Opposition corners RD minister, stages walkout over funds disparity

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Jammu, Opposition MLCs of NC and Congress Monday staged walk-out from the upper house over the distribution of constituency development funds by the rural development and Panchayati Raj department without taking the legislature into confidence.

Opposition MLCs accused the Minister for Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Abdul Haq Khan of ignoring the institution of legislature. The uproar began after the Minister for Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Abdul Haq Khan in response to the question of Congress MLC Ghulam Nabi Monga said that after the expiry of term of Panchayats, Block Development Officers (BDOs) and Panchayat secretaries have been entrusted with the responsibility of holding Gram Sabhas, which after holding deliberations pass joint resolution after identifying the works under various schemes for execution as well as implementation.

This irked the legislators who asked the minister to explain why the order was issued wherein it had been mentioned that while implementing the CD Panchayat and finance commission schemes, both MLAs as well as MLCs would be taken into confidence. Monga said that the institution of MLA and MLC has been completely bypassed and they are not even asked about developmental works in their respective constituencies.

“I have been elected by the Panchayats. I was not consulted even once about the utilization of the CD funds and grants of the 13th and 14th finance commission,” added Monga. He further accused the minister of destroying the institution of Panchayati Raj by holding elections only for Panches who would then elect the Sarpanch through consensus among themselves. “This will open gates for horse-trading and may lead to law and order situation deteriorating in villages,” said Monga.

He reiterated that the government should review its decision and let the Panchayats function the way they are functioning elsewhere in the country. “We welcome holding of Panchayat elections but that should not be done before constituting state finance commission and the election commission, both of which are mandatory under the Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Act. You have one month and you can do that. What stops you,” Monga said.

He was joined by NC legislators Showkat Ganai and Dr Shehnaz Ganai. Both want to know from the government why MLCs were being ignored while prioritizing works in various constituencies all over the state. “CD Panchayat funds have been stopped. MLCs and MLAs are not taken into confidence while prioritizing works in various constituencies across the state,” alleged the MLCs. Joined by their colleagues, Congress MLCs Ghulam Nabi Monga and Naresh Gupta trooped into the well of the house and began raising slogans against the state government.

Waving an order of the rural development department, the MLCs staged walkout, alleging that state government was all out to destroy the institution of Panchayats. After the opposition walked-out of the house, Minister for Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Abdul Haq Khan said that in all the developmental process, all the public representatives are taken into confidence.

He said that so far four cases of embezzlement have been detected under MGNRGEA scheme. He said that recoveries have been made from the erring officials. He also said that one increment of two erring officers has been forfeited and FIR has been lodged in one case.

He said that government has introduced several reforms to bring transparency and accountability in the working of the department. He said priority has been given to upgrade rural connectivity under various schemes especially MGNREGA. He said under these schemes the department has created durable assets in villages besides providing jobs to the unskilled and unemployed youth of the state.

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