Loot Sakey Tou Loot
Reign of terror let loose by public representatives associated with Panchayati Raj Institutions in Anantnag district
The history of PRIs post inception of militancy in 1990s has been somewhat tainted.
With the inception of militancy and the threat posed by the militants to the political workers and public representatives, the genuine and morally high individuals chose to stay away from political activities. The void so created was filled by unscrupulous and socially discredited elements.
But the process of elections to the Panchayats and urban local bodies was a constitutional obligation. Hence whoever got elected by whatsoever margin legally and constitutionally became the public representative in the particular Panchayat or urban local body. However, those who got elected amid very thin participation of people in the elections to the Panchayati Raj Institutions had no intention to serve people. Rather it was an opportunity for them to exploit and blackmail the people.
There was a period between 2002 and 2014 when the participation of general public in the electoral process increased. Curiously, it was observed that the quality of the public representatives during this period was markedly high. Degeneration in the representative character of public representatives was again witnessed after the events that unfolded in Kashmir valley post Assembly elections in 2014.
Situation Better In North Kashmir
It would be inappropriate to put the entire Kashmir valley in one frame in this context. We cannot discredit the elementary democratic elections and the people who have got elected to these institutions. The fact of the matter is that the electoral history post inception of militancy has been distinct from each other in north, central and south Kashmir.
North Kashmir usually witnesses high voter turnout baring a few pockets of Sopore , Baramulla and Bandipora. The voter turnout in south Kashmir remains low as compared to central and north Kashmir. The quality, rather the integrity of the public representatives is determined by the voter turnout in each segment.
People of integrity get elected in areas where voting percentage remains high. Dishonest and discredited candidates get elected and even selected in the areas where majority of the people stay away from the electoral process. The flipside is that in these particular areas, the general populace loses the right to be critical of the so-called public representatives.
However, one cannot shut one’s eyes and ears on watching the reign of terror let loose by the public representatives associated with Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs), particularly in the areas where the larger majority choose to stay away from the electoral process.
Complaints Pouring In From Anantnag District
In south Kashmir’s Anantnag district, the reports of rampant corruption by elected representatives to the Panchayats, Block Development Councils, Muncipal Councils and District Development Councils are pouring in almost on daily basis. There are serious allegations of harassment and abuse of power by the elected members of PRIs in many areas of the district.
The profiling of the elected members of PRIs in Anantnag district clearly shows that majority of them have a criminal background. Surrendered militants, renegades and extortionists have got elected to the PRIs because of the non- participation or restricted participation of people in elections to the Panchayats, Municipal Councils, BDCs and DDCs.
A Corporator In Anantnag Municipal Council
Take for instance a corporator representing Ward Number 19 in Anantnag Muncipal Council. Sources say that she reportedly indulges in the worst kind of corruption, extortion and blackmail. People allege that the corporator has let loose a reign of terror in the area.
There are allegations that the woman doesn’t allow people to carry out their normal activities if they don’t pay hafta (ransom) to her. She does not allow people to carry out their renovation tasks, repair and construction works even though they have permission from the concerned government department.
Residents of the area told Kashmir Central, “All of a sudden, she appears on the spot accompanied by her security guards and gets the work stopped. We show her the papers, the permission granted by the concerned department. But she does not leave without striking a deal. She usually quotes in lakhs and settles at a few thousand,” an aggrieved person of ward 19 of Anantnag Muncipal Council told this correspondent.
Another local from the same ward told Kashmir Central that the woman didn’t even spare a foreign tourist in Pahalgam. She stole the purse of the foreign visitor carrying cash and jewelry. The police later recovered the same from her with the help of CCTV footage.
The woman is known for taking a bribe starting from Rs 10. The astounding part is that even walking away with Rs 10 forcibly coerced from someone is agreeable for her.
A respectable citizen of Anantnag town told this correspondent that most of the corporators of Anantnag Municipal Committee are money minting machines. The senior citizen alleged that these corporators extort money from people on one pretext or the other.
“Anantnag is in a mess,” he said. The senior citizen candidly admitted that rogue elements have got elected to the PRIs because of the non- participation of people. “We can’t blame anyone. It was for us to decide. We decided not to bring in men of repute because we stayed away from the electoral process,” the gentleman regretted.
‘Corruption Legalized In Panchayats’
The situation is more or less the same as far as the Panchayats are concerned. A senior political leader of the district who did not want to be named told Kashmir Central that corruption has been legalized in Panchayats.
As the funds go directly into the accounts of the Sarpanchs, there is a chain of beneficiaries of the corruption. The BDO, VLW, Sarpanch and Panch form the chain. The political leader said that most of the Panchs and Sarpanchs in his area have a criminal militant background.
“They looted and killed people when they were active militants. They indulged in extortion and blackmail after they surrendered. Now they are minting money as Panchs and Sarpanches,” the political leader observed.
He added that the government claims to have strengthened the democratic institutions at the grassroots level. “I can’t comment about what is happening elsewhere. But as far as Anantnag district is concerned, I can say with full confidence that people are scared of dealing with the public representatives in the Panchayati Raj Institutions,” the senior political leader said.
He categorically added that National Conference and PDP are to be blamed for this mess. They boycotted the elections and people are bearing the brunt, the political leader told Kashmir Central.