Term extension for officers opposed

Bill passed after heated debate over elections to four reserved panchayats in State

Special Correspondent

CHENNAI: Issues relating to the failure of conducting successful poll in four village panchayats reserved for the Dalits-Pappapatti, Keeripatti, Nattarmangalam and Kottakatchiyendal-for the last nearly ten years, rocked the Assembly on Thursday.

Members belonging to the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the Congress and the Pattali Makkal Katchi opposed extension of the term of office of the Special Officers of these panchayats.

The Tamil Nadu Panchayats (Third Amendment) Bill, 2005, moved by Minister for Local Administration K.P.Anbazhagan explained the circumstances that necessitated the extension for a further period of six months beyond April 24.

The Bill, which was introduced to replace the Ordinance promulgated on July 11, said Pappapatti and Nattarmangalam panchayats in Madurai district and Kottakatchiyendal in Virudhunagar district could not be constituted since no nomination had been filed for the office of president and members.

In the case of Keeripatti, no nomination had been filed for the office of members of the village panchayat, it said adding that as per Section 6 of the Tamil Nadu Panchayats Act, 1994, a village panchayat should be constituted consisting of elected members.

`Murder of democracy'

Opposing the move, K.Jeyakumar (Congress) said it was strange that the poll process could not be fulfilled in these panchayats, though elections were conducted successfully in the extremist and Naxalite-infested areas in other parts of the country. Dalits of these villages were unable to contest the elections. Even if they won, they could not continue in office. The Government remained a mute spectator without taking action against those who were responsible for the ``murder of democracy.''

K. Pitchandi (DMK) said failure to hold elections to these panchayats for a long time would affect the interests of the locals. T.Velmurugan (PMK) said if the Government had the will to conduct the elections, there is a way to do so.

In a democratic country there was nothing wrong in choosing reserved panchayats irrespective of the population of the Dalits, he said.

Minister for Public Works O.Paneerselvam said despite efforts, election could not be conducted successfully in these panchayats. The Chief Minister deputed a high-level committee to the villages to persuade the locals to extend their cooperation to the conduct of elections. But the people did not come forward to file nominations.

Government creating awareness

Mr.Anbazhagan said the Government, which had fulfilled the election process in several other reserved panchayats, was trying to create awareness among the locals in the four panchayats.

Referring to Dr.Jeyakumar's plea, both the Ministers were of the view that essential services could not be denied to the villages. The Bill was passed after the debate.

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