"The government is committed to strengthening democracy at the ground level and panchayats are being empowered appropriately," the minister told a public gathering in Akhnoor, 30 km from here yesterday.
Sharma said that the state has suffered financially due to delay in holding the polls.
Listing the government's measures to improve facilities in the region, he said some new sites have been identified for tourist attraction, adding that a proposal to develop Jia Potha Ghat on river Chenab on the pattern of Laxman Jhoola is under the active consideration of the government and likely to be approved by the Centre shortly.
Efforts have been made to connect all villages by road, he said adding that deep drilling tube wells will be dug to overcome the drinking water scarcity in the Kandi belt.
Later, Sharma visited Sub-District Hospital Akhnoor and took stock of the facilities being provided to patients.