Consultation on need based training: Virudhunagar Tamilnadu
Prof. Thirunavukkarasu, PRI Trainner and Rtd Professor, Gandhi Kirama University
Ms. Bimla Chandrasekaran – EKTA, Madurai
Mr. Jothiramalingam – CRUSADE, Chennai
Mr. Shanmugavel – President, Kirama Suyasarby Iyyakkam, Tamilnadu
Mr. P. Rajagopal, President, NEEDS, Srivilliputtur, Virudhunagar Dist
Mr. Packiaraj – Secretary, Vembakottai Block Kirama Suyasarby Iyyakkam.
Welcome Address – Mr. P. Rajagopal, President, NEEDS, Srivilliputtur
He gave his welcome address inviting all the resource persons and the Panchayat leaders who had participated in this consultation programme. He has extended the intention of the programme by stating its objectives. The main purpose of such programmes is to strengthen the Panchayat administration towards self-reliance, which includes free to take decisions, decentralizaiton of powers and to enhance access to eligible sources for optimum development initiatives.
He mentioned about the objectives of the programme, which provides for ensuring the life security of Panchayat presidents, issue-handling strategies against sex and caste based discrimination and to study the local issues and problems faced by the Panchayat presidents in Virudhunagar district and to find appropriate solutions. At the end of his address, he solicited active participation of participants to share their issues and problems for the discussion.
Mr. Packiaraj, Secretary Vembakottai union Kirama Suyasaarbu Iyakkam, Virudhunagar District mentioned the following situations faced by the Panchayat Presidents in Virudhunagar District. The Panchayat Presidents are facing unusual crucial issues and problems also threatened by various persons from Government department and local political circles. Often they are disturbed do to their regular activities and loaded with more pressure by various bureaucrats in the layer of Panchayat admin system. The local village level dynamics and conflicts threatened the life of village presidents and news about the murder of two village presidents happened in northern districts spread a fear among all the presidents in Tamilnadu.
In Virudhunagar district, the Panchayat presidents are attacked and threatened by the local groups having vested interest fortunately they are able to save their lives. No president knows the full rights and responsibilities of as a village presidents and the same situation is prevailing among other members including the vice presidents of Panchayat Raj system. Recent past the people have negative perception on village presidents, which leads for violence, unfair protests and disturbances against the presidents. Though there are many cases of caste-based discrimination, violence on women presidents and unfair charges against the presidents, the district administration takes no valuable actions instead they lead for temporary compromising process. We are with the question with no answer that what is the solution for those issues to make the Panchayat Raj System to be run as a independent governance. The presidents from non-ruling political parties are facing still more issues to get appropriate schemes and benefits for Panchayats and most time lost the cooperation of the line departments.
Regarding the Kirama Suyasarbu Iyakkam in Virudhunagar, The village presidents of Vembakottai block alone well organized for cooperation and action but other 10 block has no such coordination to pursue the activities, which challenges our unity hence we are not in a situation to take valuable move towards our goal.
Finally, he requested all the presidents’ cooperation and solidarity during forth coming meetings, activities towards the goal of self-relied Panchyat system.
Mr. Shanmugavel, State president, Kirama Suyasarbu Iyakkam
‘Kirama Suyasarbu Iyakkam’ started before 6 years and registered during the year 2009 at Chennai. Panchayat presidents from various districts of Tamil Nadu are taking part in the movement as active members. The movement envisages creating self governed Panchayat system and sustained panchayat development measures. The movement is now doing vital role by lobbying and advocating concern departments of state and central to enable relevant provisions to the Panchayat administration towards self-reliance. During 1996 EPOs, BDOs, Deputy BDOs are sanctioning the cheques for development activities in Panchayats. The Panchayat presidents had no hold to take financial decisions or any other decisions for the village welfare independently. They were in the hold of bureaucrats of rural development departments and they just sign on the cheques and documents shown by them. Though they are having authentication for independent governance, they cannot act as per the provisions of Panchayat rule. Today the situation is become improved, however they are still under the hold to take few important decisions. We may have lobby with political parties to include our main demands in their manifesto since the election for lok sabha is approaching. Exploiting such timely opportunity may work successfully to achieve our goal of self governance.
