‘Panchayats in West Bengal not being allowed to function'
Identifying “the extremely politicised gram panchayats” in West Bengal as a major hurdle in implementing rural development schemes, including the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA), Union Minister for Rural Development Jairam Ramesh on Sunday cautioned against “one form of politicisation being replaced by another.”
“Within a few months or even a couple of years, you cannot overcome 34 years of extreme politicisation of the administrative apparatus — whether it is school, colleges, hospitals Panchayat institutions. I only hope that one form of politicisation will not be replaced by another form of politicisation,” Mr. Ramesh told journalists on the sidelines of the International Conference on Water Quality with special reference to arsenic.
The Left parties have repeatedly alleged that the Panchayats in the State are not being allowed to function since the Trinamool Congress-led government came to power. The Minister assured the State that “there will never be a shortage of funds for rural development projects for West Bengal”.
The issue of allocation of funds to West Bengal from the Centre has seen a war of words between the leadership of the Trinamool and the Congress, but Mr. Ramesh said the Centre was allocating funds for various projects to the State.
“These are not just finds on paper. This money is being allocated to the State government. When we receive the proposal for a project, the funds are released. There is no question of any politics here,” he said.
Mr. Ramesh denied that “there are any differences” between the two parties and said “there were only squabbles between members of a family.”
When asked why the State leadership of the Congress openly criticised the State government, Mr. Ramesh said it was not possible for the Congress to vacate its political space.
On being asked whether Mr. Ramesh, who had written to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee being critical of the State's performance in implementing rural development schemes, was satisfied with the situation at present, the Minister said he was pleased that the State's Minister for Rural Development Subrata Mukherjee was taking a personal interest in the projects.
Mr. Ramesh said the Statehad submitted proposals for building 540 km of roads in rural areas under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojna, which will soon be granted permission.