Patna, Feb. 16: The Bihar government today admitted its hands were tied in taking action against “tainted” mukhiyas (panchayat heads), but said it plans to bring about certain amendments in the existing Panchayati Raj Act to keep up the momentum in its war against graft.
The government’s admission came a day after The Telegraph reported how one such village body chief posted in the chief minister’s home district of Nalanda was continuing in her post in spite of the district magistrate’s recommendation that she be removed.
Panchayati raj minister Bhim Singh said the government’s hands were tied in removing mukhiyas charged with corruption. He cited legal hurdles as reasons for the mess.
“A few mukhiyas, who were earlier removed from their posts, moved the high court, which issued directives that they (mukhiyas) cannot be punished (read removed from their posts) for offences that they had committed during their previous tenure. We have to honour the court’s direction,” the minister said.
Nalanda district magistrate Sanjay Agarwal has thrice recommended to the minister’s department the removal of Kumari Tripty, the mukhiya of Raj Parthu panchayat, for alleged irregularities in executing welfare schemes in her first tenure from 2006-2011. But no action has been taken.
Singh felt the need to introduce certain amendments in the existing Panchayati Raj Act. “It is high time the government reviewed the situation afresh. Complaints of irregularities in the execution of welfare schemes at the grassroots level are being received by the department and also at the chief minister’s janata durbar. There must be a remedy for such ills,” he added.
Referring to the hurdles faced by the department in setting things right, the minister said there is a provision in the Act to divest the mukhiyas of their powers after the charges of corruption were found to be true. “But the provision in the Act is ambiguous, making things more complex,” he said.
The minister, however, expressed concern over rising complaints of anomalies in the execution of welfare schemes in panchayats across the state.
“We do take action against public servants for indulging in corrupt practices,” he said, adding that FIRs had been lodged and dozens of erring public servants booked.
He reiterated the government’s commitment to continue its battle against corruption prevalent at government offices.
“The chief minister has time and again made the government’s intentions clear on this front,” Singh added.
Rampant corruption at the grassroots level is proving to be one of the biggest problems for the government. Unrest among the people is increasing with the government seen to be approaching the issue with kid gloves.
Authoritative sources said over 500 panchayat heads were facing charges of corruption in the state and a majority of them have been booked as well. Most of the cases have been registered in Sitamarhi, Saharsa, Supaul, Purnea, Muzaffarpur, Vaishali and Nawada districts.