Overview of Local Governance in the State of Jammu and Kashmir

“Whereas it is expedient to promote and develop Panchayati Raj in the State as an instrument of vigorous Local Self Government to secure the effective participation of the people in the decision making process and for over-seeing implementation of developmental programmes” - The Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Act, 1989.

1. History of Local Governance in Jammu and Kashmir

Decentralization in Jammu and Kashmir:

In Jammu and Kashmir the history of Panchayati Raj can be traced back to the promulgation in 1935 of the Jammu and Kashmir Village Panchayat Regulation No.1 by Maharaja Hari Singh. In 1936, a special Department of Panchayats and Rural Development was created to administer the 1935 regulation. The Regulation was amended in 1941 to widen the list of functions. By virtue of said amendment a fixed amount was earmarked for the Rural Development activities together with authority to the Panchayats for levying taxes and toll so as to mobilize the resources for catering to the felt needs and aspirations of the community.

In 1951 by an Act the Panchayati raj institutions were adopted to be re-established and various features of their activities and allied objectives defined. This Act further provided for adult franchise for the election of Panchayat members by showing hands where provision for nomination was also made. Based on the directional thrust of the Balwant Raj Committee, the Jammu and Kashmir government enacted Village Panchayat Act in 1958 replacing the 1951 Act.

More recently in 1989 Jammu and Kashmir Panchayat Act came into existence three years before the 73rd amendment of the constitution. The panchayat rules were framed in 1996. The state has passed through a situation of turmoil during past 12 years, and this has affected the progress of panchayats as well. Nevertheless, in a positive development, elections for sarpanches and panches were held in May 2001 through the government order (No.21 RD) of January 2002.

2. Constitutional provisions for decentralization in Jammu and Kashmir

Article 370 and decentralization in Jammu and Kashmir:

It is necessary to quickly look at article 370 before moving on to understanding the constitutional provisions with regard to PRIs in Jammu and Kashmir. At the time of independence when the princely states were being accessed in to the Indian territory Jammu and Kashmir was in a unique position. The then Maharaja Hari Singh had offers to either join the Indian Union or Pakistan and the king decided to get accessed to India. Then when Nehru asked Sheikh Abdullha to take over as the state had a special position of centre not interferring in to the affairs of the state except in matters of Defence, Foreign affairs and Communications.

Article 370

Article 370 of the Indian constitution, which is of a temporary nature grants special status to Jammu and Kashmir. This article specifies that except for Defense, Foreign Affairs and Communications, the Indian Parliament needed the State Government's concurrence for applying all other laws. Thus the state's residents lived under a separate set of laws, including those related to citizenship, ownership of property, and fundamental rights, as compared to other Indians.

Article 370 therefore provides for greater sovereignty for Jammu and Kashmir as far as the matters of the state are concerned. Therefore even in the case of 73rd amendment¹ that lays down principles for devolution through panchayati raj institutions the state has the prerogative to include or exclude provisions of this amendment as per its needs.

Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Act, 1989

This Act provides for a 3 tier system (Village, Block and District level) for governance at the grass roots. The institutions thus created would be called Halqa Panchayat², Block Development Council and District Planning and Development Board respectively. Every Halqa Panchayat would have 7 to 11 Panches and a Sarpanch (who would lead the Halqa Panchayat). The Sarpanch and Panches would be elected directly by the people. There would also be another person by the name of naib sarpanch and he is nominated by all the panches of a halqa panchayat. Naib sarpanch would perform the same duties as the sarpanch in the event of sarpanch not being in a position to fulfill his/her duties. Village level worker would be the secretary of the halqa panchayat.

¹ The 73rd amendment that came into force in the year 1993 laid out constitutional provisions for formalising panchayats as institutions of local governance at the district, block and village level in India.

² Halqa panchayat is the village level unit in the three tire structure of panchayat system.

In a given block, all sarpanches would collectively constitute the Block Development Council (BDC). The chairperson of the BDC would be elected by all the sarpanches and panches of that block. The Block Development Officer would act as secretary of the BDC. Similarly, all the Block Chairpersons would together constitute the District Planning and Development Board (DPDB). In addition to the Block Chairpersons, the DPDB would have MPs, MLAs, MLCs and chairpersons of Municipalities/Notified Area Committees as members. The chairperson of the DPDB would be nominated by the State Govt. from amongst its members. The Deputy Commissioner of the District would be the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of DPDB.

The adoption of Jammu and Kashmir Panchayat Act of 1989 was indeed a pioneering step as Jammu and Kashmir joined the league of Assam, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka who already had their own state laws (See Annexure). However, all the other states dissolved their state acts to adopt the central act with provisions as laid by the 73rd amendment. Most of these states have not only incorporated the provisions of the 73rd amendment but acted to expedite devolution by transfer of powers to panchayats. Consequently panchayats have performed well in these states.

3. Linkages between Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC) and halqa Panchayats

The Jammu and Kashmir act provides for a three tier system of panchayats though in reality only the district planning and development body and the halqa panchayats have been constituted. The Block development Councils have not been formed in Jammu and Kashmir.

The design of institutions in Ladakh is much different than in the other parts of Jammu and Kashmir due to the presence of LAHDC³. The LAHDC is a body that is responsible for district level planning and development in Ladakh. Therefore in Ladakh the District Planning and Development Board as mentioned in the panchayati raj act of Jammu and Kashmir is represented by the LAHDC4.

The formation of halqa panchayats and LAHDC has been in reality two separate processes. Though the panchayat act was enacted much earlier than the LAHDC act the LAHDC were constituted as a body in 1995 whereas halqa panchayats came into being only in 2001. Convergence was assumed to take place between these institutions as halqa panchayats made the village plans and the LAHDC received funds from the state and the centre for realization of these plans. Though in practice this convergence has been ad hoc and to a large extent has been limited to the centrally sponsored schemes and programmes being implemented by the department of rural development.

³LAHDC, Leh was constituted in accordance with the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council Act, 1995. The council came into being with the holding of elections on August 28, 1995.


B. Overview of the research study

Purpose of the Study:

The panchayats in the Ladakh region (which includes the districts of Leh and Kargil) in Jammu and Kashmir have completed a term of five years since the elections in 2001. Based on the experience of past five years of Panchayati Raj Institutions in Ladakh, the study has tried to assess the functioning of village panchayats, capture key learnings, identify issues to be resolved and make recommendations for better performance of PRIs for effective Governance and Development in the region.

The research study was carried out with five broad objectives:

  1. To understand the process of devolution in Jammu and Kashmir.
  2. To map the perceptions of the various stakeholders about the effective functioning of the halqa panchayats.
  3. To explore the linkages between the halqa panchayats and the other institutions at village, block, district and state level, and other modern institutions.
  4. To track women's participation in the panchayat functioning.
  5. To use the study report as an advocacy document to make recommendations for hastening the process of further devolution.

