Politician Ganesh Rai greeted Sikkimese Panchayats on occasion of 13th National Panchayati Raj Day today, through a facebook live video. Rai informed this day of April 24 marks the enactment of the 73rd amendment of the constitution in 1992. Through this amendment, the powers of the grassroots were decentralized and the foundation of an institution called Panchayati Raj was laid, due to which, the Ministry of Panchayati Raj commemorates April 24 every year as the National Panchayati Raj Day. He also added that Sikkim also passed an act heeding the 73rd amendment of the constitution, known as the Sikkim Panchayat Act 1993. Rai informed that this act was a strong foundation to the grass root level work.
“Due to this act (Sikkim Panchayat Act, 1993), women found their seats reserved in the Panchayati Raj, so did SC and ST communities, and the panchayats today are the 5th batch of the panchayats actuated due to the empowerment of this act,” Rai said.
Rai, addressing the present Panchayats and letting them know that this National Panchayati Raj would be the last they’ll be celebrating as panchayats in their present tenure, congratulated the 5 Gram Panchayat and 1 Zilla Panchayat who were accorded with National awards.
“I want to congratulate all the working members of West Sikkim District Zilla Panchayats, from Adhyakhsa, Upadakhsya, to all officers and rest for receiving national level award,” Rai said.
“I also want to congratulate 5 GPUs for winning national awards from the Indian Government in 4 categories. The happiest of news is two GPUs from North Sikkim winning these national awards, I want to congratulate Lum-Gor GPU and Barfok-Lingdong GPU for their exceptional work.” He added.
Furthermore, Rai, congratulated the other GPUs that were conferred national awards, Simik-Lingzey GPU from East Sikkim, Lingchom-Tikjek from West Sikkim and Lungchok-Kameray GPU from South Sikkim for being awarded the prestigious National Awards. Rai further said that these accolades wouldn’t just embiggen the pride of Sikkim but also inspire more Panchayats in the Panchayati Raj to do more work and has given all Sikkimese people the enthusiasm to build better systems for Panchayats and Panchayati Raj. “All the people (from Sikkim) are now evident to the fact that good work will bring in good (national) accolades,” he said.
Rai, addressing all the Panchayats said that the panchayats may have worked exceptionally and may have come into their tenure with a vigor to match, with big dreams, visions, and ideas and their hardwork and time to make a difference, but he “personally felt that the panchayats weren’t able to work as they wanted to” because of the shift in Sikkim’s political paradigm. “You (Panchayats in current tenure) haven’t been able to work as you envisioned to but it is not your fault, it is because of the way the power has shifted in the politics of Sikkim and how it has hampered the Panchayati systems and situations, and I hope that in the near future all of it rectifies,” Rai said.
Rai, talking about how Panchayati Raj all over the nation has done tremendously well and how the Centre Government is encouraging the Panchayati Raj systems to do better by awarding accolades, took jabs at the present SKM government saying “it is not the time for us to be celebrating and cheering but is the time to ponder upon how the present government has weakened the Panchayati system.”
“Instead of strengthening the (panchayati) system the work has been opposite of weakening it, and all the blame goes to the present state government,” Rai alleged.
Further he said, “It (Panchayati raj) is a state subject, and how much rights the Panchayats get, how much power they are supplied is all in the hands of state government. When the present government came into power the most adverse effects were on the Panchayati Raj system, and with the election of the present government, the act of taking power and rights away from Panchayati Raj was done by them.”
“Teachers’ salaries were distributed with the help of the Panchayats, that has been withdrawn and given to the BACs, similarly the tenders and bids that were a domain of the Panchayati Raj, have been stripped off and handed to the Assistant Engineers in their local BDOs, and the tenders are going on their of which the locals are oblivious of,” he added.
Rai alleged that this power shift was deliberately done by the present government for the benefit of a few people over the general upliftment. “This weakening of the Panchayati systems are done by the state government for the benefit of a few people. The stripping of panchayat’s powers and handing them to the BDOs after circulating notifications to make Sikkimese affairs a BDO Raj is the most sorrowful thing,” Rai said.
Rai further said that all this was a “blatant disregard of the 73rd amendment of the Indian constitution and also the Sikkim Panchayat Act ’93” which was weakening the panchayati systems and that he “deeply opposed” it. He also scrutinized that the government’s inadequacy on this front can be evidently seen in the way there have empty seats for so many Panchayats in certain GPUs for three years, wherein they have either passed away or resigned and that there hasn’t been any kind of intervention to fill those seats with any type of election by the government which has hampered the development of those certain GPUs and the rural people who stay there.
Rai hovered upon the importance of de-centralizing the three Fs that govern Panchayati Raj, namely, Funds, Function and Functionaries and how any of it has not been on the standards of a well-functioning Panchayat. “They have lessened the funds, there aren’t functionaries, and even the function that Panchayats used to have, have been stripped off them and given to the BDO. He said that in the previous government the governance for Panchayati was great on paper but not in practicality, as he said that the budget cuts that previous government did have been adversely affecting the present scenario.
Rai sharing an anecdote of how when he was in the SDF party as the chairman of Panchayat Prakoshtha had been ignored and his pleas and opposition while the 5th Financial Commission Report in the SLA had done major budget cuts in the Sikkim Panchayat.
“That time myself and Manita Mangar of the Panchayat Prakoshtha had opposed this budgetary cut and had written a letter to the then CM Pawan Chamling about the adverse effects of the commission on Panchayati Raj, but all that fell on deaf ears, and despite our vocal opposition the bill was passed,” he said.
Rai, letting people know about his new party soon forming would look into the matter of strengthening the Panchayati Raj to further build out from the grass roots to building a better, stronger state.
“Our politics will be the true essence of Mahatma Gandhi’s Gram Swaraj and our party that will be hitting the open field will surely work on strengthening the Panchayati Raj system as I am personally very close to it, and we will bring new programs that will help our cause,” he concluded.