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Computer classes lined up for heads of 3,000 gram panchayats

The trainers will educate representatives in handling computers and smart phones to help them check the updates of welfare schemes and before sanctioning those
Representational image.
Representational image.

Snehamoy Chakraborty   |   Calcutta   |   Published 23.05.22, 01:33 AM

The Bengal government will provide digital literacy training to chiefs and deputy chiefs of over 3,000 gram panchayats across the state to make them gadget-savvy enough to check digitised and online proposals of welfare schemes before putting their digital signature for the same.

Sources said the move had been taken to reduce “malpractices” at rural bodies before the panchayat polls next year.

The training will be rolled out in Bankura on Monday and will cover all districts by June. The trainers will educate rural body representatives in handling computers and smart phones to help them check the updates of welfare schemes and online proposals before sanctioning those in digital platforms. West Bengal Electronics Industry Development Corporation Limited (Webel) and panchayat and rural development department will provide trainers to train each group for two days.

“We have found that most chiefs and deputy chiefs of rural bodies across the state became dependent on panchayat staff like secretaries and computer assistants. As they sign welfare schemes, they should know how to check the proposals before putting their signatures. It will be of great help to be self-reliant,” state panchayat and rural development minister Pulak Roy said.

There are 3,339 gram panchayats in Bengal and by June 30, all chiefs and deputy chiefs of rural bodies will be trained. Officials said the department had a plan to revisit the trainees after a few months to check how the training helped them.

Officials in the rural development department said it was found during several meetings and discussions that most of the chiefs and deputy chiefs, including women, were not aware of basic happenings in their panchayats on several welfare schemes. In most cases, they hand over their digital signature to the staff who use the same when required.

“It is really risky for those panchayat representatives as any employee can misuse their signature if they want to, even keeping them in the dark. It is not a full-fledged course to teach them computers or software. The trainers will just teach them how they can put their digital signatures even from their smart phones or computers,” said a senior official in the rural development department.

Sources said the department had received reports on few cases of malpractices where it was revealed during investigation that panchayat chiefs or deputies were completely in the dark about the malpractices because they never checked the documents before signing on the papers.

In a few cases, the district administrations of Murshidabad, Nadia and South 24-Parganas had lodged complaints against those panchayats regarding alleged mishandling of funds, particularly those linked to the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) scheme or rural housing project.

After preliminary investigations, it was revealed that in many cases, the chiefs or deputy chiefs of the rural bodies did not know in detail because their assistants handled every scheme and account-related tasks.

“Chiefs and deputy chiefs are responsible for any malpractice or corruption with government funds as they are the signatories. So, even if any other person misuses signatures of them to do any malpractice, legal action would be taken against the signatory,” said a state government official.

However, a section of officials raised questions whether the training would help as several chiefs and deputy chiefs in remote pockets could hardly sign in Bengali.

“If at least 50 per cent of them are skilled, we can restrict corruption,” said an official.

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