BJP demands that it be referred to joint select committee of the legislature

Karnataka Panchayat Raj (Amendment) Bill, 2013, was passed in the Legislative Assembly on Wednesday, amid a dharna by the Opposition that termed the Bill “draconian” and said it was against the spirit of panchayati raj institutions (PRIs).

The Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party and the Janata Dal (Secular) alleged the Congress government was not ready to accommodate “valuable suggestions” given by its members to strengthen the PRIs. The JD(S) later staged a walkout on the issue.

BJP members, who staged a dharna before Speaker Kagodu Thimmappa, demanded referring the Bill to the joint select committee of the legislature to study the pros and cons and the effective implementation of schemes at the grassroots level. The JD(S) also gave suggestions to refer the Bill to the committee.

Salient features

Earlier, Minister for Rural Development and Panchayat Raj H.K. Patil said the Bill envisages disqualification or removal of a member of a gram panchayat, who fails to convene a meeting of the ward sabha and removal of the president of the GP, who fails to convene meetings of the gram sabha at least once in six months.

The Bill provides for GP members to convene meetings of ward sabhas and president to convene meetings of gram sabhas at least once in six months and also to convene special meetings on the direction of the State government or when a request is made by not less than 10 per cent of the members of gram sabha for discussing specific issues. It delegates power to the Regional Commissioner to remove a member or president of GP under Section 43A or Section 48 of the Act.

Regular meetings

The Bill envisages that every meeting of the ward sabha should be held at least seven days before the meeting of the gram sabha. Every member of the gram sabha representing the ward should convene meetings of the ward sabhas.

‘Targeting members’

BJP floor leader and former Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar said the Bill targeted GP members and it would curtail their powers and functions. Disqualification of GP members for not convening a ward sabha meeting was too harsh and goes against the spirit of the panachayati raj system. Mr. Shettar, former Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Minister, said: “Why has the government decided to disqualify only GP members? Why is there no disqualification for taluk and zilla members for not holding or attending meetings? Why is there is no disqualification of Ministers for not holding regular Karnataka Development Progamme (KDP) meetings. Are we holding the session for 60 days as per the law?”

‘Withdraw it’

Mr. Shettar demanded of the government to withdraw the Bill and refer it to the joint panel of the legislature.

Leader of the Opposition H.D. Kumaraswamy regretted that with one stroke the government has brought all GP members under the purview of the Bill. The Bill targets innocent members of the GPs who are daily-wage earners. It is better to refer the Bill to the committee for suitable changes, he said.

Karnataka Janata Paksha president and former Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa, C.T. Ravi and K.G. Bopaiah (BJP) said disqualification of members for not holding meetings was not a reasonable clause to include in the Bill.

Officials too

They demanded reintroduction of the Bill in the next session. They urged the government to take action against officials, who failed to attend the ward sabha and gram sabha meetings.

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