Other members deny allegation; Karuppan stands his ground
Virudhunagar Collector M. Balaji has directed the Assistant Director (Panchayat) to enquire into the complaint of the president of the reserved panchayat of Kottakatchiyendal, V. Karuppan, that he is forced to sit on the floor during meetings by caste Hindu members of the panchayat.
The Collector, along with Superintendent of Police Najmul Hoda, visited the panchayat in Narikudi union and made enquiries with Mr. Karuppan and other members on Thursday evening. Even as Mr. Karuppan pressed the charge against the members, they denied any discrimination against the Dalit panchayat president.
Claiming that the residents of the village lived in total harmony, they said that such a complaint had never arisen in the past six years, ever since Karuppan got elected for the first time in 2001, the Collector said.
They also showed a photograph, clicked using a mobile phone, showing Mr. Karuppan sitting in a chair along with other members of the panchayat during the meeting.
“However, Mr. Karuppan claimed that he was made to sit on the floor during some of the meetings,” the Collector said.
The members complained that the unlettered president was being misled by another person, who had supported his candidature for the election.
“Only because we lodged a complaint on financial irregularities in the implementation of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme in the panchayat, we are being targeted with the complaint of discrimination”, said vice-president M. Uma Maheswari.
K. Rajkumar, a member, said that Mr. Karuppan was innocent and controlled by an outsider. “We have been opposing interference by outsiders in the day-to-day functioning of the panchayat.”
Mr. Karuppan stood his ground on the complaint. “They do not allow me to function independently and want to oust me exploiting my illiteracy. I am not under anyone's control,” he said.
Stating that the panchayat was in a state of backwardness and required infrastructure development, Mr. Balaji said that lack of development was also a reason for division among the elected representatives. “Only a thorough enquiry will reveal the facts.”
The Assistant Director (Audit) has been asked to thoroughly verify the accounts of the panchayat and submit a report.
The Collector has also asked the officials to hold a four-day training programme for all elected representatives of Kottakatchiyendal on the functioning of the panchayat, their role and responsibilities. He said that five development works, costing Rs.22.85 lakh, would be taken up in the panchayat utilising the Narikudi Panchayat Union general fund.
The Collector, who interacted with the villagers, promised to look into basic amenities required for the panchayat.