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Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Make Panchayat Atmanirbhar and Gramsabha Swayampurna: Vijai Sardesai

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In the run-up to the upcoming Panchayat elections, the Goa Forward Party President Shri Vijai Sardesai highlighted the issue of devolution of powers to the local bodies under the 73rd constitutional amendment and stressed the need to revive and strengthen the State Finance Commission, the District Development Committees and the Village Development Committees.
“Similar to how the Center sends 50 lakhs to every village per year, why can’t the State Government allocate up to 10 Crores annually to each village and give them complete autonomy on how they want to spend the money under various subjects of the 11th Schedule?”, he questioned. Goa Forward President Vijai Sardesai also demanded that the State provide the technical and administrative support needed to implement the proposals in a time-bound manner.
He also demanded that the State Finance Commission start visiting municipalities and panchayats to collect data and feedback from them. Referring to the hinterland panchayats lagging behind in development, he stressed the need to strengthen these panchayats through a higher amount of grants, especially in talukas of Canacona, Sanguem, Sattari, Pernem, Quepem.
Claiming that the State government has no respect for the local bodies and local self-governance, he compared the attitude of the Government towards panchayats to a parent giving pocket money to a child. “When asked in the assembly what steps the government has taken to strengthen the panchayats, the reply given was that grants were given for garbage, for weaker panchayats and matching grants were given to encourage an increase in their own revenue. This is not the way to strengthen the panchayats”, he said

GPDP – Gram Panchayat Development Plan
He pointed out that grant in aid assistance to Village Panchayats in Goa has been reduced from Rs 18 Cr to Rs 8 Cr. Financial Assistance for Village Panchayats for Infrastructure Development has been reduced from Rs 20 Cr to 17.5 Cr. Under GPDP in FY 2021-22, 5528 projects were approved worth 84.13 Cr but due to slow pace of the administration, only 215 projects were initiated worth Rs 9.34. Similarly in 2020-21, 5930 projects were approved worth Rs 112.41 but only 1326 projects worth 53.81 were initiated
Sardesai criticised the government for trying to dilute the powers of the panchayats and gramsabhas instead of giving them the responsibility, autonomy and powers to develop their villages. “Because of this, crores of rupees allocated by the State and Central government to various departments such as public infrastructure, education, agriculture etc meant for the welfare and development of villages go unutilised.”, he stated.
He claimed that government policy sabotages all decentralised institutions by choking them of funds and resources and then blaming the very institutions for the failures.
While explaining the significance of the State Finance Commission in the funding and development of the Panchayats, he pooh-poohed this government for sitting on the second state finance commission report prepared in 2010. Since that report, there was a third State Finance Commission but no report has been prepared.
He also stated that the role of the Zilla Panchayats has been reduced to sanctioning minor ward-level works. Grants to Zilla Panchayat for Rural Infrastructure Development have been reduced from a total of 17.5 Cr last year to 15 Cr this year. “Zilla Panchayats have the responsibility of overall supervision, coordination and integration of development schemes in the district”, he said claiming that Zilla panchayats are responsible for the planning development and maintenance district-level infrastructure such as district roads, goshalas, colleges, skills development centres, home for aged. “The Zilla panchayats are not allowed to perform their constitutional duties of preparing a wholistic 5-year and annual development plan for the district. Instead of empowering the existing Zilla Panchayats, the government is trying to form a third district.”, he said.

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