Patna, Sept. 13: Nitish Kumar tasted the wrath of grassroots-level elected representatives as they forced the chief minister to listen to them at a training camp of the three-tier panchayati raj bodies here today. Panchayats, blocks and districts constitute the three-tier panchayati raj.
People’s representatives of 8,463 panchayats, 534 blocks and 38 districts had gathered for training in governance at the local level from Nitish, rural works minister Bhim Singh, besides experts on the local governance.
Ruckus ruled as the chief minister stood up to speak with the representatives of the panchayati raj institutions. They demanded that Nitish should listen to them first. The chief minister continued his speech amid noisy interruptions from the elected representatives. Nitish wanted to leave the venue after his speech but on the vociferous demand from the representatives, the chief minister sat down to listen to them.
“The bureaucrats, who according to the Constitution’s spirit are supposed to assist the elected bodies in executing the schemes, are virtually calling the shots in financial matters. There should be provision to make financial transactions with the signature of both (the elected representatives and the officials concerned),” said Mukul Mohan, the president of the association of the mukhiyas (village heads) of the state.
The other demands that the elected representatives put forth before the chief minister through Mohan and also through their conversation with the reporters included: according the minister of state and deputy minister status to the district chairmen and block pramukhs respectively, power to the panchayati raj institutions to formulate and implement 50 per cent work under the MGNREGA, Rs 25 lakh as compensation to a representative on his accidental death, besides vehicles and adequate security.
They also demanded power to recommend disciplinary and punitive action against the public servants from block to district levels “in accordance with the Constitution’s spirit to make the bureaucracy more accountable to the elected representatives at all the levels of the democracy”.
There should also be a separate category of officers who stayed under the direct control of the panchayati raj institutions,” the demand list stated.
Before the ruckus, Nitish had announced that he was committed to have the government at the panchayati-levels in manner it was at the state- and national-level.
“I wish that every panchayat is a revenue unit on its own, equipped with the expertise to deal with issues of mutation of land and other problems related to the local people,” he said today.
Nitish added that the government would carry out the training programmes to train the panchayati raj institutions in keeping accounts of the finance and knowledge about the schemes they were supposed to handle and execute at their levels.
The chief minister also announced that the government would build 1,000 panchayat buildings so that the panchayats and their secretariats could function from “dedicated” premises. “We are trying to procure the loan from the World Bank to build the panchayat premises where mukhiyas will hoist the Tricolour on Independence Day,” he said.
Nitish, however, suggested the panchayati raj institutions to take advantage of the training programmes being carried out by the government.
“Unless you (panchayati raj institutions) know what are the work you are supposed to do and how you should do it, you cannot govern. You must evince interest in the art of governance at the local level,” Nitish counselled them.