Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Onus on sarpanches to perform with responsibility....Sarpanches…perform or perish:Vanam Jwala Narasimha Rao

Sarpanches…perform or perish
Onus on sarpanches to perform with responsibility
Telangana Today (25-10-2017)
Vanam Jwala Narasimha Rao

The State Cabinet decided to bring in a new legislation to strengthen Panchayat Raj Institutions as well as conduct elections well before the expiry of the tenure. The state cabinet also decided to upgrade tribal hamlets, Gondugudems and Chenchupalles into gram panchayats besides carving out additional panchayats on population cum geographical criteria. This might increase the number of gram panchayat by a maximum of 5000 from the existing 8684.

Under the united Andhra Pradesh State elections to Panchayats were held in July 2013 in Telangana. The term of the Sarpanches commenced on August 2, 2013 and will come to an end on August 1, 2018. According to the Panchayat Raj Act, elections can be conducted three months prior to the end of the tenure. Governments in the past totally neglected the development through local bodies. It is very unfortunate that the Panchayat Raj system, which is supposed to mirror the development of the villages, had lurched into political filth and became fiefdom of the elected local representatives neglecting their very basic duties. The weakening of the local bodies resulted in the underdevelopment of the state and the country. The desired development of state and country is possible only when the local bodies function well and that was the reason why SK Dey who pioneered and steered community development in independent India envisioned it as a movement rather as a simple institution. Now gone are those days.

Former Prime Minister Late PV Narasimha Rao in 1992 brought in the key 73rd Constitutional Amendment paving way for devolution of 29 subjects of funds, functions and functionaries to the Panchayats. Unfortunately, all these have been reduced to paper texts only. Several state governments either have not transferred the subjects or in many instances most of the Sarpanches were not been able to discharge their duties. There are only a handful of villages, which lived up to the spirit of 73rd amendment. The Panchayat Raj system has been weakened and rendered helpless. The development and welfare programmes to be implemented by the Sarpanches have become a distant dream. There is no accountability, transparency and responsiveness on the part of Sarpanches with regards to their obligatory development and welfare village level responsibilities like the road network, drainage facility, drinking water supply, sanitation, hygiene of schools in the village, garbage and so on. The Sarpanch transformed into resorting to threaten the MLA concerned in shifting his responsibility and demanding the MLA to perform instead. This needs a revolutionary change.

The local bodies and panchayats raj Institutions which are supposed to play a pivotal role in a decentralized democratic set up have become replicas of irresponsibility. Recommendations of Balwant Rai Mehta, Ashok Mehta, GVK Rao, LM Singhvi and other committees have not been implemented in letter and spirit. Answer to the question as to “why Panchayat set up” is very simple…to distribute the local resources equally, ensuring the locals participation in the government works, to attend to the day to day needs of the people, to create more local employment, to implement poverty eradication programs at local level and things like that. None of these are happening. In our democracy local self-governance has a crucial role to play in bringing the benefits of democracy closer to the people.

To realize this and to ensure comprehensive village development, Chief Minister KCR conceived a scheme called Gram Jyothi and implemented. In the initial phase, under the programme, people in the villages came together to make the village clean, green and hygienic. Officials from all levels and elected representatives with the participation of the local people drafted plan for the village development. However, the Sarpanches have miserably failed to take this initiative forward and as result the desired results could not be realized. Hence the people should show their strength and teach how to take the village forward in development with proper planning. People should take the lead role in strengthening the Panchayat Raj institutions.

Unfortunately, the Sarpanches who are expected to play decisive role have forgotten even to live in their village! The Mandal Praja Parishath President who is supposed to tour the entire Mandal and monitor the development activity seldom visits even the Mandal headquarters! The ZPTC members who are supposed to act as bridge between the Zilla Parishath and Mandal have given-up their basic duties. The government programmes, which are to be implemented at the ground level with people’s participation, have not been done. The Gram sarpanch has no intention of working for the village and has no desire to develop his village. He has no proper check about discharging his responsibilities as of now.

Why not we develop our own villages? Why can’t we create permanent assets in the villages? Visit any village the atmosphere is that of neglect. Imagine if a sarpanch decides; will there be sale of the illicit liquor? Playing cards? Will not long-term development works like planting of saplings and protecting trees be successful? Against this backdrop, there is an urgent need to bring in changes in the existing Panchayat Raj Act and that is what the Government thinks. Towards this the Government thinking is to consult experts in the field and draft the best of the Act.

The Act should think of remedial measures on non-performing people’s representatives. Either perform or perish shall be the guiding principle. The entire responsibility and a major portion of it should rest with the sarpanch and the rest on the other elected ward members. The sarpanch who fails to perform should be declared ineligible. The sarpanch should have at least one meeting per week in the Dalit Bastis, Rajak Wada and other such areas to interact with people and solve their problems. The Sarpanch shall not live outside the village come what may. He or she should have permanent residence in the village where he or she got elected.

Sarpanch shall be entrusted with the responsibilities of ear marking Dumping yard, identifying place for cremation and burial, ensuring cleanliness in the educational instructions, developing nursery, protecting the trees along the main roads leading to the village, cleansing water tanks, ensuring timely payment of the house tax etc. People in the village should be educated on the state and central government development and welfare schemes by the Sarpanch.

Telangana state should become platform for a wonderful Panchayat Raj system and should become role model for a working Panchayat and functioning sarpanch. Unless each village becomes a Panchayat itself, no amount of funds granted will bring in development. The Sarpanches should get a realization that if they do not perform they will be disqualified. And hence, a candidate while planning to contest as sarpanch will think twice before taking the plunge. They should realize that they should perform or perish. If we produce a performing panchayat it will be a great service to society.

And hence a Revolutionary Telangana Panchayat Raj Act is in the offing. END

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