The Tamil Nadu government will set up ‘village secretariats’ that will help to implement its schemes in the rural areas, Chief Minister M.K. Stalin said in the Assembly on Friday.
In a suo motu statement, he also announced the enhancement of the sitting fee for elected representatives of the rural local bodies, the purchase of new vehicles for the panchayat unit presidents, an increase in the number of gram sabha meetings every year and resumption of the observance of November 1 as the Local Governance Day and of the conferment of the Uthamar Gandhi Award on village panchayats.
Mr. Stalin said the village secretariats would have internet connection, rooms for the panchayat presidents, secretaries and village administrative officers, meeting halls and basic amenities. A total of 600 village panchayats would be covered in the first phase this year.
The secretariats, to be constructed at a cost of ₹40 lakh each, would also coordinate efforts to implement schemes operated by the Departments of Rural Development and Panchayat Raj, Revenue, Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare and Social Welfare, the Chief Minister said.
Mr. Stalin said the gram sabha meetings would be held six times a year, which had so far been held on four days. Besides on the Republic Day (January 26), Labour Day (May 1), Independence Day (August 15) and the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi (October 2), the gram sabhas would meet on World Water Day (March 22) and Local Governance Day (November 1).
Though November 1 had been observed as Local Governance Day by the DMK government since 2007, the practice was discontinued when the AIADMK came to power.
Mr. Stalin said that following representations, the government decided to increase the sitting fees for the elected representatives of the district panchayats and the panchayat unions by 10 times on days when the meetings were held. The sitting fees would also be increased for the presidents and members of the village panchayats by five times.
The measure would benefit over 1.19 lakh elected representatives in the rural local bodies, including 12,525 presidents and 99,327 members of the village panchayats, 388 presidents and 6,471 members of the panchayat unions, 36 presidents and 655 members of the district panchayats.
Mr. Stalin also said vehicles would be provided for the chairpersons of the panchayat unions. The then Chief Minister, M. Karunanidhi, had in 2008 granted vehicles for the chairpersons of 385 panchayat unions. But they were not purchased for the past 10 years. Only an announcement was made in 2019-20, but it was not implemented.
The Chief Minister said the government would resume conferring the Uthamar Gandhi Village Panchayat Award on the best performing village panchayats on 10 parameters. It was introduced in 2006 under the DMK government, but was discontinued by the AIADMK government. One village panchayat in 37 districts would be chosen a year. The award would carry a cash component of ₹10 lakh, he said.