Panchayat polls in Kashmir after general elections: Omar

20 February 2009
The Hindustan Times

Jammu: Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah announced on Friday that elections to the panchayats or village councils in the state would be held immediately after the Lok Sabha polls this year. Speaking at a public meeting in Sunderbani, about 100 km north of Jammu, Omar Abdullah underscored the importance of Panchayati Raj for addressing the basic needs of the rural populace and ensure integrated development at the grassroots level. 'Panchayat elections in Jammu and Kashmir will be held after the parliamentary elections,' the chief minister announced. He regretted that the previous government had dissolved duly elected panchayats. At that time the rural development and panchayat minister was Peerzada Mohammad Sayeed, who is also a minister in the Omar Abdullah government. The panchayats, the elected councils of villages, were dissolved in the state in 2003 and elections to this third tier of governance have not been held since. The panchayats decide about the development of the villages and also sort out minor disputes between individuals. The village council polls would 'enable villages to be part of the development process and help them launch works according to their needs', Omar Abdullah said. He said it would be his government's consistent effort that villages should get their due share in decision making and the development process in the state. 'We cannot think of the development of the state unless our villages have access to roads, hospitals, schools and colleges. We need all-round development,' he said.