RSA to organise massive Dharna
Village Panchayats be allocated seven percent of the total central budgetary allocation to stem corruption and create a vibrant system, said Mr K N Govindacharya, founder & patron of Rashtriya Swabhimaan Andolan (RSA).
The central budget is of about Rs 14 lakh crore. If seven percent of it is allocated, it would provide Rs 40 lakh a year to each of the 2.5 lakh panchayats for development of the rural areas and building of infrastructure.
This would transform the village economy, he said, and the country would go on a fast-track development process. The 1991 economic liberalisation has not benefitted the rural areas or its economy. It has rather led to further negligence of the largest segment of the population. Villages harbour 70 per cent of the population and unless they are given effective powers to function the rays of skewed development process would never reach them. The government should make a beginning.
Even after enactment of The Panchayati Raj Act in 1993 through the 73rd constitutional amendment, panchayats have become paper tiger as they do not have financial powers. They have to depend on state and district administration for any kind of pecuniary functions. It only empowers the bureaucracy and the elected panchayat becomes subservient to the interest of the bureaucracy.
It is necessary for a vibrant democracy that the lowest democratic unit is able to function effectively. Various central ministries have for the last two decades only been mulling about channelling funds. Bureaucracy have been obstructing the move as it curtails their powers. Govindacharya said the Andolan is agitating to rectify the situation.
The concept of empowering village panchayats and gram sabhas is enshrined in the basic concept of the nation since ages. Mahatma Gandhi’s Gram Swaraj was supposed to be the bedrock for independent India. It did not happen. Socialist leader Ram Manohar Lohia had the concept of ‘chaukhamba” – four pillars. The first pillar was the village economy and its panchayat.
Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay had stressed on achieving the goal of ‘antyodaya’ – liberation of the last person – through an effective panchayat system. Loknayak Jai Prakash Narayan had also wanted to make panchayats the foundation of the governance structure, Mr Govindacharya said.
The centre even now provides funds for the panchayats, but, he said, it is channelized through state governments mostly in the shape of tied funds. Often the states spend this fund on other purposes and it never reaches the panchayats. The Rashtriya Swabhiman Andolan wishes to correct this system. It wants that the funds are provided directly to the panchayats so that the money is not siphoned off midway.
Mr Govindacharya said it would not be an additional burden. It would be only correction of a procedure. It would reduce the role of officialdom and make the panchayats effective tool in the development process.
It would have three benefits. First, the way there is islands of opulence that would be spread evenly. Villagers would prosper and so would the national economy. Second owing to lack of funds many projects of the panchayats could not be implemented. The officials have only single programme as to question, doubt integrity and ultimately obstruct all honest proposals. The last, as the money would reach the villages, it would bring the rural economy out of despondency, Mr Govindacharya said.
Mr Govindacharya said that the movement to begin on October 1 would continue till the goal is achieved.
It may be mentioned that the budgetary process lacks participation of the people, Mr Govindacharya said. The way the nation’s budget is prepared in Delhi is a cause for concern. Even political leadership is not consulted for taking important decisions. The arbitrary allocation in the budget to suit the whims and fancies of some top officials has led to severe discrepancies. If agriculture, which employs about 70 crore people, had been given the least importance the kind of inflation and high cost unaffordable economy that is rocking the nation would not have been there.
Mr Govindacharya said that the RSA agitation is aimed at changing the basic budgetary process. A high-cost economy suits the profiteers. It is necessary to change the dynamics to a low-cost process so that the poorest man not only could survive but also could participate in decision-making.