Special Correspondent

Action council moves High Court

Move feared to strain resources

of panchayat

Political confrontation

in Corporation

Thiruvananthapuram: Even as preparations are on to merge Vizhinjam grama panchayat with the Thiruvananthapuram Corporation, some residents in the bustling suburb have raised apprehensions about the impact of the merger.

An action council formed by the local people has moved the High Court against the decision to merge the panchayat with the city Corporation. Participants at a function organised by the Vizhinjam Grama Panchayat Samrakshana Samithi last week highlighted the fears and concerns over the government decision. The meeting decided to mobilise support for an agitation against the move.

Speakers at the function said a merger with the city Corporation would strain the available resources in the suburb. Terming the government move as an affront to democracy and decentralisation, they feared that it would burden the residents with higher taxes and licence fee.

P.Y. Anilkumar, general convener of the Samithi, said the merger would alienate the residents from elected representatives. “Panchayat ward members are able to intervene in local issues and find solutions, while the bureaucratic set-up in a Corporation imposes constraints on elected representatives. Besides, procuring a certificate or permit from a panchayat is a lot easier due to better accessibility,” he added. “The Vizhinjam panchayat is located in Neyyatinkara taluk, making it geographically incongruous with the capital city. Residents will be forced to shuttle between the Neyyatinkara taluk office and the Corporation office in the city for a host of services.”

According to the samithi, the merger with the city Corporation would deprive the residents of the benefits of Centrally sponsored packages such as NREGS, SJGRY and other development funds from the block and district panchayats.

Samithi leaders pointed out that the massive dose of Central funds from the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) and Kerala Sustainable Urban Development Project (KSUDP) packages had failed to improve the lot of residents in the neighbouring Thiruvallam panchayat that was merged with the city Corporation in 2000.

They alleged that the merger move had been designed by the Corporation to take advantage of the economic development expected from the Vizhinjam container terminal and the tourism boom.

Vizhinjam is one of the five suburban panchayats that are proposed to be merged with the city Corporation. The other four are Kudappanakunnu, Vattiyoorkavu, Sreekaryam and Kazhakuttom.

The merger has already cleared the ground for a political confrontation in the Corporation council. The Opposition UDF feels that the merger will prove detrimental to the interests of the people in the panchayat areas. The LDF on the other hand argues that annexing the panchayats to the Corporation will spur the development of backward areas and attract more funds from external sources. Employees, however, fear that the merger will aggravate the crisis caused by acute staff shortage in the Corporation and bog down the administration.