Panchayat System In Place After 33 Years: Omar12 June 2011
The Daily Excelsior
Srinagar: Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has said though he was relieved over successful completion of Panchayat elections in the Valley, he will have to deal tactfully with resistance from within the system to empowerment of grassroot level institutions. 'We concluded the Panchayat elections in the Valley yesterday. I never, in my wildest dreams, expected such a smooth ride through 16 phases,' Omar wrote on Twitter. Although Omar mentioned conclusion of 16 phases of the elections, only 15 phases have been held so far which have witnessed massive participation of people with some places registered over 85 per cent turnout. The last phase of the staggered election process has been further divided into two phases and will be held on June 18 and June 29 in Kargil and Zanskar areas of Ladakh region, respectively. 'It's for the first time in 33 years that we will have a Panchayat system in place. The easy job of elections is behind us, now the tough bit,' Abdullah said. Apprehending resistance to empowerment of Panchayats from within the system, he said it will have to be tactfully dealt with 'but with a strong will, a way normally emerges.' Elections to all Panchayats in the State were held last time in 1977-78. In 2001, elections were held in some areas but could not be conducted in north Kashmir Kupwara, Baramulla and Bandipora districts due to security reasons. The State Government can now expect to get at least Rs 350 crore annually under various Centrally-sponsored schemes for rural development after putting the Panchayati Raj system in place. In Leh, stating that tourism has direct bearing on the economic prosperity of the State, Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah today called for extending best hospitality to the tourists so that they carry the message of love, brotherhood and peace from here. 'Our behaviour and treatment to tourists should be such that they would love to visit here again and again', he said asking for giving preference to repeated visits of tourists over one time gain. Addressing Sindhu Festival here this morning, the Chief Minister highlighted the State's tourist potential and said that Leh and Kargil offer wide-ranging interest for heritage, adventure and conventional tourism. Omar said last year's flash flood in Ladakh marred the tourist season to a greater extent, 'I am happy to note that a good number of tourists are present in the festival and I have also been informed that arrivals this year have surpassed the tourist flow of last year till date', he said. The Chief Minister said that survey of Zojila tunnel is on fast track. 'We expect its completion soon and hope the Central Government would take up this project on priority keeping in view its urgency and economic significance for Ladakh region', he said underlining the importance of dependable and round the year communication facility for remote and backward areas of Leh and Kargil. Omar said last year's flood in Leh have caused delay in the completion and commissioning of 45 MW Numo-Bazgo hydel project.. 'Its completion is expected during the next year', he said, adding that Leh and Kargil will be connected with the Northern Power Grid through a prestigious transmission line project. On restoration of flood-hit agriculture land in Leh, Omar said that State Government has released its share of Rs. 2 crores for the same and the promised Central assistance of about Rs. 20 crores is being persuaded. The Chief Minister said that Sindhu Festival is getting popularity year after year and attracting tourists from all over the world to this part of the State. He expressed the hope that the trend will continue. Minister for Tourism, Nawang Rigzin Jora also spoke on the occasion. Later, the Chief Minister at a meeting reviewed the general development in Leh district with special focus on rehabilitation of flood-hit families. Minister for Tourism, Nawang Rigzin Jora, Chief Executive Councilors of LAHDC Leh and Kargil, Rigzin Talbar and Kachu Ahmad Ali were present in the meeting. Later, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah tried his hands at traditional archery at broke the bow. He was wearing traditional Ladakhi costumes and had a dance.