‘After 3 months, no funds utilized on non-existent panchayats’

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Ishtyaq Ahmad

Srinagar, Jul 6: While three months have passed of the current fiscal, there has been no utilization of funds sanctioned under panchayat budget in Jammu and Kashmir.
Due to non-holding of panchayat elections, all the three regions, Kashmir, Jammu Ladakh have suffered huge losses.
On January 11, the then Mehbooba Mufti-led government had presented first ever separate panchayat budget in the state. Government had made a provision to spend Rs 1000 crore on panchayats and urban civic bodies during 2018-2019 in the state.
However, there exist no panchayat bodies in the state as the term of previous local rural bodies completed in July 2016.
Three months have passed of the current fiscal, no funds have been released or spent so far.
“Government should bring clarity how it is spending the funds when panchayats do not exist in the state,” an official of the rural development said.
“These funds can be utilized only when panchayat system is in place but there is no accountability,” he said.
He said that government should clear the confusion whether the panchayat polls are held in this year. “Former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti had said that panchayat polls will be held from February 15, following which All Party Meeting was also held. Since then, government is not coming up with a statement when the polls will be held,” he added.
A BJP leader said that Jammu and Ladakh bear the brunt of non-holding of Panchayat polls. “Funds have been earmarked for all three regions. But polls are not being held due to Kashmir region,” he claimed.
An official of the RDD said that government in January announced the funds as it had expected that panchayat polls would be held from February 15. “As the polls are not held, we don’t know how the funds will be spent.” the official added.
The last panchayat elections were held in April-May 2011 with 80% turnout.
The state is losing huge Centre funding due to non-holding of Panchayat polls. “J&K will lose over Rs 4000 crore between 2015-2020, if Panchayat polls do not take place,” sources said.
Elections to Panchayats were last held in April-May 2011 during Omar Abdullah led National Conference-Congress regime after a gap of 37 years. The government postponed these polls for several times in the last few years.
Similarly, the Centre has budgeted around Rs 1300 crore to J&K as per the 14th Finance Commission Awards from 2015-2020. “The state civic bodies were to get Rs 350 crore during 2016-2017 which were not released by the Centre,” the official said.
These funds are to be spent on water, electricity, road infrastructure, and other civic amenities. The elected civic bodies are mandatory to get these funds. (KNS)

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