In Tamil Nadu, Kirama Sabha meetings are not really organized but the relevant records have been created by getting signature from concern PRI members and local people. The poor organization of Kirama Sabha meetings and ignorance of people to participate in Tamil Nadu leads for ineffective Panchayat governance system. In Kerala state each Panchayats are organizing Kirama Sabha meetings properly and resolutions are passed. The activities passed by resolutions are completed properly with no dues. The Panchayat system is like union administration in Tamil Nadu where 15 staffs are working and VAO is working under the guidance of President, he issues birth and death certificate and so other basic documents with the direction of Panchayat administration. President has power to appoint or depute relevant staff and engineers to accomplish the Panchayat development activities but in Tamil Nadu, Presidents depends on Engineers for their approval. Panchayat governance as the 3rd level governance in demographic system it has more valuable role for rural development. Kerala and Andra Pradesh state governments realized the value and gives more privileges. But in Tamil Nadu most of the Panchayat level schemes are executed by the bureaucrats and state level government. SFC grant is 40% in Kerala but in Tamil Nadu it is 5 to 15%, they exempted Electricity bills for the consumption of Panchayats and providing Rs.6000/- per month as honorarium to presidents. During the last DMK government, we had met Mr. Stalin with the demands to excuse EB bills and to provide honorarium to presidents.
Presidents are working in unsecured atmosphere and they frequently attacked by the vested groups. The recently attacked lady president Ms. Kobammal still in Hospital but the acquitted not arrested still even she is having different leadership position in the ruling party. The main issue is the government fails to decentralise the authorities among Panchayat presidents to take strong decisions.
There are no system and persons offering proper guidance to the Panchayat presidents on handling issues and problems. Around 60 to 70 acts prevailing to support Panchayat rules and rights but no government is fully aware of those rules but execute with basic principles only. Even lawyers, collectors and so other executive level officers do not know the panchayat acts properly. This leads for improper approach and implementation system hence we need a movement, forum or federation for the presidents to demand the existing legal rights for the panchayats.
He request all the participant president to explain their unique practical issues and problems ignoring the water, financial issues since these issues are most common with all the panchayats.
SHARING OF PRESIDENTS ABOUT ISSUES AND PROBLEMS:
President, Kadaneri village – Watrap Block
He mentioned about the non-allocation of funds to build common building even after the relevant resolution passed and land is ready for construction. The issue in the panchayat delayed the eligible development schemes.
President, Ayankarisalkulam village – Srivilliputtur Block
He faced the unsolicited issues and non-cooperation of the members due to his personal problems. The persons send spontaneous petitions to collectors and other officials with the intention to disrupt the panchayat development work and spoil the name of the president.
President, Thiruvannamalai Village – Srivilliputtur Block
Once Tiruvannamalai Panchayat received around Rs. 25,00,000/- budget for development activities but now it has reduced to Rs. 6,00,000 only. There is no reason found for the budget reduction. The inadequate budget has not sustained to complete the proper development work in the village. Further the village area has very poor ground water level (below 700 feets) even after establishment of 11 bore-wells the water shortage is crucial since almost the all the bore-wells have no yields. Only one well is supporting for drinking purpose but few persons put a dead dog in the well and gave petition to collector directly with out taking this issue to the knowledge of president. Though he is doing genuine services to the villages, he faces caste discrimination and intended problems, which restricted most of his valuable services.
President, Meladuraisamypuram village
Non-cooperation of the Panchayat clerk with the President leads for problems on implementing appropriate development projects. The movement ‘Kirama Suyasarbu Iyakkam’ handled the issue and they influenced higher officials to transfer the particular clerk. The problem is lack of authority to panchayat presidents to decide the appointment of Panchayat clerks. \
President, Krishnapuram village, Rajapalayam block
The panchayat is second largest panchayat, which faces problems from the officials who insist the president to reallocation of the funds to other activities instead of doing relevant activities for which the funds are allocated. The scavenging workers working in panchayats have been provided with very low salary, which is about Rs.1740. We requested to improve their salary as equal to corporation workers are receiving. The unsolicited requests from vested interest groups posted under Right to Information Act is being a headache to Panchayat administration which consumes time and unnecessary work.
President, Therkku kavalam,, Rajapalayam block
Misunderstanding between the president and deputed vice president leads for quarrel. As a result, their roles are given to the Panchayat clerks and both the presidents are ordered to sign the cheques in front of the BDO for claim of funds for projects. Newly introduced development project ‘Thai Thittam’ by the present state government is bypassed the Panchayat system. The direct implementation system has no monitoring hold in the local level and it will be better if the management of activities transferred to the local panchayats.
