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Open Forum-13

By Manas Ranjan Mahapatra

Panchayat is now the new ground for political exercise. Elder brother Achyut Das, renowned social worker writes today:

‘October 2 is Gandhi Jayanti Day and so many important  things come to my mind.  I vacillate between hope and hopelessness as I look at the development of the Tribals and the Tribal Areas, which are not one and the same.

Gandhi Jayanti is the event which reminds all of us that on this day (October 2) , Gram Sabhas are held in every Panchayat of our State. On this day, it is supposed to pass Resolutions for the development of the Panchayat by the People and the PRI Functionaries Viz. Sarapanch, Ward Members etc.  One has to go back to the 73rd Amendment of the Constitution, which says – The Constitution (73rd Amendment) Act, 1992 has added a new part IX consisting of 16 Articles and the Eleventh Schedule to the Constitution.

The 73th Amendment envisages the Gram Sabha as the foundation of the Panchayat Raj System to perform functions and powers entrusted to it by the State Legislatures. Furthermore, in Scheduled Areas, PESA THE PROVISIONS OF THE PANCHAYATS (EXTENSION TO THE SCHEDULED AREAS) ACT, 1996 ) has the following  provisions:

Every Gram Sabha shall-
i. approve of the plans, programmes and projects for social and economic development before such plans, programmes and projects are taken up for implementation by the Panchayat at the village level;

ii. be responsible for the identification or selection of persons as beneficiaries under the poverty alleviation and other programmes;
(f) every Panchayat at the village level shall be required to obtain from the Gram Sabha a certification of utilisation of funds by that Panchayat for the plans, programmes and projects referred to in the clauses.

It is a matter of concern that the Gram Sabhas are not held as per the procedures. We have mobilised the villagers especially tribal women to go to Gram Sabha to have effective participation and to demand whatever is needed for them including work under MGNREGA.  They share the most negative experience – The Panchayat Office is locked; the Sarpanch and the Panchayat Executive Officer are not available; not enough information about the Gram Sabha has been shared. But the Gram Sabhas are held in Pen and Paper  and Resolutions have been passed in closed door meetings with selected  PRI Functionaries and the representatives of the Party in Power.

The provisions of PESA are violated in broad daylight.  Sometimes special orders come from the top to organise the Gram Sabhas with a lot of fanfare which can be termed  much  ado about nothing. So called Gram Panchayat Development Plan (GPDP) are manufactured!

The other aspect is that the PRIs have been diluted, as there has been promotion of Parallel Institutions. For every programme, there is a committee, which is neither endorsed by the Gram Sabhas nor accountable to Gram Sabha. Development Process is carried out often without the knowledge of the Gram Sabhas.

Our planners and policy makers often express that all the problems of the tribal areas will be solved through participatory and democratic process of planning and implementation under the provisions of PESA but it is a pity that Odisha unike other states has not finalised PESA Rules as yet. The tribals are not demanding it also. Shocking!

I am told that the Gram Sabha on this October 2 will devote to GPDP and special plans for MGNREGS. Will the people come and participate in large numbers? No NGO/CSO has been involved formally to help PRIs to make the Gram Sabha a success by articulating on the burning problems. In tribal areas, there are three important issues which can be considered in the Gram Sabha- a) Construction of Water Harvesting Structures, Check dams, Farm Ponds etc, b) Development of all lands allotted  under FRA after due demarcation, c) Massive Plantation, Reforestation, Revival of Village Commons etc. Will anyone listen?  Will the Gram Sabha fulfil the hopes and aspirations of the tribal population?  Are the Gandhian principles of Gram Swaraj going to be reflected on this day to empower our people living in the villges?’

I edited the text as follows:

‘October 2 is Gandhi Jayanti Day and so many important  things come to my mind.  I vacillate between hopes and hopelessness as I look at the development of the Tribals and the Tribal Areas, which are not one and the same.

Gandhi Jayanti is the event which reminds all of us that on this day (October 2) , Gram Sabhas are held in every Panchayat of our State. On this day, it is supposed to pass Resolutions for the development of the Panchayat by the People and the PRI Functionaries Viz. Sarapanch, Ward Members etc.

One has to go back to the 73rd Amendment of the Constitution, which says – The Constitution (73rd Amendment) Act, 1992 has added a new part IX consisting of 16 Articles and the Eleventh Schedule to the Constitution. The 73th Amendment envisages the Gram Sabha as the foundation of the Panchayat Raj System to perform functions and powers entrusted to it by the State Legislatures.

Furthermore, in Scheduled Areas, PESA THE PROVISIONS OF THE PANCHAYATS (EXTENSION TO THE SCHEDULED AREAS) ACT, 1996 ) has the following  provisions:

Every Gram Sabha shall-

i. approve of the plans, programmes and projects for social and economic development before such plans, programmes and projects are taken up for implementation by the Panchayat at the village level;

ii. be responsible for the identification or selection of persons as beneficiaries under the poverty alleviation and other programmes;

Every Panchayat at the village level shall be required to obtain from the Gram Sabha a certification of utilisation of funds by that Panchayat for the plans, programmes and projects referred to in the clauses.

