The elected local representatives along with large numbers of MGNREGS workers in Manipur observe the day as Black Day to protest against the lackadaisical attitude of the state government towards the grievances of the rural populace.
By Seram Neken
India is known to be the largest democracy in the globe with a large population spread across different states. The Legislators and Executives at the level of state government do not get to know the real problems, troubles and issues faced by people at the grassroot level in rural areas. Hence, the importance of empowering the local bodies to develop policies, rules and regulations to decentralize power came up, so that reach and access of administration can be widened at the grassroots level.
The concept of village Panchayat has practically restored the system of Direct Democracy through institutions like the Gram Sabha. In order to regulate the Panchayati Raj system, the Panchayati Raj Act (73rd Amendment) was passed in 1992, and the Act came into existence from April 24th 1993. A 3-tier system with Gram Panchayat functioning at the village level, Panchayat Samiti functioning at Block Level, and Zilla Parishad functioning at District Level was developed accordingly.
Panchayati Raj Day is celebrated every year on 24th April across the country to commemorate the 73rd Amendment to the Constitution of India which brought a major change in the Panchayati Raj system. The day recognizes the decentralization of power into the hands of the common men by the State Legislatures. The most noteworthy feature of this nationwide celebration of Panchayati Raj Day is the diversification and handing over of political power to the able hands of the common man. It signifies that every village, district, the block has a central power similar to that of a Chief Minister to administer a local territory. The celebration of the Day started in the year 2010.
Unfortunately, the elected local representatives along with large numbers of MGNREGS workers in Manipur observe the day as Black Day to protest against the lackadaisical attitude of the state government towards the grievances of the rural populace. It is really a shame to those concerned with the governance at the rural as well as local level.
There are 161 Gram Panchayats and 60 Zilla Parishad Members in Manipur. The twin objectives of the Panchayati Raj system as envisaged by the Constitution of India are to bring about local economic development and to ensure social justice. So, the importance of Gram Panchayats lies in empowering rural population to participate in rural development programmes for improving their quality of life and providing rural infrastructure and socio-economic growth for the poor people in rural areas. The amount of Honorarium for the Zilla Parishad Members, Pradhans and Ward Members is quite meagre in view of the prevailing market prices and responsibilities of local bodies in dealing with public grievances. Zilla Parishad members, Pradhans and Ward Members are entitled with an amount of Rs. 9000/-, Rs. 8000/- and Rs. 3000/- per month respectively. Meanwhile, such a meagre amount has not been regularly released by the Government of Manipur. The Honorarium of the elected 60 Zilla Parishad Members, 161 Pradhans and over 1000 Ward Members have been pending for the months from October 2019 to till date.
Manipur is one of the backward states of North Eastern India having over 4.00 lakhs Job Card Holders under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee scheme. Most of the remaining work programmes of the financial year 2020-21 have been executed considering that the due liability of the current financial year may be released by the Ministry concerned soon. It is indeed a fact that your good office has released the payment of 2nd instalment of 1st trench of Central Assistance toward wages, material and administrative component for financial year 2020-21 to the state Government of Manipur vide File No. J-14023/01/2020 RE-I (Sl. No.102) dated 09.02.2021 and the payment of the 1st instalment of 2nd trench of Central Assistance Vide File No.J-14023/01/2020 RE-I (Sl.No.119) dated 18.03.2021 respectively. But the Government of Manipur has intentionally failed to release the above said amount of funds to the respective districts till date which has caused inconveniences to the implementing agencies as well as the poor Job Card Holders.
The very act of the Government of Manipur has amounted to weaken the Panchayati Raj system which is against the spirit of Constitution of India. The elected persons of Panchayati Raj Institutions and the large number of Job Card Holders were on Sit-in Protests for two consecutive days i.e 17th and 18th April 2021 demanding release of funds. However, as the Government of Manipur did not give any positive response, the elected persons of PRIs resorted to 48 hours General Strike (Shutdown) in the whole state. Still, the Government of Manipur is yet to give any concrete positive response till date. Therefore, the PRIs have boycotted the National Panchayat Day (24th April 2021) and further course of agitation will follow. The state of Manipur is in turmoil now.
The Manipur Government and its responsible Ministries and Departments are remaining adamant towards the demands of large number of elected local bodies and the MGNREGS workers of Manipur. Their very lackadaisical attitude has jeopardised the spirit and objectives of the Constitution of India, and at this juncture, there is no worth in celebrating Panchayati Raj Day in Manipur.
Celebration has turned into Observance: Celebration of Panchayati Raj Day in Manipur on 24th April 2021 is replaced by Observance of Black Day by Panchayati Raj Institutions of the state.
(The writer is Imphal based senior columnist & elected zilla parishad member of Imphal East District)Panchayati Raj Divas 2021, black day in Manipur