Chief minister Nitish Kumar waters a plant at the gram sabha meeting at Hajipur on Sunday. Picture by Deepak Kumar
Hajipur (Vaishali), Oct. 2: Chief minister Nitish Kumar, for the first time, attended a gram sabha — an assembly of villagers presided over by a mukhiya (elected panchayat head) — at Bishenpur Basant village, 2km from the district headquarters of Hajipur.
As part of his efforts to strengthen the institution of local self-government, Nitish announced the setting up of panchayat sarkar — a well-equipped secretariat for the panchayat on the pattern of the chief minister’s secretariat or the collectorate which serves as a secretariat at the district level.
The chief minister’s visit to the village assembly coincided with the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, who himself was a big advocate of a strong gram sabha. Around 3000 villagers, including large number of women, attended the meeting being supervised by the chief minister.
In fact, as per the government’s prescheduled instructions, the gram sabhas were organised today in all the 8,463 blocks across the state. The gram sabhas reviewed the work being carried out under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA).
Nitish watched the villagers putting their questions to the Mukhiya and the latter replying to them. He watched the proceedings through the close circuit cameras that had been set up at the venue.
The chief minister also made it a point to go to the assembly venue and encourage the villagers to ask more questions from the Mukhia. “True development can take place only when each and every citizen at the grassroots level participates properly in the process. For that, you must raise your problems before the Mukhia and the latter must ensure the solutions,” Nitish advised the villagers.
Nitish made a formal announcement of building first Panachayat sarkar office at Subhai block, under which Bishenpur Basant falls, at an estimated cost of Rs 65 lakh. “The number of anganvadis too will be taken to five from three in the block,” he said.
The chief minister said the panchayat sarkar office will not only cater to the panchayat but also serve as vasudha centre – a part of the e-governance scheme to link the panchayats with the collectorate and state secretariat.
Nitish also used the occasion to elaborate his government’s Sarkar Aap Ke Dwar (government at your doorsteps) programme which has helped the government in curb Naxalism in parts of the state. Under the programme, government officials and elected representatives reach out to the villages to make an on the spot assessment of the people’s grievances and work out solutions. The programme was launched in 2006.
About his gram sabha experience, Nitish said: “I am delighted to be a part of the gram sabha for the first time. I am also fortunate to get the opportunity to attend such a programme at the birthplace of democracy (Vaishali is belie-ved to be the place from where democracy originated).”