New Delhi: With militants targeting panchayat members in Jammu and Kashmir, a group representing them on Thursday met Congress leader Rahul Gandhi to press for compensation for the kin of the three sarpanches killed and secure working conditions, apart from greater devolution of powers.
"Gandhi promised to look into their demand including for a compensation of Rs 20 lakh each to the dependents of the three sarpanches who were killed by the militants," General Secretary of All Jammu and Kashmir Panchayat Coordination Committee Anil Sharma told reporters here.
Four panches and sarpanches have been killed by suspected militants and many others have been targeted since the landmark panchayat polls held in the state last year after a gap of 30 years, triggering a spate of resignations by these elected representatives.
Nine panchayat members from the state under the banner of All Jammu and Kashmir Panchayat Coordination Committee apprised Gandhi of their problems and told him that the non-delegation of power to them under the Panchayati Raj Act has created a "piquant situation" for them.
Gandhi has also promised them that he will visit the state very soon and address meetings on the issue.
The Panchayat members requested Gandhi to address one Maha Panchayat Meeting each in both Jammu and Kashmir regions.
The issue of killing of sarpanches was also raised in the Congress Working Committee meeting on Tuesday in which Gandhi had said that it was a serious matter and needed to be look into.
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah yesterday promised security to the panchayat members and said the state government would not allow the ultras to disrupt ongoing efforts to strengthen the Panchayati Raj system in the state.
"Rahul Gandhi has agreed to our demand. He said he will visit the state soon," Shafeeque Mir, convenor of All Jammu and Kashmir Panchayat Coordination Committee, said.
Another general secretary of the organisation, Khurshid Mallik, said that the biggest problem before the sarpanches is that they have not been empowered adequately.
"If there were no disturbances in conducting Panchayat polls, then why we are facing security threat now. This needs to be thought over. We are not been given power. So, we are not functional and we are losing the faith of people in our areas," he said.
The general secretary in-charge for Jammu and Kashmir, Mohan Prakash, is also holding another meeting to discuss their problems.