The Bengal government has appointed the principal secretary of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration as the chairperson of the District Level Selection Committee (DLSC) for gram panchayats and panchayat samitis in the Darjeeling hills.
The DLSC is tasked with recruiting employees to gram panchayats, panchayat samitis and zilla parishads. Elsewhere in Bengal, the district magistrate concerned is the chairperson of the DLSC.
By appointing the GTA principal secretary as the chairperson of the DLSC, the hill body is provided with some control over the gram panchayats and panchayat samitis.
Polls to gram panchayats and panchayat samitis in the hills were held recently after a gap of 22 years and there are still grey areas over the administration of the rural bodies in the region because of the existence of the GTA.
Section 34 of the GTA act has provided the hill body with general powers of supervision of different tiers of the panchayat system, and municipalities in the region. The same section also says “it shall be the duty of every such zilla parishad, panchayat samiti, gram panchayat or municipality to give effect to any direction of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration on matters of policy or planning for development”. Still, there is a lack of clarity on the role of the GTA in the rural bodies.
“This is largely because the hill municipalities have largely functioned independently of the GTA despite Section 34 in the GTA Act. There were apprehensions among a section in the GTA that the rural bodies, too, would function independently of the GTA,” said an observer.
However, through an order issued on Monday, the state panchayat and rural development appointed the principal secretary of the GTA as the chairman of the DLSC for the hills of Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts which come under the jurisdiction of the autonomous body.
The district magistrates in the GTA areas have been appointed as the vice-chairpersons of the DLSC.
Earlier, elected representatives would be made the members of the DSLC. However, this time, the government constituted an all-bureaucratic committee, triggering protests from the BJP.
Apart from the district magistrates, the other members of the committee are an additional executive officer and the secretary of zilla parishads, a subdivisional officer, a woman WBCS officer nominated by the DM, a WBCS officer from the minority community and a nodal officer not below the rank of joint secretary to be nominated by the panchayat and rural department. One of the above officers must also be from the SC/ST/OBC community.
“By keeping elected representatives away from important bodies like the DLSC, the Bengal government is exhibiting its autocratic nature as there will be no checks and balances in such a body. Unlike the elected representatives who are directly accountable to the people, the bureaucrats are answerable only to the government of the day,” Darjeeling BJP MP Raju Bista said.