Special Correspondent

CHENNAI: The Rural Development Department has issued orders hiking the travel allowance of rural local body representatives substantially, following representations from them. It was last increased in 1999.

According to the government order issued by Rural Development Secretary Ashok Vardhan Shetty on September 29, village panchayat presidents will get Rs.500 a month instead of Rs.330. Panchayat union presidents will get Rs.750 (Rs.550), panchayat union ward members Rs.400 (Rs.220), district panchayat presidents Rs.1500 (Rs.1100) and district panchayat ward members Rs.500 (Rs.330).

Many rural elected representatives had urged Local Administration Minister M.K. Stalin, during the four zonal meetings, to effect a hike and he had agreed to consider the demand favourably. Rural Development Director Gagandeep Singh Bedi, who studied the issue, had, in his recommendations, said the responsibilities of the rural elected representatives had increased and they were in charge of implementation of some schemes at the village level.

Also, fares had increased considerably. He recommended a significant hike in the allowance.

The department considered the suggestions of its Director and accepted a major part of his recommendations.

There are 12,618 village panchayats, 385 panchayat unions and 29 district panchayats in the State, represented by as many as 97,458 village panchayat ward members, 12,618 village panchyat presidents, 6,570 panchayat union ward members and 656 district panchayat ward members.