Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday favoured empowerment of Panchayats in Jammu and Kashmir in line with the Central Panchayati Raj Act.
Gandhi, who arrived in Jammu from Srinagar on the last day of his visit to the state, said newly-elected sarpanches and panches in the state should be given more responsibilities and powers.
“It is most important that sarpanches and panches get their rights. They are given responsibilities to ensure development at the grassroot level,” he told a meeting in Rajouri district, 180-km from Jammu.“I have already told about this to Saif-ud-Din Soz (JKPCC (chief), Mohan Parkash (In charge J&K) and Chief Minister Omar Abdullah,” Gandhi said.
The Congress General Secretary was commenting on demands of Congress leaders for implementation of the 73rd and the 74th amendment of the Panchayati Raj Act to empower Panchayats in decision-making and financial matters in accordance with the Central Panchayati Raj Act.
The Congress youth leader said there was no dearth of money for development.
“Whatever is needed is given but it must be ensured that it reaches the grassroot-level in villages.”
“If it is not reaching the grassroot-level, you call it corruption or any other thing, but I feel it should reach the villages,” Gandhi said.
Panches and sarpanches must ensure that the money meant for development should reach the grassroot-level, he said.
On the rail line to Rajouri and Poonch, a demand raised by Soz, Gandhi said “I will go to Delhi and find out the status of the project. The survey of the rail line has been done.”
On growing unemployment, he said steps would be taken to provide more employment opportunities to the youth.
Gandhi met residents of twin border districts of Rajouri and Poonch and said he had come to make relations with them and understand their problems.
“I have come to make relations with you, to listen to your problems and to mitigate them,” he said.
Launching the membership drive for the Youth Congress at the closed-door meeting, Gandhi said the exercise was aimed at building strong relationship with the border region.
“I have come here today to launch the Youth Congress membership drive. This is another step of building up the relations.”
Gandhi asked the youths to come forward and “become partners in spreading the ideology of the party and in strengthening it”.
“I have started the concept of elections in the Youth Congress by ensuring transparency in the membership drive,” he said.
Rahul visits vegetable vendors at Dal lake
The picturesque Dal lake had an unusual early morning visitor on Tuesday when Rahul Gandhi came calling to get a firsthand account of the problems of people eking out a living selling vegetables.
41-year-old Gandhi accompanied by his close aides and handful of personnel from Special Protection Group(SPG) made a quiet entry to the lake section where the wholesale vegetable market was going about its daily business.
The presence of the AICC General Secretary in their midst led to an excitement among the vegetable vendors who immediately flocked to the ‘shikara’ in which he was travelling.
Gandhi was pleasantly surprised when some of the vendors recalled the visit of his father and late prime minister Rajiv Gandhi to the lake in 1984.
Gandhi gave a patient hearing to the problems of the vendors who requested him to visit the residence of general secretary of Dal Dwellers Welfare Association Ghulam Rasool to get details of their demands and rehabilitation issues.
After exchanging pleasantries, Rahul sat attentively listening to Rasool and his associates with rapt attention.
He assured the delegation that genuine issues will be taken up with the Congress’s coalition partner — National Conference.
At one stage, Gandhi carried the host’s seven-month-old niece Sabah when she crawled upto him and he started playing with her.
He later relished some hot ‘Kahwa’ (green tea) served to him.
Gandhi had on Monday interacted with Kashmir University students and told them that he understands the “pain” of Kashmiris as he was a Kashmiri himself.