NC-Cong leaders agree to adopt major points of 73rd amendment

NC-Cong leaders agree to adopt major points of 73rd amendment

11 October 2012
The Daily Excelsior
Sanjeev Pargal

Jammu: National Conference and Congress, the two coalition partners in the Government, have almost succeeded in breaking the ice on implementation of 73rd amendment of the Constitution of India for empowerment of Panchayats by agreeing to include 'best areas’’ of the amendment in the State Panchayati Raj Act and pass them in budget session of the Legislature. A breakthrough on 73rd amendment, which had soared relations between National Conference and Congress, was achieved in a meeting of top brass of two parties held in Srinagar this evening. It was attended by Finance Minister Abdul Rahim Rather, Law and Parliamentary Affairs and Rural Development Minister Ali Mohammad Sagar, Industries and Commerce Minister Surjit Singh Slathia and Political Advisor to Chief Minister, Devender Rana (all from National Conference), Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand, Health Minister Sham Lal Sharma, GA Mir, former Minister and sitting MLA, Ravinder Sharma, MLC and Bashir Ahmad Magray, vice president of PCC (I) (all from Congress). This was a rare occasion in over three and half years of the coalition Government that senior political leaders of both the parties met together to discuss some issues. Prior to this only the Coordination Committee of the NC-Congress used to meet to take a decision on the issues faced by the coalition. Reliable sources told the Excelsior that consensus was gradually emerging between the two coalition partners that in view of special status of the State, the 'best areas’’ of 73rd amendment should be incorporated in the State Panchayati Raj Act itself instead of directly implementing 73rd amendment of the Constitution. Next round of the meeting was likely to be held tomorrow with same representatives. After today’s meeting, leaders of the two political parties would brief their respective high command tonight or tomorrow morning before holding second round of meeting. The ‘best areas’, which two parties were likely to agree upon for inclusion in State Panchayati Raj Act from 73rd amendment, included Constitutional guarantee to Panchayats of completion of their five years term followed by elections after every five years, financial and administrative powers including control over development and 14 departments, reservation in remaining third tier of Panchayat for SC-STs and women i.e. District Development and Planning Boards, reservation to them in Block Development Councils (BDCs) by way of nomination as the election process has already been set into motion, security to Panchayat members wherever necessary after undertaking an exercise through CID and emoluments to Sarpanchs and Panchs. Besides some other points in 73rd amendment could also be studied and, if required, incorporated in the State Panchayati Raj Act, which would be amended in budget session of the Legislature, sources said. Industries and Commerce Minister and prominent National Conference leader, Surjit Singh Slathia told the Excelsior after the meeting that whatever powers possible from 73rd amendment would be included in the State Panchayati Raj Act. 'We are committed to empowerment of Panchayats. The issues on which the consensus would emerge in the two coalition partners would be included in the State Act and passed in next session of the Legislature’’, Mr Slathia said, adding that modalities for this would be worked out. Former Minister and senior Congress leader, GA Mir, MLA said 'if not directly, the 73rd amendment of the Constitution of India for empowerment of Panchayats can be implemented by incorporating its ‘best points’ in the State Panchayati Raj Act’’. Mr Mir said the leaders of both the political parties, who were coalition partners in the Government, met in cordial and congenial atmosphere and discussed which major points of 73rd amendment of the Constitution of India could be incorporated in the State Panchayati Raj Act to empower the Panchayats in real terms. Mr Mir, who represents Dooru Assembly segment, said the major points discussed in the meeting for inclusion in the State Panchayati Raj Act, included Constitutional guarantee to Panchayats that they would complete their five years term so that there was no fear of their dismissal as some of the Panchayats elected in 2002 were dismissed half way. This would remove uncertainty among the Panchayat members. Further, elections to the Panchayats would be held after every five years. 'Just as the election process for Assembly is set into motion well in advance before it completes six years term, similar process should be adopted for the Panchayats so that they are in place well before completion of their five years term’’, Mr Mir said. On the issue of reservation in BDCs, sources said the Congress, which had strong reservations over denial of reservations to SCs, STs and women, agreed that the Government should go ahead with current mode of elections as election process for the Councils has already been set into motion. However, they were of the view that SC-STs and women should be compensated in the BDCs by way of nominations for which there was a provision in the State Panchayati Raj Act. However, both sides were unanimous that there should be reservation for SCs, STs and women in third tier of the Panchayats i.e. the District Development and Planning Boards when the elections are held to them after the constitution of Block Development Councils. Sources said the leaders from both political parties were unanimous on empowerment of Panchayats and incorporation of the major points of 73rd amendment, which were good for the Panchayats as well as the State, by the way of amendment in State Panchayati Raj Act in next session of the Legislature. There was virtually consensus between the coalition partners on financial and administrative powers of the Panchayats. The two parties agreed that the Panchayats should get control of 14 Departments in real terms and not merely on papers. The financial powers of the Panchayats should be handsome so that the Panchayat members were able to take up development of their area. The constitution of the Finance Commission for the Panchayat has already been approved. Sources said security of Panchayat members, though not part of 73rd amendment, was also taken up in the meeting. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has already announced that security measures were being taken for the Panchayat members. The meeting was of the view that a CID survey could be undertaken for night patrolling in vulnerable areas and providing individual PSOs to the Sarpanchs, wherever necessary. Sources added that leaders of both the political parties agreed that the amendments were now possible only in the Legislature but a consensus would be evolved on the powers of the Panchayats from 73rd amendment, which would be incorporated in the State Panchayati Raj Act and passed in next session of the Legislature. Various political parties during debate in the Assembly on empowerment of Panchayats had favour either direct or indirect implementation of 73rd amendment of the Constitution of India on the ground that without this, the Panchayats wouldn’t be able to serve the purpose of development at grass root level. Sources said the upcoming BDC elections for which the nominations had opened yesterday were also major factor for both the parties to categorically assure the Panchayat members, who formed Electoral College for the BDC chairpersons, that they would get powers of 73rd amendment through the State Act. Political leaders of both the parties feared that they could lose ground in the BDC elections to the opposition parties if such an assurance was not held out immediately. Elections for 143 chairpersons of the BDCs are being held on November 7.