Government directive has left them in a tight spot
The annual revenue of the Bhuvanakote Gram Panchayat (GP) in Chikmagalur district is about Rs. 1.8 lakh. Payment of salary to bill collector and watermen, and office expenditure make up for more than its revenue. Added to this would be expenditure towards emergency repairs of roads and water supply pipeline. This being so, the September 20 government directive to all zilla, taluk and gram panchayats to pay Rs. 15 for hoisting the national flag and Rs. 15 for bringing it down every day has added to the burden of not only the Bhuvanakote GP, but also several small panchayats.
The government on July 30 this year directed all panchayats to hoist the national flag every day on their premises from August 15 and pay the incentive from their own funds to those engaged for the work.
‘A matter of pride’
Bhuvanakote GP president N.G. Prakash Murthy said hoisting the tricolour was a matter of pride and panchayat workers had been doing the job ever since August 15. However, directing the panchayats to foot the incentive — about Rs. 11,000 a year — would affect many small GPs which do not have adequate sources of revenue. Tax collection in his panchayat, dominated by village habitats and agricultural land, is meagre. There are no commercial establishments, either panchayat’s own or private, which could fetch good revenue. “Payment of incentive may not be a problem for GPs in semi-urban areas,” he said.
The working hours of persons engaged in flag hoisting too has got extended due to this rule. They have to come half-an-hour early to 9 a.m. to prepare for hoisting and leave half-an-hour later after the office closure at 6 p.m. In Malnad areas where connectivity is an issue, they were facing problems while reaching home, Mr. Murthy said.
Janardhan S. Maravanthe, member of Maravanthe GP in Udupi district, said national flag hoisting and payment of incentive should have been left to the discretion of the panchayats. On one hand, the government claims panchayats were semi-autonomous bodies and on the other, issues regular directives, he said.
He said the directive creates some burden on panchayats, particularly those already having funds crunch. They spent Rs. 1,500 to purchase three national flags at once in August this year, he noted. Mr. Maravanthe said GPs also had to pay honorarium at the rate of Rs. 250 a month to members and Rs. 500 to the president from their own funds.