It is a matter of concern that the Gram Sabhas are not held as per the procedures. We have mobilised the villagers especially tribal women to go to Gram Sabha to have effective participation and to demand whatever is needed for them including work under MGNREGS.  They share the most negative experience – The Panchayat Office is locked; the Sarpanch and the Panchayat Executive Officer are not available; not enough information about the Gram Sabha has been shared. But the Gram Sabhas are held in Pen and Paper  and Resolutions have been passed in closed door meetings with selected  PRI Functionaries and the representatives of the Party in Power.

The provisions of PESA are violated in broad daylight.  Sometimes special orders come from the top to organise the Gram Sabhas with a lot of fanfare which can be termed  much  ado about  nothing. So called Gram Panchayat Development Plan (GPDP) are manufactured!

The other aspect is that the PRIs have been diluted, as there has been promotion of Parallel Institutions. For every programme, there is a committee, which is neither endorsed by the Gram Sabhas nor accountable to Gram Sabha. Development Process is carried out often without the knowledge of the Gram Sabhas.

Our planners and policy makers often express that all the problems of the tribal areas will be solved through participatory and democratic process of planning and implementation under the provisions of PESA but it is a pity that Odisha unike other states has not finalised PESA Rules as yet. The tribals are not demanding it also. Shocking!

I am told that the Gram Sabha on this October 2 will devote to GPDP and special plans for MGNREGA. Will the people come and participate in large numbers? No NGO/CSO has been involved formally to help PRIs to make the Gram Sabha a success by articulating on the burning problems. In tribal areas, there are three important issues which can be considered in the Gram Sabha- a) Construction of Water Harvesting Structures, Check dams, Farm Ponds etc, b) Development of all lands allotted  under FRA after due demarcation, c) Massive Plantation, Reforestation, Revival of Village Commons etc.

Will any one listen?  Will the Gram Sabha fulfil the hopes and aspirations of the tribal population?  Are the Gandhian principles of Gram Swaraj going to be reflected on this day to empower our people living in the villges?’

Then comments came as follows:

1.Nobody will listen to Achyutbhai. But people like you and I can’t sit idle at home.Move alone, if nobody comes forward with you. This is the Gandhian way of life.

2.Effective implementation of PESA will not only bring development but will also deepen democracy in Fifth Schedule Areas. There are many benefits of PESA. It will enhance people’s participation in decision making. This will deprive the Naxal of the fertile ground of backwardness and poverty in the “Red Corridor” and make them baseless. This also preserves forests and local ecology because they only know their land and its resources the best.

However,Odisha’s  Panchayat laws suffer from their naked violation of the focal mandate of the 73rd Constitution Amendment.  For instance, every principal Panchayat law of Orissa contains a Chapter titled ‘Control’, such as Chapter-XI in OGP Act; Chapter-VI in OPS Act and Chapter-IV in OZP Act, which categorically provided for exercise of overriding powers of control be it in respect of taxation, finance and administration by the whole gamut of executive authorities and officers who are external to the PRIs.
Thus unless and until all the anachronistic and retrogressive provisions like Chapters on Control are removed once and for all, from the Orissa’s statutes on Panchayat Raj, the people of Orissa can’t have a feel of self-governing and autonomous PRIs as envisaged by the 73rd Amendment.

Suddenly, the death of a Gandhian disturbed me.Prof Rajkishore Mishra was never my teacher in my college days. But I used to address him ‘Sir’ because of his knowledge and wisdom. Prof Trilochan Mishra, Haranath Mishra and Rajkishore Mishra were the rare brand of English Teachers who had Eqbal level of competence in Odia,Sanskrit and English. Rajkishore Sir was a very good friend of my uncle late Sarat Chandra Mahapatra and was a family friend.

Our last meeting was at Odisha Bhawan a decade ago. He is no more, but I always regarded him and will continue to do so. He was a Gandhian throughout his life who never misutilised his powers.

Some more comments on the country:

1.We need a Congress Mukt Bhatat.We need a BJP Mukt Bharat too.We badly need a Mukt Bharat…Free from Bureaucracy, Politics, Communalism,Poverty ,Corruption and Criminals ,as once dreamt by Gandhiji.

2.No one can save BJP from election defeat in PUNJAB IF THE AGITATION OF FARMERS CONTINUES…

3.Sonia Gandhi should step down now else Congress will die as the grand old political party which once brought freedom of India from the British.

4.One day Congress will save the Country..

5.If Kanhaiya Kumar would have thought that to defeat the facist power which is a major challenge to the entire human kind remaining in the Congress I think in the long run his initiative will be counter productive. The class struggle which is  often heard from him says something else.

6.Careerism and Communist are two paths antithetical to each other. Kahneyaa Kumar just followed the suit that many others had in the past .

7.8It is not necessary to be in BJP to be a Hindu or a Nationalist, for this is a party of fake nationalists cum Hindutva Propagators.

Scene of the tribal district of Koraput as reported by my young friend Shantakar Chelapila:

‘Very soon Koraput Coffee would be available to drink in the ready-made container ( Coffee Cafe) at ITDA office campus in Koraput .It was installed today and would be inaugurated soon , sources said .Another 3 Similar well furnished containers have been installed at three important cities of Odidha , sources added.’

My brother in law reports from America:

‘American Senators are used to listening to Jokers from around the globe.They listened to Modi as a matter of curiosity and people gave the farewell gift to the greatest murderer of democracy.’

Where are we, my Gandhian father exclaimed for the whole life and I am doing the same now.

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