Sunday 18 August 2019

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Cong moots three-tier panchayati system

 

Implementation of decentralised panchayati raj system and devolution of powers at the grassroot level, the dream of former minister Rajiv Gandhi, has still remained a pipe-dream in Goa, though Congress has been ruling the tourist state for the last 19 years.

Providing no proper justification, the Congress government in Goa has now decided to go for a three-tier panchayati raj system. The same party is however yet to fully implement its four-year old decision to adopt the two-tier system, of village panchayats and zilla panchayats.

"Power to the people is my slogan and I would implement it in letter and spirit", chief minister Luizinho Faleiro keeps on telling the media. But he prefers to further amend the panchayati raj act to include taluka panchayats into it, instead of going for long-pending ZP elections.

ZP is a totally new concept for the tiny tourist state, though panchayat elections however have been held at regular intervals. But adoption of the new system has just remained on paper from the time it was included in the new act in August 1994, after discussing it threadbare in the last Assembly and passing it unanimously during the erstwhile Congress rule.

"Why not implement the two-tier system immediately if the Congress is really interested in devolution of powers at the grassroot level ?", asks Premanand Mahambre, general secretary of All Goa Panchayat Parishad. Reacting to their petition two years ago, the government had assured even the high court to hold ZP elections immediately.

However, probably fearing loss of financial and political control over panchayats, the erstwhile Congress government kept the issue lingering under the pretext of earmarking ZP constituencies, 20 each for both the districts. Even the state finance commission was constituted with a proper authority only during the recent brief tenure of the President’s rule.

Faleiro now talks of transferring all the 29 subjects in the schedule to the self-governing bodies, but by 2005 in a phased manner, since "it involves many important decisions on functions, functionaries and finances". He has plans to transfer only six subjects every year.

Taluka panchayats is a new addition now, which was kept aside by the Assembly after reaching a conclusion that a small state like Goa, having a population of not more than 1.5 million, does not need so many centres of power. Even the ZP office here would not be far than 50 kms of distance and transport facilities are comparatively far excellent in Goa.

In a sheer attempt to misguide the people, Faleiro claims that powers could not be devolved to the panchayats due to controversy over whether to have two-tier or three-tier system. "It is time to end this controversy", he says, but is unable to point out at any such controversy that existed.

Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyer, who has played major role in influencing Faleiro’s mind on having a three-tier system, claims that constitution of ZPs is being opposed, but cannot say who is opposing it. "Even smaller states in the north-east have adopted the three-tier system", he points out in an attempt to justify his viewpoint.

Though Faleiro claims that he would get the amendment on three-tier system passed in the Assembly session beginning from 7 July, Manohar Parrikar, the opposition leader belonging to the BJP, has decided to oppose the move tooth and nail.

The 21-member Congress is presently being supported by nine more members of the three regional fronts in the 40-member House. But the BJP, despite having only 10 members, claims that they can ‘manage’ to defeat the amendment in the House.

"It is yet another attempt of the Congress to postpone implementation of the act", alleges Mahambre, the AGPP general secretary. They are now planning to mobilise public opinion on the issue, demanding immediate holding of the ZP elections.






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