The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
Email This Page
Bengal MPs keep off panchayat mess

New Delhi, Dec. 12: Left MPs from Bengal are wary of bossing over their own state's panchayat leaders.

The MPs last week told Union rural development minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh they do not want to head the vigilance committees that were formed four months ago to monitor plan implementation.

The ministry had wanted to appoint them as panel chairpersons.

They have told Singh the vigilance committees should be headed by panchayat district presidents. 'The MPs reasoned that panchayat institutions were very strong in Bengal. And they do not want to make panchayat leaders subservient to MPs,' a rural development ministry official said.

But the law-makers do not want to entirely give up their claim over the programmes which, if implemented well, could become a feather in their caps. 'The MPs told the minister that they are willing to become vice-chairpersons of the committees,' an official said.

Analysts say the panchayat institutions have become so powerful in Bengal that the MPs do not want to mess with the district chiefs ' conflicts might arise if the former head the vigilance panels.

The rural development minister is holding separate discussions with MPs belonging to various parties.

The Left MPs told Singh they were unhappy at how the government had identified the districts where the food-for-work programmes will be implemented on a pilot-project basis. The ministry identified 150 districts nationwide where the programme was implemented as part of the employment guarantee scheme.

The real battle between the Left and the minister is yet to start. Doubts persist over what the final shape will be of the National Employment Act which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has assured will be introduced on Wednesday.

The Left has opposed the draft bill prepared by the rural development ministry, calling it a 'watered down' version of what the National Advisory Council had recommended.

The rural development minister has been dismayed by the Left reaction and the Planning Commission further says the Centre does not have enough money to fund the project which could entail an investment of Rs 40,000 crore.

It is likely that the bill will be sent to a standing committee after being introduced in Parliament so that it can be examined in detail. The panel might summon experts and suggest changes. The Left thinks this will only delay the passage of the act and its implementation.

Email This Page