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J&K Panchayat Raj Institutions may spend Rs 1000 crore this year, get salary as well

Omar Abdullah led coalition government in planning a massive expenditure through the newly elected Panchayat Raj Institutions and is seriously considering paying them honorarium.

, ET Bureau|
Updated: Jun 06, 2012, 05.08 PM IST
SRINAGAR: Omar Abdullah led coalition government in planning a massive expenditure through the newly elected Panchayat Raj Institutions and is seriously considering paying them honorarium. They will start executing various developmental projects by early next month when they will be fully empowered.

“There is already a budgetary provision of spending Rs 300 crore through PRI during the current fiscal,” Rural Development Minister Ali M Sagar told The ET. “Then you have lot of centrally sponsored schemes which are mandated to be spent through them and that is huge amount.” Sagar’s ministry that is implementing MNREGA would spear nearly Rs crore for the PRI during the current fiscal.

“Last year, we spent Rs 775 crore on MNREGA alone and this year we have a set target of Rs 1500 crore,” Sagar said. “Of this amount fifty percent is to be spent through PRIs, thirty percent through the block councils and the balance twenty percent through the district development councils.” Sagar said they are planning transferring Rs 40 lakh directly to every single panchayats in a few weeks.

This, Sagar aid will be the major boost to the democratic institution quite befitting to the unprecedented 79 percent participation in the panchayat polls. Sagar said Chief Minister has understood the issues of the elected panchs and sarpanches when they said that now lot many people come to them and it entails a lot of expenditure. J&K has 4130 Sarpanches and 29719 Panchs.

“We have proposed to the state planning department to approve a monthly salary of Rs 3000 to the sarpanches and Rs 2000 to the panchs and we are waiting for the response,” Sagar said. “It would add another Rs 700 crore to the wage bill and the government is considering various options to manage this much of funds which, among other thing includes sourcing it from the local taxes that the PRI are permitted to levy.”

Though the cabinet had approved transferring a set of functions and functionaries besides adequate finance from 14 line departments to the PRI on September 22, 2011, the order remained unimplemented at the ground level. Now the cabinet has set a deadline of 15 days for transferring the same.

“Spade work was, however going on,” a senior official told The ET. “We transferred Rs 42 crore (one lakh per panchayat) to them directly for the basic requirements besides Rs 25000 per PRI for furniture and fixture.” J&K has 4128 Panchayats and 1800 of them lack an address, the panchayat ghar. The government is constructing theses offices at the cost of Rs 20 lakh per building within next 18 month. “We have already released Rs 150 crore for constructing these panchayat ghars,” Sagar said. “These PRIs can avail Rs 600 rent per month till their offices are ready.”

Since the PRIs are reviving for the first time after 34 years, the village level worker and multi purpose workers appointed last time have already retired. Under the law they had to perform as secretary to the panchayats. “Right now we have around 2800 VLWs and MPWs available and the process to appoint 1087 more has started,” the officer said. “Finance Ministry has already sanctioned 143 berths of programme officers to monitor and coordinate executing of various rural development schemes through PRIs.”

However, what the worrying is the apprehension that these gross root level representatives could prove sitting ducks if militants choose to attack them. There have been a few killings but sit has not triggered the panic. “It might be impossible to offer security to every single elected member simply because of the huge number and their spread across the state but we are considering a good insurance policy,” an officer who wishes not to be identified said. There are quite a few hypersensitive pockets where individuals associated with PRIs are under pressure.

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