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Movement launched to defend panchayat institutions

Special Correspondent

"Aim is to stem attempts to undermine their role in local administration" "Aim is to stem attempts to undermine their role in local administration"



CHAMPIONING LOCAL GOVERNANCE: M.S. Swaminathan, Chairman, National Commission on Farmers, Rita Sarin, Country Director, Hunger Project, India, and G. Palanithurai, Chairperson, Hunger Project, Tamil Nadu, in Chennai on Friday. — Photo: Shaju J ohn

CHENNAI: : A movement to protect and defend panchayat institutions has been launched under the chairmanship of former MP Era Sezhiyan.

The aim is to unite all those who have faith in self-governance of local panchayats in the State. Such a movement has become necessary as systematic attempts are being made to undermine the role of panchayats in local administration, A.K.Venkata Subramanian, a trustee of the Catalyst, told presspersons here on Friday.

He legislation enacted over 50 years had been stressing the principle of creating panchayat raj as institutions of self-governance, but it did not come off in the absence of vigorous people's movement. Though the Central and State Governments had been claiming that the local bodies should be given powers to function as self-government, they were not ready to transfer powers, fearing that their roles would be undermined. Hence only a solid movement with people's support could facilitate devolution of powers.

Mr. Sezhiyan said neither the Centre nor the State Government was serious about devolving powers to local bodies. The MP and MLA constituency development funds amounted to a gross violation of local governance: while Rs. 345 crores were being allotted every year to the State under the scheme, only Rs. 232 crores was allotted to panchayats by the State government. Works executed under the constituency development fund did not come under any audit; there was no agency to monitor those works. In many cases, no completion certificate was issued for works implemented during 1997-2000.

Earlier, participating in a workshop on dissemination of resolutions adopted at round table conferences, organised by the Central and State Governments, M.S.Swaminathan, Chairman, National Commission of Farmers, said poverty could be eradicated only through decentralisation. He cited the case of Thailand, where infant mortality was reduced from 45 to 10 per cent within a short period through decentralisation.

The Commission recommended that every panchayat under the control of a woman president be given separate funds to meet the special needs of women.

He also stressed the need for periodic training of panchayat presidents and said a knowledge centre should be set up in every village.

Rita Sarin, country director, Hunger Project, regretted that when crores of rupees were being spent on training bureaucrats, no attention was paid to the training of panchayat representatives. Panchayats should be empowered to execute health and education schemes.

G. Palanithurai, Chairperson, Hunger Project, Tamil Nadu, explained the resolutions.

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