The outcomes of the study have been presented on the basis of the above objectives in this report.

1. Methodology

The study was undertaken by the Ladakh Development Organisation (LDO) in Leh and Kargil Education Development Society (KEDS) in Kargil with the support of The Hunger Project. The Centre for Culture, Media and Governance at Jamia Millia Univeristy provided technical support for the study.

The study began in April 2007. The first planning meeting was held in the LDO office where the conceptual framework was developed with suggestions from the core team. A basic list of questions was developed for the purpose of field testing. A training workshop for the field research team was undertaken in the first week of May. The workshop was designed to discuss the conceptual framework with the field team; to train the field team in the research tools; to finalise the interview schedules for the survey.

Universe of the study

The data collection was completed between the months of May and June 2007. Six teams of field researchers collected data in 18 villages of Leh and 22 villages of Kargil (See Annexure).

Since Ladakh is made of diverse geographical and cultural regions the study has sought to cover these while making a choice of panchayats for the survey.

The criteria for choosing the panchayats were as following:

  1. The distance of the panchayats from the main road
  2. The panchayat type – compact or dispersed
  3. The population distribution by religion

List of stakeholders in the two districts

Majority of the population in Leh belongs to Buddhism to Islam in Kargil. But both the districts have a mixed presence of Hindus, Sikhs, Christians and other scheduled caste and scheduled tribes. But for the purpose of the study respondents who were either Buddhists or Muslims were selected. The panchayats were defined as compact or dispersed depending on the spread of the hamlets and households.
Table 1: Religion wise distribution

Table 1: Religion wise distribution


# of Panchayats

Only Muslims


Only Buddhists


Buddhist Majority


Muslim Majority


Equal Numbers


Table 2: Compact or Dispersed Table 3: Location

Type of Village

# of Panchayats





Distance from Main Rd

# of Pnchyts

By the main road


Off the main road


The villages that were by the main road were linked by a motorable road were within the radius of five kilometers from the main road. The villages that were off the main road did not have link roads and most of these villages could only be reached by walk.

Sample Size Selection

The data collection was done with different sets of population in the village.

The field research team spoke to:

- the general public of the village

- religious leaders other opinion makers in the village

- panches sarpanches of the halqa panchayats

- village level functionaries like ANM, Anganwadi teachers, school teachers, VLW etc

- members of the monitoring committee

- members of the goba committee

- members of self help groups

- tsogspas/Ama Tsogspas

The field team adopted the technique of stratified room sampling. In every village the field team spoke to the willing members from the community. The study did not choose a sample size based upon the population size. Therefore the sample size would vary from village to village.

Sometimes the teams have been able to talk to more people even in a small village sometimes they have been to cover a small group of people even in a large village. This has solely depended on the cooperation that they have been able to get in the villages. The other lacunae on the part of some of the teams have been the style of their introduction of themselves and the study. They have got much better cooperation in the villages where they first met the village elders or the goba members or the panchayat representatives. They have raised suspicion in villages where they went into the villages without approaching the panchayat representatives and village elders.

Further they had tough time in some of the villages convincing the women folk to talk to them. On one or two occasions the team has had difficulty in talking to the village level functionaries of the government. In one of the schools in Leh a teacher refused to talk to the team as they did not have a letter from the DC that allowed him to share the information. Subsequently a letter was obtained and we have been able to talk to the school teacher.

This is also a season where the men folk in the villages are away as they go on with the trekking teams to the mountains. The women folk are busy tilling the land for agriculture or grazing the animals. Therefore the only possibility of talking to them was in the evenings. In most of the villages the study did stay the nights so that they can get more information from the village residents. But in some of the places they decided to come back to the district headquarters because it was close and because of this study has lost out on valuable information that could have been obtained.

One of the limitations that were faced during the study was time for pre preparations. The study team did not have enough time to visit the villages before hand to keep the people in the village informed about the study. Therefore many times they reached the villages to realize that there has been some religious occasion or a death because of which the village people were busy.

Tools of data collection

The study covered a multiple range of stakeholders at the village, block, district and state level. Therefore the study incorporated both primary and secondary methods of data collection. A large proportion of the primary data was collected with the help of interview schedules (See Annexure). Additionally focus group discussions were held with the members of the goba committee, self help groups and religious leaders. The research team also met several ministers of state and bureaucrats at the block, district and state and did in depth interviews with them. The study has done content analysis of media to follow the debates on local governance in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The study further tracked several government orders to understand the chronological event of devolution in the state.

2. Study Coverage

The field research team interviewed 1505 people in the villages.

Table 4a: Details of survey respondents

Table 4a: Details of survey respondents


Number of respondents

General Public  

Religious leaders

Village opinion makers




Naib sarpanches




Village level government functionaries


Monitoring Committee members




The field team interviewed different stakeholders in villages. Additionally they did focus group discussions with several groups in the village and also individual interviews have been done with stakeholders at the block, district and state level.

4b: Details of Focus Group Discussions

4b: Details of Focus Group Discussions


Number of FGDs

Self Help Group




Religious leaders


Ama Tsogspa




School teachers


Ama tsogspa and other Women's groups


Village groups


Youth group


Mixed groups




3. Demographic details of the respondents

The proportion of respondents who had studied till stard five or more was slightly higher in Kargil when compared to Leh. Though most of the respondents in both the districts had not attended formal schooling. Further in Leh district there was no gender difference in levels of schooling. Whereas in Kargil district a larger proportion of men have done formal schooling.

Number of Respondents by Pattern of Schooling

Most of respondents in both the districts fell between the ages of 20 years to 40 years. The next significant proportion fell between the ages of 40 to 60 years. Interestingly among women a large proportion of the respondents are young women among men they happened to be middle aged elderly.

Distance from the Main Road by Village

Age groups in districts

4. Study Villages

Most of the villages were situated within 5 - 15 kilometres away from the main road and few of the villages were situated more than 30 kilometres away from the main road. Yet the nearness to the main road did not translate into better reach of services. In fact some of the villages even though were closer to the main road did not have access to many of the services. Either they did not have proper link road or adequate transport services.

Main Roads

Out of the 40 villages except for four villages all the others were connected by some or the other kind of transportation. The two villages in Leh (Rumbak and Kanji) and two villages in Kargil (Tacha and Mushkow) had to be reached by walk. But the type and frequency of transportation was varied between the villages. In Kargil, seven villages were connected by public transport while in Leh eleven villages were connected by public transport. The villages that were by the main road had daily bus service. While the villages that were away from the main road had staggered bus service. However, some of the villages that fell on the tourist route were better connected even though they were situated away from the main road. Private transport services like bus and jeeps too ply to these villages. But in Kargil it was mostly public transport that connected the villages but otherwise there was very little private transport.

