Chief minister Omar Abdullah on Thursday said total empowerment of panchayats in the state is his commitment. He insisted that he would continue to work to "translate his initiative of holding panchayat elections in the state after a long period of 30 years into a reality of three-tier panchayati raj system ruling the roost in the state".
Omar Abdullah said Panchayati Raj in the state has become a subject matter of politics and politicians want to do politics on it but his government is committed to achieve the goal of powerful Panchayati Raj system in the state. "I am tired of hearing that we have not empowered panchayats. We have given sarpanches the charge of 12 departments like education, health running of anganwaris, mid-day meal scheme but the financial empowerment cannot come at this level. It's possible only after block and district level elections are held," Abdullah said.
The chief minister mentioned that the government had issued notification for holding block council elections, the process however got stalled due to the "reservation issue and divergent views expressed by various groups". "My government would make all-out efforts to remove all stumbling blocks in this regard," he added.
The chief minister was addressing a function after inaugurating a Controlled Atmosphere Storage and Pack House established in private sector at the Lassipora Industrial Estate on Thursday morning.
Omar Abdullah said a well established and empowered Panchayati Raj in the state was the dream of late Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah.
Late Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi had also envisioned powerful Panchayati Raj in the country. He said the coalition government is committed in this regard and efforts are on to achieve this stupendous goal. He said the coalition government wants to take out governance from the secretariat to the ground level and is endeavouring to achieve the target and make the grassroots level public representatives empowered enough to be part and parcel in the plan formulation and implementation of development programmes.
The chief minister said the three specialties of Jammu and Kashmir viz natural beauty, handicrafts and fruit are world renowned. "My government has focused attention to strengthen these sectors and ensuring economic betterment and prosperity of the people and the state."
Omar Abdullah said attention is being given to upgrade post-harvest techniques and enable growers to market the quality fruit not only within the country but internationally. He said people in Arab countries like Muscat, Riyadh, Dubai, Qatar, etc., are highly fond of Kashmiri fruit and flowers. He said efforts are on to help export of fruits and flowers from Kashmir to other parts of the world by utilising Srinagar international airport.
The chief minister said Lassipora is coming up as an economic hub in the horticulture sector and his government is encouraging investors for establishing controlled atmosphere stores in north Kashmir, Shopian, Rafiabad, Sopore, Baramulla and other places as has been done in south Kashmir. He said completion of railway and four-laning of National Highway will give added impetus to the export of quality fruit from the state to the terminal markets.
In his address, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi also reiterated the need for empowering panchayats in the state and said he has been working in the country to make panchayats powerful enough to handle financial and developmental activities at the grassroots.
Rahul Gandhi said the union government would also help the state to ameliorate the lot of over 3 lakh families associated with fruit cultivation and horticultural activities in Jammu and Kashmir. He said banks have to come forward to assist the fruit growers so that they are able to export their fruit all over the world.