At the first meeting of all elected members of panchayats and zilla panchayats (ZP) that was held at the Raia panchayat hall on Wednesday to discuss how they should unite and pressurize the government to devolve powers, advocate Amrut Kansar heavily criticized the state government for violating provisions in the Constitution and for insulting Panchayati Raj institutions by its actions.
The meeting was attended by around 50 elected panchayat and ZP members, including both the district ZP chairpersons, and they vowed to fight for what was their right as per the Constitution, under the banner of panchayat democratic forum.
Earlier, former MLA Vinayak Naik summarized the resentment expressed by several sarpanchas from across Goa that the gram sabha resolutions were not being taken seriously by the government. He also pointed out the government's attitude to Panchayat Raj institutions had not changed in decades.
Rachol sarpanch Joseph Vaz pointed out that his panchayat now receives a grant of 12,000 as opposed to the 50,000 they would collect through grants.
"How can the chief minister abolish house tax without consulting the panchayats first?" asked Naik. Kansar concurred, criticizing the chief minister and successive governments for failing to devolve power to the zilla panchayats and panchayats, and repeated that the decision to abolish house tax was akin to robbing the panchayats of their Constitutional rights.
Kansar then launched a powerful attack on what he said were irresponsible statements made by chief ministers and other politicians such as MLAs, MPs and former panchayat raj ministers, who he said downplayed the role of the panchayats in local governance.
The other speakers that included social activists such as Soter D'Souza from the Council for Social Justice and Peace, said that it is high time all elected members of all pancahyats and zilla panchayats unite without any interference of any political party to address all issues together, and force the government to amend the Goa Panchayat Raj Act, 1994, as per the Constitution of India and its 73rd Amendment.
Kansar, who incidentally has been involved with this agitation for over two decades, further said that blame also lay on former members of parliament, who he said had failed to represent Goa adequately in Parliament, and who could have got the requisite amendments. He pointed out that Goa, being the smallest state, was allowed to have 40 MLAs as opposed to the minimum number of 60 MLAs per state, but that did not stop them from getting the same amount of funds for the state as other states get. Using that argument, Kansar stated that similarly, there should be a finance commission constituted in the state and there should be devolution of powers and funds to the ZP as is the practice in other states. "There should not only be proper delegation of powers and funds, but also manpower, and why is it that panchayats have to share panchayat secretaries or the panchayat members have to beg the government to give them funds," asked D'souza.
He said that it was very important for the ZPs to get their powers, and that under the district planning comittee which would take into account ward development plans of every panchayat, they could present to the government their regional plan for the state. It was also discussed that panchayats should be earning more income from land revenue tax, road tax and excise tax, which they could use to carry out development works. [TOI]