Panchayat members may start hunger strike

Panchayat members may start hunger strike

J&K rural heads upset with less power vested in them

Panchayat members in Jammu and Kashmir on Sunday threatened to go on a hunger strike from March 24 if a bill seeking more power for them was not presented in the state Assembly within a week.

“We urge the government to bring in a Bill within seven days to implement all the provisions of the 73rd Amendment Act, else we will go on a 72-hour hunger strike from March 24,” Anil Sharma, general secretary of the All Jammu and Kashmir Panchayat Conference (AJKPC), said.

AJKPC is an apex body of about 33,000 panchayat members.

Sharma hailed the government’s initiative to increase the honorarium for panches and sarpanches as a step in the right direction, but insisted that their main aim should be the empowerment of Panchayats.

“We are not satisfied with the raise in the honorarium for Panches and Sarpanches (although) we believe it is a step in the right direction. Our main objective is empowerment of Panchayats and security for Panches and Sarpanches,” Sharma said.
Sharma said that AJKPC had been hoping that senior legislators like Harshdev Singh of Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party and M Y Tarigami from CPI (M) would raise their voice in support of the Panchayats, “but they were instead engaged in vague discussions.”

“We expected that our senior MLAs will raise their voice in support of Panchayats and will force the government to implement the 73rd Amendment Act, but they are instead discussing something else,” Sharma said.

Stressing on the need for greater security for Panchayat members, Sharma said the government was spending crores of rupees on providing protection to VIPs, but ignoring those who needed it the most.

“They are spending Rs 100 crore on security for VIPs but those who need it the most have been ignored. They have not taken any step in the direction of providing security to panches and sarpanches,” he alleged.

Militants have been targetting panchayat heads in the past few months to discourage them from participating in village-level government programmes.