C. Overview of the Ladakh region

Leh District:

Leh with an area of 45110 square kilometers is the largest district in the country in terms of area, is one of the coldest and most elevated inhabited region of the world having 112 inhabited villages and one uninhabited village with an altitude ranging from 2900 to 5900 meters. The district is located in the Eastern portion on Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir, bordered by Chinese Sinkeing in the north, Tibet in the East and Lahul-Spiti area of Himachal Pradesh in the south. Along with the other districts of the Ladakh region, Kargil, the district of Leh from the Northern tip of the Indian sub continent. The whole of the district is mountainous region with three parallel ranges of the Himalayas, the Zanskar, the Ladakh and the Karakoram ranges. Between these ranges the Shayok, Indus and Zanskar rivers flow and most of the population lives in the valleys of these rivers. The district consists of six blocks i.e Leh, Khaltsi, Kharu, Nyoma, Durbuk and Nubra5. The rainfall is scanty, totally undependable and the climate is generally dry in summer. This attributes towards making the district a cold desert. However, on an average 225 days annually remain Sunny in the district6. Animal husbandry is of considerable economic importance employing around 18 %. The rest 40.1 % are engaged in household industry and commerce7. Agriculture is the largest sector, employing 41.9% of the workers

5Though after delimitation two more blocks have been added recently. But when the research began there were only six blocks. The report therefore would refer to only six blocks.

6 Statistical Handbook, 2005-06, Directorate of Economic and Statistics, Government of Jammu and Kashmir.

Kargil District:

Kargil district has an area of 14036 Square kilometers. The district is surrounded by Kashmir, Kishtwar, Kulu and Gigit-Baltistan. Kargil is the second largest town in Ladakh. It is in the lower river basin of Suru. The other two rivers that converge here are the Drass and Wakha Chu. The district has seven blocks, namely, Kargil, Drass, Shakar-Chiktan, Shargole, Sankoo, Tiasuru, Zanskar and Cha. Kargil is greener than Leh with 64 hectares of its land under forest coverage. About 35.7 % of its population engages in agriculture. Additionally Kargil is famous for its apricot and this forms the source of livelihood. Besides a fair percentage of people engage in animal husbandry.
Block wise population distribution in Leh Kargil districts:

The total population Leh district is 117,232 persons as per 2001 census and that of Kargil is 119,307 persons according to the 2001 census. The sex ratio in Leh district is 1000:805 which is lower than the national average whereas in Kargil it is better than the national average at 1000:953. The density of population is 3 per square kilometer in Leh and its 8 per square kilometer in Kargil. Literacy level in Leh is 62.24% (Males 71.98% and Female 50.03%). Whereas the literacy level in Kargil is 58.21% (Male: 73.58 % and Female 40.96 %). The female literacy in both the districts is below the national average.



Total Population



Leh (rural and urban)



























































(Census of India 2001)8

(Census of India 2001)8

D. Study Findings

The panchayats in the Ladakh region completed their first term in April 20069. Totally 477 panchayat representatives served in 68 halqa panchayats in Leh district. Out of these 150 were women representatives. In Kargil on the other hand 518 members represented 65 halqa panchayats, out of which 146 were women representatives. One of the primary purposes of the study was to document the experience of five years of panchayati raj in the Ladakh region. Though the panchayat elections were not held throughout Jammu and Kashmir due to various reasons in Ladakh all panchayats were constituted and they did function for five whole years before they were dissolved in 2006. The halqa panchayats did raise a lot of expectations in the community through their work. Therefore it would be useful to assess the performance of halqa panchayats from dual perspectives. There is a need to assess the performance of halqa panchayats in terms of what they achieved in the course of five years. At the same time it is also necessary to point out the constraints that the halqa panchayats faced whether in terms of funds or cooperation so that their achievement can be understood within the context in which they functioned.

7 op cit

8 The gender wise breakup of population for different blocks of Kargil was not available at the time of consolidating this report

9 Circular No. 8 of the department of rural development, Government of Jammu and Kashmir, notified the dissolution of halqa panchayats as their term of office had ‘expired’ and in place of them appointed monitoring committees. Till the next elections to panchayats are held the monitoring committees would be like an advisory body to block and LAHDC.

Therefore some of the questions that we would like to answer through the following sections are:

  1. What was the extent to which people in the villages participated in the functioning of the panchayats? What are in the opinion of people functions of panchayats and what expectations do they have from these institutions?
  2. Have panchayats as institutions of local governance worked in isolation or in partnership with the existing traditional and modern institutions? What are the inter linkages and forms of cooperation that they have built with these institutions?
  3. To what extent have women participated in the local decision making process? What have been the constraints that have limited their involvement in the development work?
  4. What has been the progress on devolution and transfer of powers?

Since one is beginning with a hypothesis that halqa panchayats in Ladakh have been able to sustain themselves and contribute to the development of the villages in Ladakh by answering the questions above one can possibly either support the hypothesis or reject it.

Status of devolution in Jammu and Kashmir

The 73rd amendment provided a constitutional framework for the state governments for delegation of powers. With this amendment the panchayats were given a legal standing in the structure of governance in the country. Though the state of Jammu and Kashmir has to some degree adopted some of the provisions of 73rd amendment, an analysis of the same would point to the fact that the state still has a long way to go as far as devolution is concerned. Where are the bottlenecks to the transfer of power then?

Functions of halqa panchayat10

Functions of BDC11

Functions of DPDB12

-Prepare plans

-Implementation of developmental plans

-To undertake welfare programmes

-Regulation of buildings, shops and entertainment houses

-Regulation of sale and preservation of perishable foods

-Construction and maintenance of slaughter houses

-Regulation of fairs and festivals

-Preparation and implementation of special developmental plans for poverty alleviation, employment generation, housing etc

-Constructions, maintenance and supervision of inter-halqa panchayat communication system

-Administrative and technical guidance to halqa Panchayats

-To supervise plans related to agriculture, rural development, social forestry, education and public health

-Supervise and monitor implementation of poverty alleviation programmes 

-Supervise developmental programmes

-To undertake any other function entrusted by the DPDB

-To consider and guide the formulation of development programmes for the district and indicate priorities for various schemes

-To review periodically progress and achievements of development plans and schemes and make recommendations

-Periodic and annual plans for the district, to act as a working group

-To formulate and finalize the plan and non plan budget 

-Extend assistance to halqa panchayats in undertaking special programme for poverty alleviation and income generation

-To promote and assist cooperative institution

10 Chapter 3 of the J and K Panchayati Raj Act

11 Chapter 7 of the J and K Panchayati Raj Act

12 Chapter of the J and K Panchayati Raj Act

The bottlenecks to devolution existed in various forms. To begin with one can look at the inadequacies that are inherent in the act itself. For instance the act lists the functions that are to be undertaken by the halqa panchayat, block development council (BDC) and the district planning and development board (DPDB). But nowhere in the act is there a mention on the manner in which these three structures are to coordinate with each other and an activity mapping13 of the division of functions and funds has not been done. Therefore it leaves ample space for ambiguities and conflicts for the three structures.

