`Opposition to direct funding for panchayats regrettable'

TIRUCHI, AUG.1. The Federation of Tamil Nadu Women Village Panchayat Presidents has come out in favour of direct transfer of funds to panchayat bodies.

Speaking to mediapersons here yesterday, Ponni Kailasam, president, regretted the opposition from parties and State Governments over the Centre's move to fund local bodies directly. The federation will request village panchayats to adopt resolutions favouring direct transfer of funds to them at the gram sabha meetings, she said and called for allocation of funds based on the 2001 census.

Though the State Government agreed to increase the funds devolved to local bodies by one per cent every year, the assurance has not been implemented. Consequently, only eight per cent of the State's total revenue, a quantum fixed in 1996, is being devolved to the local bodies, she said.

This was all the more essential as power tariff has gone up steeply in the State with panchayats being charged at Rs.3.40 a unit, she said. She called for a downward revision of power tariff for village panchayats as mounting arrears in power charges were proving a major burden.

All welfare schemes be delivered only through village panchayats instead of government agencies and the drought-relief works taken up with Central funding be carried out only with the approval of the panchayats, she said.

The Government should ensure that all government orders, relating to their powers, rights and responsibilities were sent to the local bodies and the Revenue and Police authorities as well. Voluntary organisations should also be made to work under the supervision of panchayats.

Ms. Kailasam demanded that panchayats be made the licensing authorities for schools.

Panchayats should also be vested with powers to inspect schools under their jurisdictions and check the safety standards.

She disclosed that the federation's state conference would be held at Gandhigram on September 4. The Union Minister for Panchayat Raj and Petroleum, Mani Shankar Iyer, would attend, she said.

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