Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu asserted that the dilution of Article 370 would accelerate the process of development in the Union Territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh by paving the way for the extension of various schemes and legislations, including 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments to strengthen the funds and functions of local bodies.
Interacting with a delegation of a Sarpanches (Village Heads) and Panches (Panchayat Members) from Jammu and Kashmir, in New Delhi today, the Vice President pointed out that Article 370 was only a temporary and transitory provision in the Constitution.
Referring to holding of Panchayat elections under the Governor’s rule in J&K after a long gap, Vice President Naidu expressed his happiness that 74 per cent of the electorate voted and that around 3,500 of the 4,483 Panchayats have been elected.
The Vice President said that with the dilution of Article 370 the Panchayats would now become more dynamic as the 3Fs – Funds, Functions & Functionaries would be devolved to them. ‘The financial power of Panchayats has also been increased by 10 times enhancing their financial powers up to Rs one lakh,’ he said.
In addition, the Vice President pointed out that the Panchayats were vested with powers to raise their own resources by increasing taxes. “The Panchayats are also now empowered to conduct an audit of schemes like ICDS and PMAY to improve the quality of delivery,” he added.
Observing that greater devolution of funds, functions and functionaries would enable the 3-tier administrative system to function more effectively, he said that J&K was losing around 4000 Crores for not conducting Panchayat elections as per the norms set by the 14th Finance Commission. “Now that elections have been conducted, the funds recommended by the Finance Commission will start flowing. I am happy to know that 500 crores have already been released and another 3,000 crores will be released shortly. This will be a big game-changer for the Panchayat system,” he added.
The Vice President also suggested that holding elections to local bodies every five years should be made mandatory. “There should be no discretion or scope for the States to either postpone or advance them,” he added.
Stating that effective local governance was key for better implementation of development, and welfare initiatives and for better service delivery, he said that the funds allocated to the local bodies should go into the accounts of Panchayats, municipalities and corporations and spent in accordance with the resolutions of the respective bodies.
The Vice President said that talks with Pakistan would be held only on PoK and asserted that the safety, security and integrity of the nation were paramount for every Indian.