‘Govt depriving panchayati raj institutions in Goa’


Despite the Constitutional status granted to the panchayati raj institutions (PRIs) by the 73rd Constitutional amendments, the state government has still not granted the PRIs the powers that are due to them.
This was stated by noted Constitutional expert Amrut Kansar on Monday at a seminar on 'Fifty years of Panchayati Raj in Goa: Retrospect and Prospects'. The seminar was organized by the department of political science, Goa University, in collaboration with the directorate of panchayats.
Kansar said that the 11th and 12{th schedules of the Constitution give village panchayats powers to decide on subjects listed in the schedule.
But not only do the sarpanchas and panch members realize that they are Constitutional bodies, the politicians and ministers in Goa are fearful of devolving powers to the PRIs under the mistaken belief that their own powers will get diluted.
Kansar even cited a witty anecdote of his interaction with a former panchayati raj minister in Goa. Requested by the minister's kin, Kansar sat with the minister to enlighten him on how the PRIs in Goa could be strengthened without affecting his own responsibilities and where he would get credit for the positive reforms. The minister asked for a second sitting with Kansar but the next time they met, the minister ended the meeting with the quip, "If I give them all these powers, what remains for me?"
But the flip side is that every time elections to the panchayat bodies are held in Goa, the newly-elected panch members race to pledge their allegiance to the ruling party in the belief that only then will they be able to do development in their villages.
Kansar also spoke about how zilla panchayats are deprived of powers and funds in Goa whereas in states like Maharashtra, Karnataka and Gujarat, the three-tier system is working very well. It took a long time for the zilla panchayats to challenge the government on their rights. The South Goa ZP first went to court and then the North Goa followed. But the government filed an affidavit in the court promising to give all the powers due to them. Once the court disposed of the case based on the assurances, the government put the assurances in cold storage, Kansar said.
Kansar also said that the government is ignoring the recommendations of the second state finance commission headed by late IAS officer Alban Couto. "Even if 50% of his recommendations were implemented, they would bring much relief to the panchayati raj institutions in Goa," Kansar said, adding that PRIs in Goa have been reduced to just "ornamental instruments".  [TOI]