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Rural bodies stage sit-in

Imphal, July 9: Elected members of Manipur rural bodies today launched an agitation demanding devolution of powers among others and lined up a series of protests till the demands are met.

The members today staged sit-ins simultaneously in nine blocks in the four valley districts — Imphal East, Imphal West, Bishnupur and Thoubal — to mark the beginning of their campaign.

Besides devolution of powers, the members of zilla parishad, gram sabha and wards have demanded payment of wages of 100 days to job-card holders under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA), an increase in the honourarium of the members and merger of District Rural Development Agency with the zilla parishad.

They have also demanded appointment of full-time block development officers (BDO) in all the nine blocks. Sub-divisional officers are holding the additional charges of the BDOs, which they said slackened development activities.

The members said absence of full-time BDOs had hampered development activities particularly the works under the MGNREGA.

“We have been making these demands for many years now. However, the government has remained silent. Failure to give full powers to the panchayat has severely affected development activities in the rural areas as the powers are now in the hands of the government, ministers and MLAs,” secretary of Manipur Panchayat Parishad, Th. Bhuban said.

He said the panchayat parishad, the apex body of elected members of the rural bodies, would wait for the response of the government. They would hold a sit-in on July 11 at the district level, at the district headquarters, if there is no response from the government.

“We plan to take out a rally at the state level on July 14 in Imphal as the last resort to draw the attention of the government. If things do not change there will be no other alternative for us than tender our resignations en masse,” Bhuban said.

There are 60 zilla parishad members, 161 pradhans and 1,514 ward members in the nine blocks of the four valley districts. The zilla parishad members are getting Rs 4,000 each per month, pradhans Rs 3,000, members Rs 1,000 per month as honourarium.

“Given the sky rocketing prices of essential commodities the members are unable to run their homes with the meagre honourarium,” a zilla parishad member said.

The members said the sit-in was also to mount pressure on the government to decentralise power and also create awareness among the masses about the roll of local bodies in the development activities of the state.