Odisha News Insight

Village Panchayats in Rayagada organize Gram Sabha

Gram Sabha in RayagadaRayagada, Oct 3: Tribal people of several villages of Therubali and Kartikaguda gram panchayats, which are situated fifteen kms and seventeen kms respectively from Kolnara block headquarters, wait for the Additional BDO since morning 9 AM to attend the Gram Sabhas. When this correspondent asked Sri Prahllad Hikaka, a youth Sarpanch of Therubali whether the gram sabha can be conducted without ABDO, he drew blank. Smt Bamini Miniyaka, in her sixties, Sarapanch of Kartikaguda does not know about this. But she knows that Gandhi was born today and told that he still lives in her heart and thousands of Adibasis like her. Of course like many members present there, she also does not know the relevance of Gram Sabha being conducted on 2nd October.

Interestingly enough, preparations have been made to conduct both the gram sabhas in the campus of Therubali Panchayat office premises as Kartikaguda Gram Panchayat does not have its own GP building though the panchayat has been bifurcated from Therubali GP and formed since last ten years. The GP office functions from a small room situated within the premises of Therubali GP. Neither the bureaucrats nor the political representatives have been able to resolve the conflict of constructing the GP office building in Kartikaguda village or any other villages under its jurisdiction.

However, the indefinite wait by the members, mostly tribal women, ends when the Kolnara ABDO arrives at the Panchayat office by 12.30 PM. By this time a few members have left the venue. The Panchayat Executive Officer(PEO), earlier known as Village Level Worker(VLW) delivers a welcome address. He is intervened by the ABDO when goes on speaking at length about various schemes. The ABDO then spoke about SHG’s credit linkage for livelihood under National Rural Livelihood Mission, planning with people’s participation, etc. After his long speech, the gram sabha ended for Kartikaguda GP. The whole process lasted hardly for one hour.

Gram Sabhas have been fixed on 2nd October to commemorate birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, who believed on Gram Swaraj-Village autonomy and self reliance. According to him, people will plan and implement from below and as primary tenet of Indian society, villages will be republics at the grassroot with utmost transparency and self-accountability. Fortunately enough, 73rd amendment of Indian constitution, Panchayat Extension to Schedule Areas(PESA) Act, Forest Rights Act, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act(MGNREGA), etc. Recently Intensive Participatory Planning Exercise(IPPE) envisages convergence of MGNREGA, Odisha Livelihood Mission(as a part of NRLM), Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana (DDU-GKY), National Social Assistance Programme(NSAP), Indira Awas Yojana. Apart from this Bharat Swachh Mission, Prime Minister’s Jan Dhan Yojana, Life & Accidental Insurance, Atal Bima Yojana, etc will be an integral part of IPPE.

To the utter dismay of the members present, no agenda was fixed and discussed with Gram Sabha. There were around 40 women and 20 men in the Kartikaguda gram sabha excluding the Anganwadi Workers, ASHA workers and other govt officials. There was least participation by the members from the village except two long lectures-one by ABDO and other by the PEO. It was never checked whether the gram sabha met the quorum. Labour budget for 2015-16 and achievements of GP upto August-2015 was not at all discussed. Wall painting on information on IAY, NSAP, etc were not exhibited at any place in the place of gram sabha to initiate discussion.

The findings of Social Economic and Caste Census(SECC), which is the main basis of IPPE, were never shared in the gram sabha. The elected PRI members were given to understand that if such issues would be discussed during the gram sabha, several conflicts will crop up; issues of several rural development programmes implemented ao planned to be implemented were never brought up by the moderators of the gram sabha. Components of IPPE-II were never discussed. When this correspondent asked about the IPPE, neither the PEO nor the ABDO could correctly expand it. The planning dates were never shared with the members. However, the JE Ms. B. B. Sahu informed this correspondent that the IPPE will start from 3rd October and end by November seven in nine revenue villages and five hamlets under Kartikaguda GP. IPPE one village or hamlet will at least take three to four days which will include social, resource mapping, seasonality mapping, transect walk, individual family surveys, priority list preparation, various information sharing with the villagers and several other activities.

Through this intensive process, the intention is to reach out to every deprived household and to develop sustainable livelihoods for them based on their priorities and resources. The reliable source says that the human resource, the Block Planning Team(BPT) and village volunteers, is scarce to shoulder such a great and important initiative like IPPE.

“While on the eve of Gandhi Jayanti, BJD is having massive padayatra/foot march, BJP is doing Satyagraha and Congress is exhibiting a strike in front of the Collectorate- all at the district headquarters following the means followed by Mahatma Gandhi and propagating the political gimmicks as usual, nobody is interested to have a reality check of what is really happening in the villages.

The entire gram sabha process culminated as a farce and an irrelevant awareness lecture rather than touching the spirit of Gram Swaraj as envisioned by Mahatma Gandhi and enshrined in various Indian Acts. The relevance of conducting the Gram Sabha eliciting people’s participation & having people’s planning/Lok Yojana on this auspicious day needs to be internalized by the agents of delivery mechanism”, said Sri Bijaya Mishra, an enterprising farmer of Munusing village of Kolnara block.

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