Thursday, Jul 24, 2003
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By N.J. Nair
The panchayat has to return Rs. 16 crores, Rs. 6 crores allocated for implementing the projects taken up at the end of the Ninth Plan and Rs. 10 crores for those taken up under the Tenth Plan, the president, Sasikala Sivasankar said.
According to Ms. Sivasankar, the unilateral decision of the Government has limited the scope of functioning of the panchayat. The Government should have had discussions with the civic chiefs and granted time for spending the unspent funds, she said.
The payments for the projects taken up by the panchayat were made through 37 district-level officials of various departments. Now, it has been vested with the panchayat secretary, who earlier was responsible only for apportioning the funds as directed by the panchayat committee.
The directive has upset the process of decentralisation. The district panchayat chiefs all over the State would meet the Chief Minister, A.K. Antony, and take up the issue with him, Ms. Sivasankar said.
Though the third instalment of funds was sanctioned on March 26, it was credited to the panchayat account only in April. Intermittent ban on Treasury payments had also delayed the withdrawal, she said.
``The construction of school buildings and functioning of hospitals, distribution of pensions and grant to orphanages and other welfare schemes would also be disrupted. The distribution of protein-rich food to children was not to be suspended at any cost. Now even that had been hit,'' Ms. Sivasankar said.
According to rules, projects costing Rs. 5 lakhs to Rs. 15 lakhs should be implemented only by floating tenders. The panchayat had taken up infrastructure development projects for Rs. 6 crores.
Earlier, when the projects were implemented by beneficiary committees, they were eligible to avail of 25 per cent advance of the estimated cost for the works.
But the cost of the works executed by the contractors can be paid only on completion. Ms. Sivasankar said that the panchayat would not have funds to clear the bills of the contractors on completing the ongoing works.
The district panchayat had set apart Rs. 3.25 crores for the Thanal Housing Scheme and the block panchayats, municipalities and grama panchayats had contributed Rs. 5 crores. The implementation of the housing scheme also stands affected. The Government should take immediate remedial steps to give funds to the civic bodies, Ms. Sivasankar said.
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