Despite the government relaxing the new guidelines, which were amended by the panchayati raj department, for allocating funds from 13th finance commission grants, members of zila parishad and panchayat samitis are still firm on their demands of restoring the old status.
The members have been demanding more power, but have opposed the change in the funding mechanism by terming it 'uncalled' for. Under the amended guidelines, every new project, before allotment of funds, will have to be discussed and approved in a meeting.
For the members, one of the major reasons for worry is that the government has taken away the power of announcement of any projects, just like the other elected representatives, including legislator and Lok Sabha members. Earlier, the government had allocated 50% funds to the panchayati raj institutions (PRIs) for work under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS). Of the total, 50% funds are allocated to zila parishad, 30% to panchayat samitis, while 20% to gram panchayats.
The government had put the funds under convergence for MNREGS, withdrawing 30% from ZP and 20% from panchayat samiti. The members could use the fund as per their wish, but only for MNREGS related activities. The new guidelines have, however, restricted the ZP and PS members from constructing new roads, but later relaxing the norms, the ZP members could allocate for construction of roads through the development blocks, but they were still restricted to spend on maintenance of roads.
Shimla zila parishad vice-chairman Prahlad Kashyap said the government had restricted them of several powers, which they used to enjoy. “I don't know whether it will weaken the PRIs, but instead giving more powers, this is move to restrict us,” he said.
Since the ZP members cannot allot direct funds for maintenance of roads, several maintenance works are pending, as now an estimate needs to be approved first of all. The ZP members have submitted several memorandums to chief minister Virbhadra Singh, rural development and panchayati raj minister Anil Sharma, demanding the old system, but the government relaxed few guidelines, accepting their some demands.
“The government shall give more powers to the panchayati raj institution so that more people will be benefited,” said Kuldeep Singh, Bilaspur zila parishad chairman. He added that new funding mechanism had complicated the system, and for small things now people had to wait for the approval.
Meanwhile, Sharma said he had received the memorandums from the members and accepted several demands by amending the funding guidelines. “We have decided to implement new mechanism for the betterment of the people. Few demands of members have also been accepted,” he said.
Total panchayats: 3,243
Panchayat president: 3,243
Ward members: 19,413
Total block development committees: 77
BDC members: 1,682
Total zila parishad: 12
Zila parishad members: 251