The Forum that is supposed to monitor devolution of powers to panchayat bodies has hardly met in the last 10 years

Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Minister H.K. Patil on Thursday assured the Legislative Council of constituting the State Panchayat Council within a month.

Replying to a debate initiated by BJP member Kota Srinivas Poojary on the problems being faced by the panchayat raj institutions, the Minister expressed concern that this State-level forum which is supposed to mentor the institutions and monitor devolution of powers to them, had hardly met twice in the last decade.

He explained that the State Panchayat Council headed by the Chief Minister would comprise three members from the Council and five members from the Assembly besides having the RDPR Minister as its vice-president.

He promised to take up their demand for reducing the village panchayats’ burden of paying arrears to the tune of Rs. 2,684 crore towards electricity bills with the Chief Minister and the State Cabinet.

Earlier, initiating the debate, Mr. Poojary said the panchayat council had met thrice in the last 19 years. On the other hand, C. Narayanaswamy, former president of erstwhile Bangalore Rural Zilla Parishat and presently working president of the Panchayat Council, said that the Council had met only once since 1993, during the tenure of M.P. Prakash.

‘Restore powers’

Mr. Poojary urged the government to revive the old glory of panchayat raj institutions.

Making his submissions under Rule 330 in the Legislative Council here, Mr. Poojary said the institutions — zilla, taluk and gram panchayats — had lost much of their powers.

Mr. Poojary said while funds for development are routed through zilla panchayats, the deputy commissioners hold review meetings. Standing committees of zilla panchayats have no power as they cannot oversee the functioning of respective departments. Funds released are riddled with a number of conditions forcing panchayats to seek frequent clarifications from the government.

While zilla panchayats have to release funds for drinking water, ironically the area MLA has to prepare the action plan, Mr. Poojary said.

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