Planning is a function that is for instance shared at all three levels with halqa panchayat having the responsibility of preparing and implementing plans, with supervision of the block development council and the district board reviews and guides the plans. But in reality the process of planning in Ladakh has been disconnected. According to the act the village plans have to be made in consultation with the halqa majlis14 in the beginning of every financial year. At the block level these plans are consolidated and sent to district for the incorporation in the district plan. In Jammu and Kashmir the Block Development Councils have not been constituted. Hence the functional link between the village and district is absent.

13 Activity Mapping is an exercise that has been recommended as part of the 73rd amendment for clearly laying out the functions of three tiers of panchayats and the manner in which they would coordinate with respect to each of the 29 subjects that would be devolved to these institutions as listed in the 11th schedule. It also emphasizes on the division of funds at the three levels.

14 Halqa Majlis is the equivalent of gram sabha in Jammu and Kashmir.

In the Ladakh context the presence of LAHDC makes the situation further complicated. LAHDC is the body responsible for planning at the district level in Ladakh and LAHDC in turn has to coordinate with the department of rural development for this purpose. The councilors who are elected to LAHDC are responsible for planning in their constituencies and often these constituencies jurisdictionally overlap with that of halqa panchayats. No provision has been made in the Jammu and Kashmir panchayat act that the plans made at the halqa level have to be implemented without changes. The block and the district can consider the tenets of the halqa plan and further add or delete whatever they intend to do.

In some of our interviews with the councilors of LAHDC it was expressed that councilors may not always incorporate the village plans and in reality most councilors do not take these seriously. Therefore the halqa panchayats are reduced to being an advisory committee that makes suggestions which may or may not be accepted. Unless it is constitutionally mandated that the plans made by the halqa majlis have to be incorporated into the district plan the whole planning exercise would remain inconsequential. On the contrary if halqa panchayats are given enough funds the plans made at the village can be implemented by the halqa panchayats themselves. Then LAHDC can confine itself to plan for the lager development of the district. The non coordination in the plan activities has been largely due to the lack of convergence between the halqa panchayats and LAHDC both came into being through separate acts and neither of the acts categorically state what should be the points of functional convergence.

Devolution of funds

The process of convergence carries an internal risk of duplicacy activities. Functional clarity of who does at what level can help reduce duplicacy. One way of ensuring functional clarity is by transferring funds directly to each level for the list of activities that representatives are planning to undertake. The tracking of financial outlays and expenditures from the district to the halqa panchayats provides interesting insights into the process of devolution in Jammu and Kashmir as far as funds are concenred. On an average the department of rural development in Leh district receives an annual budget to the tune of 4500 lakhs. Out of this the LAHDC which is the district planning body receives around 650 lakhs annually. LADHC receives funds of the centrally sponsored schemes, border area development programme and other grants from ADB and such other institutions.

Name of the Scheme

Funds Received (lakh rupees)

Funds Utilisation (lakh rupees)

Swarnajayanti Grameen Rojgar Yojana (SGRY)



Indira Aawas Yojana (IAY)



PM Reconstruction Programme



Border Area Development Programme 



Pradhanmantri Gram Swaraj Yojana



Total Rural Sanitation Programme



Central Assistance for Flood control



11th Finance Commission (Plan fund)



Development of Panchayats



Consolidated Community Development Fund ( Normal )






MLA CDF16 (Leh)



MLA CDF (Nubra)






(This table has taken only some of the schemes for analysis and therefore the total will not add up to what is received at the district level).

The blocks also received a substantial share of the funds and the following table shows the amount of funds received by the block under some of the centrally sponsored schemes.

Name of the block

Name of the Scheme and funds utilized under each scheme (lakh rupees)



Border Area Development Fund

Central Assistance for Flood control






Not Applicable












































Not Applicable



15 MP Local area Development Fund

16 MLA Consolidated Development Fund (The amounts in the bracket represent the sanctioned budget)

A small portion of these funds is retained with the ACD at the district level for purposes of direct intervention if need arises. All funds under the centrally sponsored schemes have to be shared in the proportion of 50, 30 and 20 percent by the halqa panchayat, BDC and DPDB respectively. But in reality this has hardly happened in Ladakh. Astonishingly halqa panchayats have received funds directly under only three schemes, SGRY, IAY and rural sanitation programme. The most substantial amount has been received under SGRY and under the other two schemes it has not been a regular flow. Totally every halqa panchayat has received only up to 2,50,000 rupees under the centrally sponsored schemes and in Leh they have additionally received another 2,00,000 rupees as grants from LAHDC. They have not received any assistance through the plan funds at all. Some of the sarpanches have been able to get more funds than this with their patient and relentless follow ups with the block functionaries.

The development works that the panch and sarpanch have taken up have mostly been in line with the schemes and programmes that have been implemented by the department of rural development. For instance construction of water bunds, canals and channels, reservoir tanks etc formed the core of development work that the panch and sarpanch had taken up during their tenure. Besides this involvement in the other centrally sponsored schemes like Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, Indira Awaz Yojana, Swarna Jayanthi Rozgar Yojana gave a significant mandate for their work in the villages. For instance, 1.6 % of the respondents in the village knew about NREGA, 61.9 % knew about NRHM, 18.9% knew about SJRY, 92.7 % knew about SSA, 72.4 % knew about WDP, and 52.6 % knew about rural sanitation. All of these programmes form the core of centrally sponsored schemes that the panchayat halqas are involved with. The centrally sponsored schemes mandate the involvement of panchayats in the implementation and this is the probable reason why panchayats have taken up an active role as far as these schemes are concerned.

Otherwise the transfer of funds has been a skewed reality with the district and block functionaries holding the large proportion of funds thereby withholding considerable powers and responsibilities of halqa panchayats. The halqa panchayats therefore were involved in the implementation of the schemes and programmes without really having enough funds for them to run the schemes and programmes themselves. The halqa panchayats have not received any untied fund (apart from the two lakh rupees that they received from LAHDC) in which they could have planned independently for the villages. In conclusion one can say that without adequate transfer of functions and powers the panchayats can not effectively perform the functions of planning and implementation of developmental programmes as given in the act.

Therefore panchayats in Ladakh began functioning with minimal devolution of functions and funds in 2001 Yet the halqa panchayats have managed to undertake development work, make plans, hold halqa majlis meetings and coordinate with the concerned functionaries. It may not have been very big in comparision to some of the other states in India where panchayats are performing at a higher level. But within the limited canvas of functions and funds the performance of halqa panchayats has been commendable. What went right then?

Halqa Panchayats and Traditional structures

India as a country has a long history of community management through traditional systems of panchayats. In some states they have existed in the form of caste panchayats like Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and in some other states they have acted as forums of dispute settlement with regard to land and other maters in the village. Therefore though panchayats as modern institutions of governance had a constitutional standing still had a tough task of coordinating with the already existing traditional institutions.

