THE LIGHT OF ANDAMANS | VOL 36 | ISSUE 04 | 15 NOV 2012
Grass Root Democracy:
The PRIs have failed to come to terms with some of the provisions contained in a notification that sounds great in principle but lacks practicality. On one hand each tier has been made independent bodies with enhanced financial powers on the other hand they have been embroiled into hassles on the garb of rules and safeguards. The end result is delays in execution of works at the ground level and hindrances in day to day functioning of the PRIs.
By Staff Reporter
Grant in Aid to Panchayati Raj Institution (Amendment) Rules, 2012 was painstakingly drafted by the Administration and notified on 20th January 2012. The PRI's have failed to come to terms with some of the provisions contained in the notification. According to them most of it sounds great in principle but lacks practicality. On one hand each tier has been made independent bodies with enhanced financial powers on the other hand they have been embroiled into hassles on the garb of rules and safeguards. The end result is delays in execution of works at the ground level and hindrances in day to day functioning of the PRI's.
In last PRI election majority of young individuals have been elected to various posts. They like their predecessors have set themselves goals and targets to achieve. For the majority of them development is synonymous with a few civil construction works. For a PRI representative there are several other issues which need to be addressed like Education, Health, Sanitation, Revenue, Environment, Connectivity, Villager's entitlements, Employment, Income generation, Sports, Social and Cultural issues. Baring some, these issues don't take centre-stage for most Pradhans. Govt. of
has made them integral to the planning and implementation of its various safety
net initiatives. Since inception of the PRI system in the India Islands
a lot has been achieved but the days ahead demands much more. There were
instances where some PRI's indulged in large-scale corruption and gross
mismanagement of resources at their disposal. There are also instances where
officials have misguided the PRIs to further their personal agendas. This has
given the Administration enough reason to bring in changes and safeguards to
curb this menace. The present crop have come to hold office in a day and time
when the administration has made matters not so easy for them with shortages
and escalating prices of building materials to carry out development work.
The PRI's have been unanimous in pressing for amendments or modification in certain clauses of the recent Grant in Aid Rules 2012. This amendment was in contrast to a Draft Amendment which was placed before the PRIs on 22nd July 2011. The PRIs were not happy with the consultations, claims and objections to this amendment as all their concern were not taken care of before publishing the notification of 20th January 2012. They have been meeting several officials ranging from Director (Panchayats) to the Lt. Governor. The contentious issues remain unresolved since January 2012. In a recent minutes of the meeting held on 28 July2012 at Raj Niwas under the chairmanship of the Lt. Governor issued on 05 Sept 2012 some issues like engagement of Contract JE's for electrical and mechanical works, empowerment of AE to follow schedule of rates within their limits, problems in execution of emergent works through muster rolls directly, non-availability of bitumen, relaxation in submission of audit report by cooperative societies, delays in issuance of NOC were discussed and directions issued. A meeting was held with the delegation of the PRI's and the Lt. Governor at Raj Niwas on 06.11.12 with their issues. Acting upon it D N Singh, Secretary cum Director (Panchayats) met PRI's at Panchayat Samiti, Ferrargunj on 07.11.12 and the same sets of issues affecting the PRI's to execute works were placed before him.
Secretary cum Director (Panchayats) D N Singh in the meeting with the PRI's at Panchayat Samiti, Ferrargunj informed them that he was impressed by the awareness level of the PRI's in the
Islands. He admitted that we
don't live in an ideal society; there is distrust among various wings of the
PRI's, we should have a positive outlook on issues. He was of the opinion that
no individual is more important than an organisation; a common point should be
arrived at. Each individual thinks differently, one is happy when things are OK
and criticise when things go bad. He
said that Govt. funds are not meant for individual beneficiaries and further
opined about the rationale behind introduction of roaster system for
Cooperative societies. He however was not philosophical on the PRI's monthly
honorarium issue and assured to look into it with a positive intent. Under
Rajiv Gandhi Panchayati Raj Sashashtikaran programme on devolution of power,
suggestion from all PRI's will be called for and a workshop is to be conducted
by Nov. end 2012.
Panchayat representatives are vocal in their criticism of EE (PRI) who has emerged as a new Power Centre impeding the efforts of Gram Panchayats or Panchayat Samities with delaying tactics and interpreting rules as it suits him. This has caused innumerable delays and stalling of projects for the PRI's on whimsical grounds. Construction of retaining walls and footpaths has been put on permanent hold by the EE which has lead to a serious underutilisation of funds by the Panchayats. 'Our islands topography and climatic conditions are such that retaining walls are a must. Moreover if the Gram Sabha proposes a work for a single beneficiary and his life is in danger- how can we not include that work?' says- Mohan Halder, Pradhan Tusnabad. 'When the notification says that land should be free from all encumbrances, why wouldn't an NOC from Tehsildar suffice to execute a work? The EE (PRI) presses for setting apart of the land by the Tehsildar under 153 LR. This is a time consuming exercise and delaying tactics by the Engineer' says Mohd. Safiq, Pramukh, Panchayat Samiti, Ferrargunj. 'We have to face the Gram Sabha meetings and wrath of our electorates in failing to fulfil their development needs. The administration should ask its EE (PRI) to attend Gram Sabha's and directly answer the queries of our public' added Bharat Sharma. Panchayat Samiti member, Humphrey gunj. A few Pradhans even said that days prior to Order No.790 were better than the present times as there were less hassles and better engineers then compared to the present setup at EE (PRI).
"An estimate is pending for inspection since one and half years by the EE (PRI) for his Panchayat. How can we expect to work in these circumstances?' rues Adinaryan, Pradhan, Shorepoint.
"Directly recruited Junior Engineers and Panchayat Secretaries have no promotion channel," says Abdul Aziz, Pradhan, Stewart Gunj. "They have been stagnating in their post for over a decade. Their RR's need to be changed and they be given better prospects to work with us and kept motivated. There is also severe shortage of manpower and vacancies are to be filled on priority for the Panchayats to deliver the desired services to the masses," he added.
Apart from the engineering woes the PRIs are also plagued with issues of low honorariums as compared to the Municipal Councillors who are paid five times more. "My husband is employed in the postal department in a small post, I can't ask him for daily conveyance for various meetings and cover my huge constituency. My honorarium alone does not allow me to cover my expenses for public works," said Anima Roy, Panchayat Samiti member Ferrargunj.
Going by the views of the PRIs and officials it appears that the logjam will continue for times to come. As some issues get resolved newer issues will surface, hope the common masses don't continue to suffer in this impasse.