An audit by the government of India’s Rural Development Ministry has found several loopholes in the implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) in Jammu and Kashmir.
The Act, guaranteeing 100 days of wage employment in a fiscal to every rural household whose adults opt for unskilled manual work, has J&K figuring in almost “all instances of negligence” in the last three fiscals.
As per the ministry’s National Level Monitoring (NLM) report, in 2016-17 fiscal, work was not provided within the stipulated time to the workers in 73 per cent of the villages audited in the state.
Wage disbursal, the NLM report said, was delayed by “more than a month” in 72 percent of the screened villages.
The report pointed out a “lack of adequate efforts to create awareness under MGNREGA” in J&K, while one-third of the job-card holders in the state did not actually possess the cards.
Many wage seekers in J&K, the report added, were not aware of the “provision of the acknowledgement receipt”.
“None of the wage seekers were aware of the entitlements about unemployment allowance in majority of the sample villages in Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab and Uttarakhand states,” read the report.
The J&K’s dismal performance continues simultaneously to hundreds of crores rupees given to it by the government of India each year.
As per the official figures, the state received over Rs 3,000 crore since 2013 including Rs 646.03 crore in 2017-18, Rs 756.26 crore in 2016-17, Rs 545.04 crore in 2015-16, Rs 404.56 crore in 2014-15, and Rs 672.53 crore in 2013-14.
As part of effective implementation of MGNREGA, J&K’s Rural Development Department was supposed to set up an independent Social Audit Unit (SAU), which is, however, yet to be constituted.
The team is supposed to “ensure that the appropriate action, including initiating criminal and civil proceedings or termination of services, is initiated against an individual or class of individuals or persons who miss-utilise or embezzle the amount meant for the schemes under the Act”.
Also, J&K is among the few states yet to appoint ombudsmen, who would have a suo moto authority to look into complaints under MGNREGA.
Commissioner Secretary J&K Rural Development Department, Nirmal Sharma, told The Kashmir Monitor that they have filed their report to the Government of India in response to the NLM report.
On setting up of SAU, she said that the department has prepared a Memorandum of Association and sent it to the Law Department for approval.
“Once they approve it, we will register SAU as a society. I understand that we cannot delay it each year. We have already appointed the district coordinators for the SAU,” she said.
UN chief could discuss Kashmir issue at UNGA: UN spokesman
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres is likely to use the opportunity of discussions during the high-level UN General Assembly session that begins here next week to raise the Kashmir issue, the UN chief’s spokesperson has said.
Spokesman for the Secretary-General Stephane Dujarric during the daily press briefing here on Thursday said that the UN chief has underscored the need for dialogue as the only way to resolve the issue and, “as part of the solution for the current crisis in Kashmir, to make sure that human rights aspects are very much dealt with, as well.”
“…On Kashmir, the Secretary General… has said previously, he remains engaged. I think he will also use the opportunity of discussions during the General Assembly to raise it,” Dujarric said, responding to a question on the situation in Kashmir.
On Wednesday, Guterres emphasised that “dialogue” between India and Pakistan is an “absolute essential element” for reaching a solution on the Kashmir issue, and said his good offices are available should both sides ask for it and called for full respect of human rights.
“Well, our capacity is related to good offices, and good offices can only be implemented when the parties accept it. And, on the other hand, it relates to advocacy, and the advocacy was expressed and will be maintained,” Guterres said during his press conference ahead of the UN General Assembly session.
Guterres was asked by a Pakistani journalist about the situation in Jammu and Kashmir and what will he do to bring a solution to the Kashmir issue.
“I go on with a clear opinion that human rights must be fully respected in the territory, and I go on with the clear opinion that dialogue between India and Pakistan is an absolutely essential element for the solution of the problem,” he said.
India has always maintained that Jammu and Kashmir is its integral part and ruled out any third party mediation, including either from the UN or the US, saying it is a bilateral issue with Pakistan.
The UN Secretary General has also repeatedly asserted that his good offices are available only if both sides ask for it.
Tension between India and Pakistan escalated after New Delhi revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s special status on August 5. Pakistan has downgraded diplomatic ties with New Delhi and expelled the Indian High Commissioner.
Pakistan has been trying to internationalise the Kashmir issue but India has asserted that the abrogation of Article 370 was its “internal matter”.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has vowed to raise the Kashmir issue at the UN General Assembly (UNGA) session in New York on September 27. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is also scheduled to speak on the same day.
Amid Kashmir tensions, India will participate at SAARC meeting in New York
NEW DELHI: Amid heightened Indo-Pak tensions, India will participate at the SAARC foreign ministers meeting scheduled to be held on September 26 on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session, officials said on Thursday.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan will be present in the US next week and will hold bilateral and multilateral meetings.
Officials said India will participate in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation foreign ministers meeting that is scheduled for September 26.
The meeting on the sidelines of the UNGA could bring Jaishankar and his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi face to face for the first time after the abrogation of Article 370 provisions.
Asked about a possible meeting with his Pakistani counterpart as well as the future of the SAARC regional grouping, Jaishankar, at a press conference earlier this week, had said, “if and when I meet Pakistani Foreign Minister, we will see at that time what happens”.
The SAARC is about regional cooperation and that refers to trade, MFN, connectivity etc.
, he had said, adding that now every member knows which country is promoting SAARC and which one is impeding it.
Last year, then External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had attended the SAARC Foreign Ministers meeting, usually held on the sidelines of the UNGA.
Plea alleges detention of children in Kashmir, SC seeks report
The Supreme Court on Friday sought a report from Jammu and Kashmir High Court on the alleged detention of children in Kashmir during curbs following the scrapping of Article 370 in the state on August 5.
Senior advocate Huzefa Ahmadi, representing child right activists Inakshi Ganguly and Shanta Sinha who have alleged detention of children in Kashmir, had on September 16 told the apex court that people in the Valley are not able to approach the high court there.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said it would entertain the petition regarding alleged detention of children in Kashmir as the plea has raised “substantial issues” regarding minors. The top court directed the Juvenile Justice Committee of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court to file a report before it within a week on the issue.
The Supreme Court also said it had received a report from the Chief Justice of Jammu and Kashmir High Court and claims that people are unable to access the court there are not supported.
“We have received the report from the chief justice (of Jammu and Kashmir High Court) which does not support your statement,” the bench also comprising justices S A Bobde and S A Nazeer told the counsel appearing for the petitioners.
The Supreme Court also sought response from the Jammu and Kashmir administration on a plea challenging detention of five persons in Kashmir following the abrogation of Article 370.
The bench asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who was appearing for the Jammu and Kashmir administration, to file his response.