Ladakh is no exception to this. Traditionally Ladakhi villages have been organized and managed by local institutions of governance for varying purposes be it gobas or namradars17 , or religious leaders or village elders. Ladakhi societies have a strong sense of community sharing. Because of the harsh living conditions and limited availability of resources the people in the community have always pooled in their efforts for the sake of individual families and the community at large. One such example of cooperation in the villages is the system of ‘bez’. The families in the villages based on mutual consent agree to help each other during ploughing, sowing and harvesting of crops. Even to this day in many villages of Ladakh region this system can be seen in operation.

One of the contexts for the present study therefore is provided by the juxtaposition of these traditional institutions with panchayats as modern institutions of governance. The study findings bring out several interesting convergences and divergences between these two sets of institutions and the manner in which they have operated together in the villages in last five years.

The gobas or namradars hold an influential position in the Ladakhi villages. They are an integral part of the village decision making and people in the village hold a high regard for the decisions made by the gobas. Goba as an institution has served as a mechanism of governance by performing such functions as maintaining land holding records, collecting land revenue, settling village disputes and so on. Hence the panchayats as institutions of local governance that were introduced in the villages through an act faced a challenge to begin with as far as matters of the village were concerned. The panchayats no doubt had a legal standing but gobas enjoyed a special status in the village as they were in existence for many decades. Besides gobas the other set of people who enjoy influence over the community are the religious leaders. Their interaction with the people though is mainly for religious purposes though subtly in some ways they have influenced panchayat functioning.

17 Gobas or Namradars were the revenue collectors of the state before independence. After the independence they were absorbed as part of the state machinery for the same purpose through an amendment. To this day they yield considerable influence in the matters of villages in the Ladakh region.

In the survey we gathered information about three types of meetings – village meetings that had been primarily held to have discussion on “village matters” that ranged from planning for a religious function to discussion on distribution of community land, ward sabhas primarily called by the ward members the “village problems” like water, health, education and so on, and finally halqa majlis’s that have been held for “planning and development” essentially to discuss the distribution of funds for various village needs. The following matrix indicates the participation of people in different kinds of meetings in the village. The matrix has looked at the varying degrees of attendance by people in these meetings. The percentage of attendance has been then compared with who invited them to the meeting. So was attendance more if goba invited them for a meeting or was there a significance presence in the ward sabha and halqa majlis too?

Invitation to meeting



Who invited you to the village meeting?

Goba (47 %)

Village elders and religious leaders (23.6 %)

Goba (73 %)

Who invited to the ward sabha?

Panch and sarpanch (38.7%)

Village elders and religious leaders 

(38.7 %)

Panch and sarpanch (76 %)

Who invited you to the halqa majlis?

Panch and sarpanch

(49 %)

Panch and sarpanch

(74 %)

Attendance in the meetings

Village Meetings

67 %

65 %

Ward Sabha


31.3 %

Halqa Majlis



Clearly the goba, religious leaders and village elders hold influence on people’s participation in the villages. And before the halqa panchayats came into existence the community looked up to goba and the village elders for guidance and support in the matters of village. Halqa panchayats therefore had a tough task of establishing their identity in the villages and gathering support for their activities.

Women's attendance in meetings (in %)

Type of meeting



Village Meeting



Ward Sabha



Gram Sabha



The attendance of women in the meetings in Kargil has been relatively lower in comparision to Leh. Their attendance has been higher whenever goba (40 %) or the village elders (26 %) have called for a meeting. Only 16.5 % of the women in Kargil knew who their ward member is while in Leh it stood at 32. 8 %.

Though the above matrix establishes the continuing influence of goba and village elders yet the panchayats have been able to carve an identity for themselves in the community. The halqa panchayat has been accepted to certain extent as an alternate institution that can handle village matters. The panch and sarpanch have avoided conflict by indulging in consultation with the other decision makers in the village like Goba and religious leaders. This came out very clearly in the focus group discussions that we held with the goba members and religious leaders that the panch and sarpanch had held ward sabhas jointly with them and the goba and village elders had contributed to decision making on village matters like they always did.

Besides consultations with the stakeholders the panchayat members managed to stay clear of matters of the village that have been traditionally handled by goba and village elders or religious leaders. To take the example of religious events in the village, the panch and sarpanch extended support to them administratively but the decision making about these events still was done by the goba and other important people in the village. But when it came to funds for development schemes and programmes panch and sarpanch clearly held the fort. During the focus group discussions when we asked the goba or religious leaders as to why they thought it was important to have panchayats as they will bring funds for village development. Hence they extended their support for welfare of the village.

Panchayats and other community based organizations

Village education committee members in Leh and watershed development committee members in Kargil have been two other institutions that have actually worked together with halqa panchayats. The extent of cooperation of these institutions with halqa panchayats though has been different in both the districts. The WDC and VEC are two of the other modern community based organizations that have strong presence in the village. Both these committees have been organized under the centrally sponsored schemes of Haryali and Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan where in they have to work along with the panchayats. Interestingly in Leh majority of the VEC members who have been interviewed have been women and they have attended the meetings and been in touch with the ward members in the last five years. On the other hand, in Kargil most of the VEC members have been men and their interaction with the panch and sarpanch have not been regular.

In Leh the research team had a discussion with the implementing committee members of the watershed development programme. They had very fascinating insights to offer with regard to the interaction between the WDC members and panchayat representatives. Many of the panchayat representatives who stood for the elections earlier had been part of the village watershed committees. Therefore their relationship with these committees was alive even after they became panch and sarpanch. They continued to attend the meetings of WDC and assisting the committees in implementation of the programme. In both Kargil and Leh halqa panchayats in the first two years did not have a specific set of functions that they were to perform and no funds had been allotted to them18. Therefore they adopted the watershed committees as part of their panchayat mandate and resumed to function.

Though panchayats monitor the implementation of watershed development programme and technically sarpanch approves the bills for the works the halqa panchayat did not have a central role in decision making in these committees. The members of these committees linked to block level functionaries directly for the purposes of decision making. Hence by mere nomination of sarpanch on committees will not bring about their active involvement in these. Until the functionaries at the block and council refrain from superceding the functional authority of panchayats as far as any subject at the village level is concerned the halaqa panchayats will not be able to assert their constitutional standing in the villages.

18 In 2003 the panchayati raj act was amended to include provisions of the 73rd amendment and the panchayats had been holding office for already for two years without proper guidelines on functions and responsibilities.
Panchayat Functioning

Therefore the halqa panchayats built a functional framework for their work by taking in to confidence the goba and village elders and by gathering support from the community. On one hand it can be the outcome of the efforts of panch and sarpanch who by way of their work were able to instill trust in the community. On the other hand the support may have flowed because the community recognized an opportunity for development through halqa panchayats. The truth probably lies between both these propositions.

