Power at grass root level Govt's top priority: Omar

Power at grass root level Govt's top priority: Omar

29 January 2013
The Daily Excelsior
Fayaz Bukhari

Srinagar: Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah, today said his Government's top priority is to transfer governance to grass root level and the best judges of his Governments' performance are people, and not the opposition People's Democratic Party (PDP) or separatists. While addressing two separate functions of rolling out prestigious National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM) at Lar, Ganderbal in Central Kashmir and reviewing status of devolution of powers to Panchayats at SKICC in Srinagar, Omar said the rural poverty in the State is not so severe as in rest of the country due to land reforms initiated by his grandfather, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah. He said that he made farmers owners of agriculture land free of cost through the historic Land Reform Acts that helped in poverty alleviation of rural poor. Omar said people of the State are the best judges of the performance of his Government. 'The public satisfaction over the work done by the Government is the only genuine and valid certificate', he said. While addressing a gathering at Ganderbal, the Chief Minister said 'My report card is before the people of Jammu and Kashmir and they have to give me certificate for my Government's performance. As such, I am not afraid of the propaganda and false bogies carried by my detractors whether they are from Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) or separatists.' He said people of the State would judge his performance as the Chief Minister and those of Ganderbal Assembly Constituency as MLA in 2014 State Assembly elections. The Chief Minister while reviewing status of devolution of powers to Panchayats in Kashmir division during a meeting of the officers of 14 departments whose various functions have been transferred to Panchayat Raj Institutions (PRI), said 'Our aim is to establish a powerful Panchayat Raj system and transfer governance from Civil Secretariat to grass roots.' He told the meeting that Panchayat elections and transfer of powers from 14 departments is aimed at empowering the PRI. He asked the officers to remove the shortcomings in smooth devolution of powers to Panchayats. He, however, expressed satisfaction over the process of transaction of powers and stressed for capacity building of Panchs and Sarpanch for utilization of these powers. The Chief Minister said that Panchayats is a new system in the State and transfer of powers to them will take some time. He said that the feedback he received at Jammu and Srinagar in interaction sessions about transfer of power is positive. Omar said that his Government is committed to an empowered 3-tier Panchayat Raj system in the State. 'We are working out a system in which Panchayats will be responsible for plan formation and implementation of developmental schemes but this will be after BDC elections which are in offing', he said. The Chief Minister said that high level nodal officers of the rank of Additional District Development Commissioners are monitoring the utilization of the powers by Panchs and Sarpanchs in each district. He maintained that there may be gap in the utilization of powers by Panchs and Sarpanchs in some cases. He stressed for upgrading awareness among Panchayat members about their powers and asked the officers to develop a mind-set of working in tandem with Panchayat members. Omar said difficult topography, remoteness of areas and hilly terrain requires a well-defined and powerful Panchayat system to attend to the public needs. He added that besides focusing on the works of financial implications they should concentrate on ensuring attendance of teachers in schools, availability of ration at ration depots, functioning of aganwari centres and so many other services entrusted to them by the Government for better service delivery and good-governance. The Chief Minister said that his Government is working on a proposal of providing honorarium, insurance and security cover to Panchayats and necessary provision for the same will be incorporated in the next year's budget. Omar directed the Rural Development Department to prepare a comprehensive feedback report of interaction sessions held at Jammu and Srinagar. 'I would discuss the details with the concerned Ministers to make the process of devolution more smooth and fast', he said. He asked for a joint meetings of Panchayat members and officers to discuss devolution of powers. While launching NRLM under the local name 'Umeed' to target rural poverty and bring about economic welfare in the rural households at Lar Ganderbal, the Chief Minister said that his Government for past four years had been working for poverty alleviation through various schemes and NRLM is yet another initiative in this regard. Omar said that the Centrally sponsored NRLM was sanctioned for four blocks but by his persuasion at the Central Government level one block in each district is being sanctioned to be covered under the first phase of the programme. The Chief Minister said that during his visit to certain villages in Utter Pradesh, he has witnessed the positive impact of NRLM for upliftment of rural poor. He said the success of the scheme is largely dependent on the unified efforts of the department and the people. He said that the people have important role in making the scheme viable and purposeful for alleviating poverty and improving economy of poor households. He also highlighted the role of Mission Director of the scheme and said that his approach and sincere work is key to see the scheme delivering and successful. Omar said that State has witnessed difficult period and economy of common man received heavy jolt. 'We all have to work together to cultivate peace and seek bright and prosperous future for the State', he said. The Chief Minister said that he is well aware of the public difficulties and development needs in different areas. 'We are moving ahead with commitment and determination to seek public welfare', he said. Speaking on the occasion, Minister for Rural Development, Ali Mohammad Sagar said that 'Umeed' initiative would prove highly significant for poverty alleviation in rural areas. Sagar said that NRLM will provide institutional platform to rural poor to start gainful activities for poverty reduction and economic betterment. He said the scheme provides for building strong grass-root institutions of the poor, engage them in gainful livelihood interventions and appreciable improvement in their economy on a sustainable basis. Lar, Khansahib, Basholi and Chenani are first four blocks in which NRLM is being launched at present. The NRLM is being rolled out in a phased manner at block level in the next 5 years. To saturate all the blocks in the State, a two-pronged implementation approach namely; Intensive and Non Intensive Approach will be adopted. Blocks under intensive approach will be manned with dedicated and sensitive staff for rolling out of mission. These blocks will demonstrate the 'proof of concept' and act as immersion sites for learning by other non-intensive blocks. These blocks will also be treated as resource sites to seed best practices in remaining blocks and expand NRLM in those blocks in a phased manner. To ensure that at the end of two years, every district has at least one block developed under Intensive approach, 8 blocks (1 block in each district) would be covered under Intensive approach in the first year and 14 blocks in remaining 14 districts would be taken up in the second year. The total of 22 blocks to be undertaken in the first two years in all 22 districts of the State would be developed under Intensive Approach strategy. The roll out in non-intensive blocks would be taken up six months after the start of intensive block strategy in those districts. However, the capacity building of the staff and other stakeholders of the remaining non-intensive blocks would start from the third month of starting resource block strategy, thus, the block coverage that would be achieved. To ensure universal mobilisation, at least one member from each rural poor and vulnerable household, preferably a woman, has to be brought under the Self Help Group (SHG) net within the next five years. To start with, Resource Block Strategy would be undertaken in the identified blocks. Eight-resource blocks would be taken from the identified 22 intensive blocks within the first six months. The work would start in the month of Feb 2013 for Jammu division and from March 2013, in Kashmir division. Remaining fourteen blocks from the intensive blocks would be taken To ensure capacity building on a continuous basis eight training centres (one at every resource block) would be started to ensure social capital development in the first year. Trainers from the resource block from Society for Eradication of Poverty, Andhra Pradesh would anchor these training centres for a period of three years. Every training block would be manned by at least two master trainers to impart continuous training. The endeavour would be that at the end of three years the community by itself would run these training centres and the community itself would churn out master community trainer among themselves. The mission would rest on the pillars of these trained trainers - the social capital. The Self Help Groups of women shall be formed in each village. Each group shall have 10 to 14 members. Each group shall create its own capital through thrift. This capital can be used for internal lending till the group graduates for revolving fund and bank credit. The resources of the group shall be strengthened by providing subsidy and multiple credits subject to repayments. The group shall take up various livelihood initiatives individually or collectively from the credit which shall flow from the Group. The group shall maintain its accounts and shall run the affairs of the group without any official interference. These Groups shall be federated at the Village and bloc levels. The federations aim at providing voice, space and bargaining power to the poor.