New Delhi, Jan. 22: Fifteen is not fifty, or even twenty-five, Mani Shankar Aiyar has been told.
The Centre has for the second time rejected the panchayati raj ministers proposal to hold a rally for the 15th-year celebration of the 73rd Amendment, which gave constitutional status to units of local self-governance.
Aiyar wanted a grand celebration of Panchayat Divas on April 24 and had planned to invite over two lakh panchayat presidents for a rally in Delhi.
But the Planning Commission deputy chairperson, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, rejected the proposal last week, sources said.
Normally, silver jubilees and golden jubilees are celebrated. A 15th-year celebration is unusual, a Planning Commission member noted.
Only last month, the Union cabinet had rejected a similar proposal from Aiyar.
The minister could not be reached on his phone today despite repeated attempts.
The Planning Commission told the ministry that diverting resources from schemes directly benefiting the people to a rally was not justified. The money, the ministry had proposed, could be diverted from the Backward Region Grant Fund (BRGF). This fund is used to provide essential services, such as drinking water, in the backward districts.
Aiyars ministry had suggested that the Rs 75 crore to be spent on the celebration could be put back into the BRGF by sanctioning extra funds through revised estimates for 2007-08 in the budget.
But the Planning Commission refused, saying out that the government was already under pressure following criticism of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme as ineffective.
Sources said the commission also felt the rally would unduly strain the creaking infrastructure of Delhi.
The Delhi government had last month wondered how more than two lakh people would be accommodated.
Aiyar was planning the rally on April 23 and 24 at Camp Ground Burari a venue identified last year by the Delhi government and the urban development ministry as the only one big enough to fit in so many people. But the Centre has asked the minister to find some other way to celebrate.
Aiyar, who also holds charge of the Northeast, is already angry with the finance ministry for refusing to allow government employees leave travel concession to travel to the region by air. At present, air fare is given only for travel to the Andamans and Jammu and Kashmir.