As much as 49.5 % of the panch and sarpanch reported that they received good support in the village during their tenure. In Kargil the panch and sarpanch reported that 67 % of their support was from villagers while on the other hand in Leh 32 % of the panch and sarpanch said that they received support from the villagers. But the situation in Leh seemed more balanced with the halqa panchayats receiving support from a large range of stakeholders including goba, village elders, religious leaders, self help groups and so on. The halqa panchayats in Kargil though had different experience. The halqa panchayats there did not enjoy this kind of multidimensional support in the community. So who were these stakeholders who keenly followed the activities of the panchayat? And for what reasons?


Do you know who your ward member is?

Did you meet your ward member in the last five years?






127 (136)

274 (297)

40 (136)

88 (297)

School teacher

35 (35)

2 (2)

No (35)

No (2)


47 (57)

60 (87)

5 (57)

6 (87)


19 (16)

35 (35)

No (16)

3 (35)


Have you attended ward sabha?

Have you attended halqa majlis?

Have you attended a village meeting?








62 (136)

98 (297)

23 (136)

69 (297)

96 (136)

180 (297)

School teacher

11 (35)

No (2)

8 (35)

1 (2)

27 (35)

2 (2)


17 (57)

31 (46)

8 (57)

22 (87)

39 (57)

57 (87)


7 (16)

16 (35)

No (16)

3 (35)

13 (16)

32 (35)

19 Village Education Committee

The panch and sarpanch had the backing of silent supporters. 54.6 % of the respondents believed that their ward member can solve their problems. But not all these people met their ward member for some work or attended meetings in the village. For instance, the survey had 86 respondents who were wage labourers. They seem to have been totally out of the ambit of panchayat functioning. They knew who their ward member was. They also reported that the ward member can solve their problems. But in the whole of five years they had neither met the ward member even once nor attended any village meetings or meetings called by the panch and sarpanch. This probably may have been due to the fact that they may have been away from the village in search of work and most of the times therefore have been left out of the village activities.

The other two set of people who have kept interest in the panchayats have been the farmers in both the districts. They have regularly met the ward members and attended meetings called by panch and sarpanch.

The discussions with the people in the village did reveal the aspect that they held a lot of hope from the panchayats. Though many of them did not articulate that they saw panchayat as institutions an governance in many other ways they expressed that panchayats receive funds from the government and through these funds the problems of the villages could be solved. Hence all these years when people did not know where to go when they had problems panchayat came as institution that could be accessed by all of them. Panchayats through majlis’s created a space for the community to gather together to discuss their problems and make decisions collectively.

20 Watershed Development Committee

21 Village Education Committee

22 Watershed Development Committee

What are the functions of halqa panchayats?

In the villages we asked the respondents few questions to know their extent of understanding about the panchayats. For instance, about 43 % of the respondents remembered voting in the last panchayat elections and another 40 % of them remembered that their member was nominated as the panchayat representative. Out of the 1076 respondents at the village level 550 respondents were aware of the fact that a halqa panchayat has to run for five years.







Development of the village






Fund Distribution






Solve problems of the village






Planning for the village






Welfare of the village






* 453 women and 622 men respondents

Though one can not say that people had sound knowledge about panchayats yet they were familiar with the basic tenets of it and to certain measure had formed their own ideas with regard to what a panchayat should be doing in a village.
Reason for meeting the ward member:

Reason for meeting the ward member:





School related


Fund distribution




Problems of the village


Drinking Water


About 30.8 % of the respondents in Leh and another 27.3 % of the respondents in Kargil had met their ward member at least once wanting to discuss one of the problems mentioned in the matrix above. Wherever people have initiated this process of discussing their problems with their ward member and following up on the same the ward members have taken up developmental works in those villages. In one another query respondents had been asked to list out the services that they want in the village and followin is the list of responses from them:











































Medical Aid centre





Women’s Alliance Centre





The discussions with people in Kargil had time and again brought out the high level of expectations of people from panchayats. In Leh on the other hand there was a lot of skepticism about panchayats among people. But in Kargil people firmly believed that the mandate of the panchayats is to work for the development of village and that they can do it provided they get adequate funds, and panch and sarpanch are trained to discharge their responsibilities. The above matrix shows that the people of Kargil want the basic services to be in place in the villages and as the higher level of government has not been able to do it they feel that the panchayats can step in to fill the gap.

Their sense of disconnect from the block and district was evident when we asked them about their opinion on connectivity to block and district. As much as 71 % of the men and women reported that they feel isolated from the block and district headquarters due to lack of efficient transportation and absence of motorable roads23. Whereas in Leh district both women and men found it easier to reach their block and district headquarters as they better road connectivity and also had more access to services there. India since independence has placed a lot of thrust on planned development through five year plans. But the planning for many decades had been centralized in nature which often over rode the ground realities. One of the significant provisions that the 73rd amendment provided was for decentralized planning24. Therefore halqa panchayats can fill this gap in availability and accessibility to services if adequate resources are transferred for them to make need based plans for the villages. The halqa panchayats to some extent have lessened this gap between the village, and block and district headquarters. The panch and sarpanch have during their course of their work built contacts with the block functionaries and council members.

23 Kargil has a total of 156.46 kilometres of road length. In Comparision Leh has a road length of 1314 kilometres.

24 Article 243ZD of the 73rd amendment provides for district planning committees that will make consolidated district plans based on the village plans.

Block Functionary

Number of panch and sarpanch who had met  



Block Development Officer



Zonal Education Officer



Block Medical Officer



Child Development Program Officer









* 161 panches and sarpanches surveyed

The lack of proper medical facilities or problems with school was often reported by the respondents in the village survey. Panch and sarpanch seemed have to have therefore interacted with the functionaries concerned with these problems frequently. We also looked at the distance between the villages and block headquarters and whether this deterred the panch and sarpanch from traveling to the block headquarters. Whether the panch and sarpanch have been near or close to the block they have traveled if there was a need to meet a functionary regarding their village problems. Some of the villages even though far off have still managed to get many benefits from the block.

The study team interviewed some of the functionaries at the block level. The functionaries of two departments, rural development and ICDS25 reported that they had interacted with the panch and sarpanch very regularly and their feedback about the involvement of halqa panchayats in planning and implementation of schemes has been positive.

Child Development Programme Officer of ICDS “Whenever I call, they do attend meeting in my office and help the launch of departmental schemes in the village. They often help the government officers/officials to monitor the activities in a good way” “The Gram Panchayat members always attend meetings at the Block Headquarter to review the over all physical and financial achievement and to discuss the bottlenecks problem like timely release of sufficient funds. The Gram Panchayats are functioning successfully and the role of the Panchayati Raj is commendable, as planning and financial powers are being vested by the panchayats as per guidelines” - Block Development Official, Department of Rural Development

25Integrated Child Development Programme

Incidentally the only two departments that have transferred powers and funds to halqa panchayats have been ICDS and rural development. This is more than enough proof to say that adequate devolution to halqa panchayats is necessary. Besides this also supports the proposition that we began this section with that halqa panchayats have been able to gain the support of people in the villages as they have managed to start the trickling down of services and funds.

