Saturday, April 4, 2009

Politcs of Rural Development in Kashmir

How development funds are used to secure vote bank 

Srinagar, Apr 3: Providing housing, sanitation, and roads to the poor have been effectively used by political parties to cultivate a vote bank in rural areas of the state, especially in the Kashmir Valley.
While looking for the causes of its debacle in the rural belt in recent Assembly elections, the National Conference, it seems, has found one of the culprits: the Monitoring and the Vigilance Committees formed by the Peoples Democratic Party-led government in 2002 to oversee developmental works in villages. 
The committees were established by the PDP-led coalition after realizing their potential to create a vote bank. 
Sources said several schemes funded by the government of Indian require the assistance, recommendation, and monitoring by Panchayats. But in the J&K the Panchayat elections have not been held for decades, therefore, in the absence of Panchayats the PDP-Cong government formed the Monitoring and Vigilance Committees in every Halqa to identify and recommend beneficiaries for the schemes. 
Take Indira Awas Yojana, the biggest housing scheme in the India aimed at providing shelter to homeless people living below poverty line in the rural areas. The PDP-led government conducted a survey to identify people living Below Poverty Line, and employed the Vigilance and Monitoring Committees during the survey. Under this scheme Rs. 25,500 in plain areas and Rs 27,500 in hilly areas are given to the beneficiaries. The central government bears 75 percent cost of the scheme, the state government the rest. 
Sources said the list of beneficiaries has been prepared with the active influence of the Vigilance and Monitoring Committees, and most of the beneficiaries are the party workers of different political parties.
Sources said the National Conference led government presumes that the Vigilance and the Monitoring Committees in Panchayat Halqas were used to strengthen the vote bank. 
This has prompted the Rural Development Department Government of Jammu and Kashmir to issue a circular on 19 February 2009 saying the Vigilance and Monitoring Committees set up in different Halqas have ceased to function. 
“In certain cases it has been found that these committees have not stood the test of time and lost relevance among general masses,” the circular said, adding, new committees would be set up in consultation with general public.
The government has now nominated the additional district development commissioner as nodal officer of the Halqa Majlis comprising two to six villages. The nodal officer has been assigned to convene a meeting of Halqa Majlis and nominate different officers from different departments to supervising the Halqa Majlis or meeting of the Halqa. The Halqa Majlis would either ratify the existing Monitoring Committee or propose its replacement. The government has given the officials one month to identify the new Vigilance and Monitoring Committees.
“Every work in villages is being carried out in consultation with the help and assistance of the committees; formation of the new committees would bring transparency in the system,” said a senior official of R&D Kashmir. 
However, critics say that now the PDP monitoring committees would be replaced by NC ones. “It is not transparency but playing politics and getting votes. The PDP did it and now NC would do it,” said an official pleading anonymity.
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