J&K’s government’s efforts to improve the governance at village level has been quite successful in the two phases Phase I and II wherein the focus was understanding grievances, addressing them and devolution of power to panchayats. Still more is expected in the Phase III.
There has been a large-scale acceptance of this extensive program, which has been revealed on ground by the people who have seen a positive change in governance after many years.
The government went all out when it involved 4000 officials from the administration who were tasked to visit every village and find the obstacles in good governance at village level. It is because of the success of the first two phases that the government has extended the program, which will now roll out the third phase (from September 10) with expanding the scope and work in the program.
As per the government, the focus of third phase is redressal of public grievances (Jan Sunvaiyee), public service delivery (Adhikar Abhiyan) and delivery of development at Gram Panchayat level (Unat Gram Abhiyan). The overall program has a number of components, all aimed at improving the governance and better delivery of services in the villages. The onus for the effective implementation is on the District Commissioners who happen to be the key players.
Merits of B2V Program
The first and foremost merit in the B2V program is the participation and the involvement of people living in the villages. For a long time people in villages have felt somewhat disconnected from governance. Although panchayats were created to devolve powers and make the people have larger say in local affairs, yet it got derailed in due course of time. In some cases people raised issues like lacking accountability and meager funds available at the village level to even address the basic issues. With the B2V program there has been a general review of the panchayats and grievances of the people that used to be buried have come to surface.
The second merit of B2V has been involvement of government functionaries and officials in improving the governance at the village level. Government officials are now aware about the problems faced by the people in the villages. Earlier, small body of representatives of villages had to run from pillar to post to make their grievances heard. It is quite opposite now, as officials are visiting the villages to hear from the people. It has ushered a new sense of hope among thousands of people in the villages for whom bureaucracy has become easily accessible.
The third merit of B2V is that it has usered an era of equitable empowerment and development in the region. Usually development has been urban-centric not only in the union territory or the erstwhile state but in other states and countries. With the governance and therefore benefits reaching the doorsteps of people in villages it has brought a balance and parity in the system. It promotes equitable model with same services available to the people in rural areas as are available to the residents of urban areas.
The fourth merit of the B2V is delivery of services. If there is one thing that people complain about governance, it is the delivery of public services. With effective implementation of the program it will certainly address the common grievances that for ages had remained unanswered.
What needs to be done further?
True empowerment and development in the villages will come when some sort of sustenance is achieved. The government should not ignore capacity building in the villages. Eventually it is the people who have to manage their own affairs. The program should not make the people completely dependent which can only happen if the needed capacity is built in the indigenous population.
The shortcomings in governance in urban areas should not repeat in villages as well. For example there have been numerous complaints made in the past about MGNREGA and other similar schemes where accountability could not be properly ensured.
In the third phase that has been recently launched by the government some sort of mechanism needs to be devised as how to maintain check on the objectives that the government has put forth. B2V has been a very ambitious project and a lot of efforts no doubt have been made. However there is a need for monitoring the activities and having frequent reviews about the progress of the work. A one-time deal can never be fruitful.
Lastly, people in villages are educated but not informed. Lack of information about government schemes, services, etc is the biggest lacuna. It is a general feeling shared by these people. They feel they don’t know what is happening around and for which they at times have to visit the towns and cities. If the people in villages are informed, they will definitely go with better choices.