People’s Participation and Panchayat functioning

The participation of people is as much necessary as the efficiency of panch and sarpanch for panchayat functioning. If the halqa panchayats have reached a level of achievement how much did people contribute to it?

The survey tried to assess people’s participation through an analysis of composition of ward sabha and gram sabha. Totally about 31.9 % of the respondents attended the ward Sabha. In Leh district around 39.3 % of the respondents had attended a ward sabha while in Kargil the figure stood at 32.2 %. Though the participation of people in ward sabhas stands at a satisfactory level the same does not hold true as far as gram sabhas are concerned. Only about 17.4 % of the respondents had attended a gram sabha. More number of gram sabhas had been held in Leh than in Kargil.

One can jump to conclusion by attributing the low attendance in gram sabha to the hilly terrain of Ladakh that would make it difficult for people of many villages to attend the gram sabha at the halqa panchayat level. But in reality the reasons seem to be entirely varied and very few people reported hilly terrain as one of the reasons for their non attendance in gram sabha.

Provisions in the Panchayati Raj act for people’s participation

  1. Every panchayat will have a halqa majlis
  2. The sarpanch will convene atleast two meetings of halqa majlis during a financial year
  3. Halqa panchayat shall prepare an annual budget and lay it for sanction before the majli’s
  4. At least 20 days notice should be given when calling for majli’s meeting

Reasons for not joining the gram sabha

The single most reason that people sited for their inability to take part in the gram sabha has been that they were rarely informed about the gram sabhas. Though in most of the villages where survey was undertaken gram sabhas have been held, the panches and sarpanches haven’t made an effort to adequately inform the people about the venue and time of these meetings. Most of the people who attended the gram sabhas reported that they were informed about the gram sabhas only a day or two before the meeting. Many of them were also under the impression that panches and sarpanches attended the gram sabhas on their behalf and talked about village development.

We tried to understand the compulsions of panches and sarpanches that resulted in the low publicity for the ward and gram sabhas. On a lot of occasions the panches and sarpanches felt inadequate to handle the differences of opinions in the village meetings as far as the allocation of funds was concerned. They could not reach consensus on allocation based on the priority of needs of people. Often the funds have been equally divided between the villages. In the bargain every village had got a small share of the funds that was not substantial enough to undertake any meaningful work in the village.

But the picture is not dismal entirely. In many villages the ward and gram sabhas have been successfully held and fruitful decisions about village development have taken place. These are the villages where the panch and sarpanch had the support of the villagers including the goba and village elders. These elected representatives were well informed about the act and the importance of gram sabha. These representatives have ensured that planning was done systematically in consultation with different stakeholders. The discussions in the ward sabha pertained to development of village; water shed development, school problems and fund allocation. Decisions were taken regarding water shed development and school problems. In comparision the discussions and decisions in gram sabha have been confined to fund allocation.

In contrast to gram sabhas the ward sabhas seem to have enjoyed a broader canvas that allowed discussions on several matters concerning the village. Though as many as 22.7 % reported that one gram Sabha should be held in a year and 35.4 % reported that at least two gram sabhas should be held and interestingly another 30 % felt that any number of gram sabhas can be held in a year if there is a need for the same. In conclusion whether it is gram sabha or ward sabha people intend to take part in the decision making process of the village provided they are given appropriate information and a space for collective sharing is created.

Women’s Participation

The study looked at women’s participation from two angles. One from the perspective of their involvement in the decision making process in the village matters as citizens and secondly their involvement as elected representatives to panchayats.

The study findings have raised a lot of concern with regard to women’s participation, both as citizens and elected representatives. The survey team for instance faced a lot of trouble to get women to talk to them. This was more pronounced in Kargil than in Leh.

The women in Ladakh are considered to be more independent and vocal. They influence many of the household decisions. Agriculture in Ladakh is labour intensive and since there is no outside labour available the families in the villages have to cooperate with each other by sharing their resources. Women form a major part of the resource for agriculture. Men in Ladakh are away from home grazing the animals or on trekking trips during the tourist season. The women in the villages therefore manage the day to day activities of the household on their own.

But their involvement in the economic and political arena may not to the same extent as in the social sphere. The formation of self help groups to certain extent has allowed them to come out of the household decision making and participate in the village level decision making. For instance, in the study out of the 40 villages, 27 villages had self help groups of women (17 in Leh and 10 in Kargil). In the survey we explored this aspect a little further by looking at whether the presence of SHG in a village increased the involvement of women in the panchayat functioning. We did find a significant influence of SHG on the participation of women. The respondents for instance reported that women who belonged to the SHG were more vocal and raised a lot of issues in the village meetings. These were the women who also regularly attended the ward sabhas and village meetings. Therefore definitely the presence of a network helps women to participate in the sphere of village decision making.

But a larger percentage of women did not attend ward sabhas and gram sabhas. In Leh district 14 % of the women respondents had attended the ward sabha meeting while in Kargil only 6.5 % of the women attended the ward sabha. Their attendance in gram sabha is even lower. In Leh 6.3 % of the women respondents attended the gram sabhas in comparision to the 2.1 % in Kargil.

A large number of women respondents said that the women are not allowed to participate in the ward sabha and gram sabha. They further said that if a male member goes to a meeting then he is representing the family and therefore it was not necessary that they had to go to the meetings too. Therefore the non participation of women has been largely due to the fact that they were not allowed to take part in the meetings and also that they did not have adequate information about the ward sabha and gram sabha.

Often in the villages the survey team could not locate the women representatives. Out of the 161 interviews done with the elected representatives only 16 were of women representatives. Only one of these was from Kargil and the rest were from Leh. The act makes provision for the nomination of two women in every village in the event of inadequate women representation26. These nominations were done a year after the panchayat elections were conducted. But these nominations have been done arbitrarily and in most of the instances the women were not even aware that they had been nominated. Besides nominating them for the post no effort has gone into building their capacities to function as panchayat representatives.


Total Number of representatives

Total Number of women representatives

Total number of women who were elected

Total number of women who were nominated











Barring stray examples of couple of women representatives most others have gone unnoticed in the villages. This is because they have hardly attended panchayat meetings or have taken part in the day today functioning of panchayats. Women have come to power in large numbers in the other states of India where they constitute at least 40 to 50 percent of panchayat representatives. The experience in these states has proven that if the women representatives are equipped with appropriate training and information they can perform wonders27. The women representatives have shown a track record of addressing problems of water, health, education etc in villages.

26 When the last elections took place the Jammu and Kashmir Panchyati Raj act did not have provision for women’s reservation. Subsequently a provision for 33 % reservation for the post of panch has been made through a government order.

27 A research conducted by Indian Institute of Management, Kolkatta and Massachussets Institute of Technology and Yale University has shown that gram panchayats under the women pradhans in West Bengal and Rajasthan have lesser corruption, better drinking water facilities and better roads.

