`Focus on success stories, struggles of panchayats'

TIRUCHI, AUG. 1. Speakers at a media workshop on `panchayats and its potentials,' organised by the Department of Political Science and Development Administration, Gandhigram Rural Institute here on Saturday, have stressed the role of the media in strengthening democracy at the grassroots level by highlighting success stories and the struggles of panchayat bodies.

G. Palanithurai, chairperson of The Hunger Project and the Rajiv Gandhi Chair for Panchayat Raj Studies, Gandhigram Rural Institute, said participatory governance could be made possible only through village panchayats.

The system of election-oriented democracy could become people-centric only if panchayats play a proactive role.

However, with information available at a premium, panchayats had to struggle against the administrative machinery, traditional panchayats and the society besides fighting for devolution of more powers.

The media should focus on struggles, success stories and pathfinders who strove to make the panchayat raj system succeed, he said.

Mr. Palanithurai said several Dalit women representatives have been able to raise women's issues in the public sphere despite constraints.

However, he added, a section of panchayat representatives from marginalised groups still had qualms about approaching the authorities concerned regarding major issues.

He emphasised the need for total decentralisation and bringing all local resources under the control of panchayats without the influence of political bodies.

Lack of awareness among the public prevented them from analysing and criticising Government mechanisms, he added.

The President of the Tamil Nadu Women Panchayat Presidents Association, Ponni Kailasam, conceded that there was a need to strengthen the information network between panchayat representatives and the media.

Rani Sathappan, deputy general secretary of the association, and Bhavani Ilango, president, Merpannai Panchayat, Pudukottai, spoke on the occasion.

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