Call for Panchayat Reforms and Early Elections

Call for Panchayat Reforms and Early Elections

Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity welcomes Calcutta High Court’s verdict which clears the way for the immediate holding of Panchayat elections.  While Panchayats are still far away from being people’s Panchayats and often remain under the control of different political parties and local vested interests, a further delaying of Panchayat elections will lead to powers of  local decision making being handed over to the BDO and other bureaucrats. This is definitely not an advisable course of action and a scenario worse than the present one, with all its limitations.

In addition to having timely Panchayat elections, we appeal to all our legislators and our people to start thinking about reforms in the Panchayat laws which will make them truly pro-people Panchayats. The reforms are as follows:-

·         Make the fourth tier of the Panchayat Raj institutions, the Gram Sansad, the most powerful of all the tiers. This would mean holding monthly or bi-monthly meetings with the Gram Sansad, the assembly of all local voters in a booth; consulting them for all decisions; and making all local institutions (the local ration shop, the ICDS centre, the health sub centre etc.) accountable to this body;

·      Let us not have just one Gram Unnayan committee or beneficiary committee with 10-15 voters for the five years tenure of a Panchayat. Let separate beneficiary committees be set up for the monitoring of each new scheme. These would mean that 50-100 villagers would be involved in the monitoring of all schemes making corruption and partisan decision making that much more difficult. This would also mean the involvement of many more people in the development of their villages;

·      Give more funds in the hands of the Gram Panchayat. While 70% of our people continue to live in villages, the funds provided for them are only 2-5% of the GDP, a tinyamount compared to requirements, leading to the persistence of rural poverty;

·         To improve the kinds of candidates that are put up by political parties , make Right to Reject an option on the EVM i.e. the “None of the Above” button should be put as an option if people do not like any candidate;

·         The Right to Recall which already exists in 3-4 states of India should be legislated so that voters will be granted a right to recall an under-performing/non performing/corrupt representative before his 5 year term ends.

·         Let us also look for candidates beyond parties- let the voters of a village come together and choose their candidates (if possible by consensus) not because the person is supported by one party or the other but because he or she is the best person they can find for their village.

We reiterate our appeal for early Panchayat elections and Panchayat reforms.

Anuradha Talwar, Bela Adak  ,Swapan Ganguly and Uttam Gayen

(on behalf of Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity)