The Dalit president of the Keeripatti panchayat, M. Baluchamy, feels stifled by non-cooperation from some officials.
On one side he is pressured by residents seeking favours while on the other there is cold response from officials to his recommendations.
Keeripatti is one of the four reserved panchayats, where elections could not be held due to non-cooperation to the rotational reservation policy by the caste Hindus.
The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam government earned appreciation for restoring the democratic set up in Pappapatti, Keeripatti and Nattamangalam (all in Madurai district) and Kottakatchiyendal (in Virudhunagar district).
Mr. Baluchamy says he is not consulted on selection of works under the Anaithu Grama Anna Marumalarchi Thittam. Free cooking gas stoves have not been distributed and his recommendations for old age pensions not honoured by officials. Works under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme are not being allotted regularly.
A community hall constructed with special funds given by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam in 2007-08 and a sanitary built in 2006-07 in a Dalit colony are yet to get power connection. He attributes it to lack of cooperation from officials. “The toilet has been left unused for three years because water cannot be pumped to the overhead tank without power.” Same is the case with the new office building for the panchayat and a ration shop constructed in 2007-08. The office still functions from the old building for want of power supply in the new building and the new ration shop has got electricity supply from the panchayat office. Officials refused to even look into his recommendation to remove an encroachment. “Instead, I was asked to adjust with the local people,” he alleges. Gram sabha meetings are attended by a handful of people, mostly Dalits. “After the meetings are over, we get signatures of others in the minutes book.”
On top of it, the special monthly meetings conducted by the district administration for presidents of three reserved panchayats of Pappapatti, Keeripatti and Nattamangalam have not been held for several months, he alleges.
The Pappapatti panchayat president, Periyakaruppan, endorses his allegation.
He feels that the very reservation system that enabled him to become a panchayat president, after two terms of boycott of elections by caste Hindus, had not brought about much difference in the lives of Dalits there. All that he is satisfied with is that he is allowed to sit on the president’s chair, where once Dalits were not even allowed to walk wearing chappals.
When contacted, Usilampatti Tahsildar V. Baskaran said he had taken charge only 15 days ago and the issues had not come to his notice.
Adi Dravidar Welfare Minister, A. Tamilarasi, was unaware of these issues and said she would look into them immediately.
She said lack of funds with the panchayat could also have been a reason for the absence of power supply. She would take up the issue with the officials.