'Hold Panchayats in naxal areas'
The report of an Expert Group to Planning Commission titled Development Challenges in Extremist Affected Areas has recommended reorganisation of the administrative arrangement in Naxal-affected areas, saying the “current non-accessible bureaucracy” should be supplanted by three-tier panchayat bodies.
The report released last month says, “The areas in central India where unrest prevails covers several states (like Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and part of Maharashtra) that are minimally administered. State interventions, both for development and for law and order, have been fairly low. In fact, there is a kind of vacuum of administration in these areas, which is being exploited by the armed movement, giving illusory protection and justice to the local population. The basic steps required in this direction include establishment of credibility and confidence of government; keeping a continuous vigil for fulfilment of people’s vision; effective protection, peace and good governance; rejuvenating tribal economy including social services; sustainable development with equity in tribal areas; holistic planning in scheduled areas; and negotiating crises by focussing on ending confrontation”.
According to the report, the area affected by the extremist movement is the region of central India which has a substantial tribal population, hilly topography and undulating terrain.
Failure to provide infrastructure and services as per national norms is one of the many discriminatory manifestations of governance here, the report says. These disparities result in non-available/poorly-provided services. The removal of these disparities shall be among the top priorities to convince people living in these areas that they... matter in national life, it adds.
The report recommends: “Reorganisation of the administrative arrangement should aim at supplanting the current non-accessible bureaucracy by three-tier panchayat bodies, with level to level correspondence with the current administrative structure. Bureaucracy at each level should be directly accountable to the corresponding tier of the elected panchayat. The gram sabha will have the right to question the functioning of any officer or staff. These panchayats should have the power to clear schemes and projects up to a certain financial limit. The district panchayat will have no such limit in respect of... programmes earmarked for that district.”
Regulatory functions like revenue, police, forest and labour should be directly accountable to panchayati raj institutions.
The report has further pointed out that one major deficiency of existing administrative arrangements is the absence of a justice administration system in rural areas. “The current system is expensive, dilatory and complicated... The Centre should quickly enact the Nyaya Panchayat Law with enabling provisions for the states to adopt,” it says.