Therefore Jammu and Kashmir as a state can rely upon these experiences and encourage women to come into the political sphere. A balanced development paradigm can only be achieved where the interests of all stakeholders in halqa panchayats are represented and women are the crucial stakeholders and partners in development.

The way forward

The analysis of panchayat functioning and people’s participation in panchayats supports our hypothesis to a great extent that in Ladakh the halqa panchayats have made a mark in the first term of their existence. Therefore with more devolution, adequate capacity building and clear mapping of functions panchayats.

The term of panchayats expired on 10.08.2006. It has been over a year now and the panchayat elections still have not been announced. The Department of Rural Development, Government of Jammu and Kashmir issued an order dated 04.08.2006 the manner in which the work undertaken by the halqa panchayats will be continued. The order stressed the need for involving halqa majlis for the formulation of plans, their periodical appraisal and social auditing. The secretary of the concerned panchayat is responsible to ensure this. Further the halqa majlis has to select members for the monitoring committee that will monitor the work undertaken by the department. The funds that would have otherwise been transferred to panchayats under different scheme as per guidelines shall be operated jointly by the block development officer and panchayat secretary.

But the pertinent question before all of us why weren’t the elections for halqa panchayats announced before the expiry of the previous term? As per the act the elections have to be held within six months of dissolution of halqa panchayats. The department of rural development had to think of some temporary measures like monitoring committee so that the centrally sponsored schemes and programmes running in the villages could be continued without interruption. But they also had an option of continuing the same halqa panchayats for six more months till the next elections. But none of these measures were taken up. So therefore is there a real commitment to devolution in Jammu and Kashmir and if there is what are some of the impediments that are coming in the way of this process?

The research team met few state and cabinet ministers, party spokespersons and Chief Secretary of the state and officials in the department of rural development. The response that we received from all these people has been encouraging with a few reservations here and there.

The party spokespersons (PDP28 and Congress) reiterated their party mandate to support the process of devolution. In fact PDP has a draft plan that envisions the implementation of local governance. They cited the example of urban local bodies that were successfully constituted in the state in the year 2004-05 after a gap of 25 long years. The whole process was a great success and the municipal councils have been performing satisfactorily ever since. The other important aspect of these elections was the 33 percent reservations given for women and women have contested in these electiosn enthusiastically. In fact the reviews regarding their functioning so far have been positive. Therefore an opinion was expressed that it is necessary to reconstitute the halqa panchayats and make efforts for the incorporation of 33 percent reservation for women.

28 People’s Democratic Party founded by Sri Mufti Mohammad Sayeed

There were two constraints that were stated as reasons for delayed elections. One has been the beauracratic delay because of the ongoing process of delimitation of halqa panchayats. The officials were hopeful that once the delimitation process29 is complete they would be ready to hold elections for halqa panchayats. The second concern cited from the political front was that of security. Since the state is under the constant grips of internal violence the panchayat elections will call for large scale security arrangements. But all the same they were hopeful that once an assessment has been made regarding the kind of security arrangements required holding elections should not be difficult.

The Chief Secretary to state said that the state has no choice but to hold elections as a large of the grant money from the centre has not been released to the state treasury as the panchayat elections have not been held. And he hoped that soon a cabinet decision would be taken for finalizing the same.

How could panchayats be strengthened?

Assuming that the state is willing to hold elections for halqa panchayats in the near future the experience in Ladakh offers certain guidelines for strengthening the process of devolution in Jammu and Kashmir.

The first and foremost requirement for panchayats to function more comprehensively is access to more plan and non plan funds. In states like Karnataka and Kerala up to 50 % of the plan and non plan funds have been transferred to panchayats. But the panchayats in these states are in their fourth term of functioning and therefore are in a position to handle funds to such a large extent. Since halqa panchayats Jammu and Kashmir is going towards its second term of office after the elections they may not be equipped yet to deal with large scale resources. But all the same for panchayats to function as a competent planning and implementation they require sizeable fund devolution. And this devolution of funds can happen in a phased manner and probably there are lessons to be learnt from the experiences of other states in the country (See Annexure).

29 The same has been complete and necessary government orders have been issued to the concerned departments

Secondly the mere devolution of funds by itself will not result in improvements in the functioning of halqa panchayats. Equally important is the need to build the capacities of elected representatives to handle these funds, plan and implement programmes in halqa panchayats. In most states SIRD has taken up the initiative to train the elected representatives to panchayats. These trainings are not one time effort but they are an ongoing process with well developed modules for training. The continued efforts of capacity building have paid off and the elected representatives equipped with authentic information and skills are making Gandhi’s dream of gram swaraj true.

Thirdly the issue of building workable linkages between the village, block and district level governing bodies that allows smoother transfer of funds and coordination of functions. Again most states in India have taken up the exercise of activity mapping. Activity mapping helps the functionaries at various levels to know the core of roles and responsibilities that they have to discharge. But the activity mapping has to be taken up by each concerned line department and they also have to issue to appropriate government orders to give official recognition to activity mapping. Article 243G (Eleventh schedule) provides for the transfer of powers to panchayats so that they can be effective institutions of local governance. The constitution has listed down 29 matters that are open for the devolution. The Government of Jammu and Kashmir through order No. 21 delegated the list of areas and activities that would fall under the purview of panchayats. Initially 9 subjects were transferred to the jurisdiction of panchayats and subsequently this list has grown to include 15 subjects (See Annexure). But in Jammu and Kashmir only 2 departments, ICDS and Rural Development have taken measures for transfer of power.

Fourth is the issue of honorarium to panch and sarpanch. One of the sarpanches during an interview said “right now only the rich can contest for panchayat elections”. What he meant by this was basically that as panch and sarpanch individuals have to travel to block and district headquarters and have to put a lot of their personal work aside that gives them an income. But someone who is a wage labourer for instance will not be in a position to lose wages for many days in the work of panchayats. Therefore if the panchayat representatives like any other functionary has to work full time towards development of halqa panchayat compensation of their time has to be done adequately. The Jammu and Kashmir Panchyati Raj Act has made a provision (Chapter 2, point 10) for this and therefore it is a mere matter of implementation.

Fifthly, the halqa majlis, which is the foundation of local self governance, has not been recognized as an institution in the Jammu and Kashmir Panchayat act. A good thing about the act is that it makes it mandatory for the halqa panchayats to ‘lay for sanction’ its plans and budget to a ‘meeting of voters’. However, this ‘meeting of voters’ and its mode of functioning have not been clearly defined. Also the act does not state that the recommendations given by the halqa majlis are binding legally and can not be tampered with.

Finally a spelt out strategy for enhancing women’s participation in panchayats is much needed. All states in India have reserved 33 percent of seats for women and in Bihar it is up to 50 percent. Women have performed well even under adverse circumstance in these states.