.
Earlier this month, close to 100 sarpanchs and members of various panchayats across J&K had come to Delhi to meet Home Minister Amit Shah.
They raised issues such as difficulties people are facing in the lockdown since August 5, salaries of panchs and sarpanchs, the threat to their lives from militants, and issues related to job creation and development in the region.
Sources in MHA said the government hopes to usher in development in J&K through the panchs and sarpanchs, elected months before special status to the state under Article 370 was scrapped on August 5. The government has said that panchayats will now get funds in bank accounts through the direct benefit transfer route for implementation of Central schemes.
“However, most panchs and sarpanchs do not even know the different Central schemes in operation, as a large number of such schemes were until now not extendable to J&K due to Article 370,” the MHA official said. “Similarly, they do not know the new protections that people can enjoy under federal laws that would now be extended to J&K.
Centre’s main links in Valley
Last year, close to 40,000 panchs and sarpanchs were elected across J&K. While PDP and NC did not take part in the polls, BJP called it an exercise in deepening democracy and taking politics to the grassroots - in particular, away from the hegemony of “two families” that lead these parties. With most political workers and leaders Kashmir detained since August 5, it is through these elected representatives that the Centre hopes to realise its promise of taking development to the remotest corners of J&K. A success on this front will help the government argue that scrapping special status under Article 370 was for the benefit of the state.
Giving an example, the official said that laws related to child marriage and dowry harassment were not applicable there till now. “But people do not know this, and sarpanchs will take this to the people,” the official added.
On his visit to J&K before abrogation of special status, Shah had met sarpanchs and asked them to take the 354 Central government schemes to the grassroots level. The Home Minister has repeatedly said that abrogation of special status will pave the way for development of the region, as it will unlock land for acquisition for industry and help reach several Central schemes to the people in the interiors.
In his address to the nation in August, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had also said that Article 370 did not let people of J&K enjoy benefits of several social welfare laws and schemes brought in by the Union government.