President, Ramalingapuram, Rajapalayam block
PWD and TWAD departments are developing proposals and implementing activities with out knowledge of local panchayats. The system is violating the Panchayat Raj System and it is not legally firm practice. Every Panchayat is holding authority to be a stake over the local project implementation. The political interference’s are hurdles for the quality governance and control of union offices most time neglects the real need and appropriate place for projects. The officials are supporting clerks as they are government staffs and give poor cooperation with elected presidents. Poor awareness and knowledge over the Kirama Sabai meetings are leading for the ineffective function of Panchayat system.
Ms. Jeyakodi, President, Samsiyapuram Village
Caste and gender discrimination in this Panchayat created an unsecured working condition and poor implementation of the development projects. The dominent caste group sends unsolicited petitions to officials and purposed organized protests against the president. The past planned attacks on president are not recorded properly even one of the attack happened infront of the police personnel. No FIRs and actions have taken against the dominent caste group who attacked the president. However the president treats all the people equally and provides basic facilities such as drinking water and sanitations.
CONSOLIDATED ISSUES AMONG THE PANCHAYATS IN VIRUDHUNAGAR DISTRICT:
Facilitator: Prof. Thirunavukkarasu:
From the sharing of Panchayat presidents and discussion Prof. Thirunavukkarasu consolidated following issues prevailing in the Virudhunagar district along with his suggestions for salvation.
Among all the issues in Virudhunagar Panchayats, the top most issue identified is atrocities and discrimination against the Dalit presidents. The long sustaining of such issues have been addressed properly till today. This leads for not only the poor implementation of Panchayat schemes but also challenge the security of the Dalit presidents. The cases of violence and attacks on Dalit presidents are progressing in different forms but no potential actions were done till today is the shameful situation prevailing not only in Virudhunagar district but spread among all the districts of Tamil Nadu.
Corruption in the Rural Development Department and other line department hindrance the fair activities of Panchayat presidents and destruct the good governance. The quality of work ever being a great question which needs good cooperation and organization of the Panchayat leaders to be addressed this kind of issues in higher level.
Thai Thittam is a project implemented in villages by the state government which bye passes the intervention of the local Panchayats where it lacks transparency and public hold. Proper advocacy and lobbying programmes are requested from the movement to link the activities with local Panchayat Development Schemes.
The unjustified level of Sweeper salary becomes a hurdle to maintain the health conditions of the Panchayats which may be taken to the government’s eye to consider their salary. Besides, the Panchayats may find appropriate mechanism for Waste Management through special projects and schemes.
Frail Panchayat allocation is now having 75% + 25% shared for development. This level was achieved through the movement and it should be monitored to ensure the proper fund flow and implementation through the local committee members of movement.
Negligence of district administration on addressing Panchayat level issues are most common not only in Virudhunagar district but also prevailing in all the districts of Tamil Nadu. The third level governance should be given priority to redress the issues as on when it arises to help the Panchayats executable and make it free from various hurdles and issues.
Most of the Panchayats have Water issues in Virudhunagar district since the ground water level is extremely low. In order to solve such issues the state government should find proper policy mechanisms to share the water sources among the Panchayats or stream central water sources to required Panchayats.
Almost in all the reserve Panchayats the Vice Presidents are non dalits and they hold the chair of dalit presidents and take all the decisions. The dalit presidents are not even entered in to the Panchayat offices and they sign the important documents from their home only. The situation bared the rights of the dalit presidents and lead for unsecured situations. The issue has to be solved through the movement taking prominent efforts against such illegal processes.
The vested groups claim Right to Information Act to demand unsolicited information with the motive to frustrate the presidents and to disturb the Scheme implementation. The situation should be resolved by setting up filtering system to link the RTI system to avoid purpose requests and relevant acts should be educated to punish such purpose claimers.
Few departments such as PWD and TWAD drafted proposals and conduct scheme activities without the knowledge of the local Panchayats which against the PRI system and it should be avoided through creating proper awareness and framing regulations among the departments to implement their activities.
The above issues require more efforts and struggles in various platforms and individual actions toward solution. It needs to take the issues to higher level of governance such as ministry in state and central government. Beside the media will be helpful to reach out the issues among the public and concern power structure to be addressed.