24 February 2024
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Mehrajuddin Rather, the former sarpanch of Nesbal village of North Kashmir’s Bandipora district, likes to show a video to those he meets for the first time.

In the video from 2022, Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha praises him for implementing central government schemes in his panchayat. “If such an individual is not appreciated then it would be injustice,” Sinha says in the video clip. “In my view, he [Rather] is our role model.”

Rather was elected as a sarpanch in 2018 after contesting panchayat elections as an independent candidate. In these five years, he claims to have carried out development work in Nesbal worth Rs 27 crore – from building a sports stadium to ensuring borewell irrigation on hundreds of acres of agricultural land.

“As a sarpanch, I was able to act as a bridge between a common villager’s problems and the administration,” said the 32-year-old, who joined the Bharatiya Janata Party in 2022.

Rather will no longer have the opportunity to act as that bridge. On January 9, the term of 4,297 sarpanchs and 33,659 panchs in Jammu and Kashmir came to an end – with no clarity about when elections will be held next.

Diminished democracy

With the end of the tenure of the elected panchayat…

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Abdul Gh Lone