Mahatma Gandhi once said “the greater the power of the panchayats, the better for the people”.
A year in office and Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar’s promises to strengthen panchayati raj institutions, including Zilla Panchayats still remains a distant dream.
While the Chief Minister in his maiden budget speech after assuming power last year promised devolution of powers and funds to the panchayats and Zilla Panchayats, the ground reality remains unchanged.
Not a single additional power or subject has been devolved to the Zilla Panchayats till date. And the funds did not flow freely to these district panchayat bodies during the last one year.
Says South Goa ZP Chief Nelly Rodrigues: “We had high expectations from the Parrikar government, but not a single subject was devolved to the ZPs in the last one year. There was status quo as far as the powers were concerned”.
If the previous Congress government had failed to implement the Statement of Conclusion signed by then Chief Minister Pratapsing Rane and former Union Panchayat Raj Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar to implement the objective behind the 73rd Amendment to the Constitution, the present government only allowed the statement to remain in the dusty record books.
Says Rodrigues: The government of Goa not only failed to honour the statement of Conclusion, but also failed to carry out the mandate of the 73rd Amendment to the constitution. We cannot function for want of powers, funds and functionaries”.
She, however, sounded optimistic that the Chief Minister would live up to his promise and make budgetary provision for the devolution of powers and funds for the Zilla Panchayats. “The government can give the Rural Development Agency (RDA) to the ZPs, besides funds,” she said.
Former ZP member and Curtorim deputy Sarpanch, J Santano Rodrigues, says that the Parrikar government did nothing to strengthen the panchayati raj institutions in the last one year. “We want the government to constitute the third Finance Commission for the devolution of funds. The government is dilly dallying on putting the District Planning Committees on the right track. It’s nearly a decade since the DPCs were constituted by the government to facilitate bottom to top planning, but the government is yet to lay down the guidelines and the parameters how to go about the planning process,” he said.
At the taluka level, Rodrigeus said the government is yet to fill up the vacant post of BDO for Salcete taluka, besides posts of EOVP and panchayat secretaries.
“The weaker panchayats need financial support from the government. Panchayat funds are barely sufficient to pay the salary bill of the staff and employees, leaving hardly anything for development,” he added. [H]