T.V. Sivanandan

‘Outgoing members did little to improve basic amenities'

Competition high because there's lots of money to be played with

Big increase in allocations to GPs in recent times

GULBARGA: The abundance of funds with gram panchayats for various employment-generation projects under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGREGA) has been one of the major reasons for the intense contests in almost all panchayats, that will go to the polls on May 8, in the district. Apart from increased financial allocations to the panchayats in recent years, the MGREGA has become one of the major sources of finance for these bodies. This, political observers say, has made many people vie for positions of responsibility.

According to official sources, on an average, a sum of Rs. 1 crore was spent by each of the gram panchayats in Gulbarga district last year. This is likely to go up this year due to increased awareness about MGREGA in villages.

Besides, the gram panchayats are also empowered to take up silt-removal from tanks, as well as watershed development projects, to improve the groundwater level in villages. “Naturally, with such big money available, the contest is bound to be cut-throat,” Kallappa Gowda of Bilwar village in Jewargi taluk told The Hindu.

Although the gram panchayats had spent more than Rs. 302 crore under the MGREGA during 2009-10, the general complaint of village residents is that there has been large-scale siphoning off funds owing to lack of proper monitoring.

‘No good done'

Vittal Chavan, an agriculturist, said the outgoing members of the gram panchayats had done nothing to improve basic amenities. “We now hope youngsters, who have come forward to contest the elections, will change things,” he added.