In a development that marks a growing discontent among village sarpanches in Gujarat against the BJP-led government in the state ahead of the Assembly elections in the state, 51 sarpanches of Sanand taluka on Tuesday submitted a memorandum to mamlatdar, protesting against a government circular which, they say, curtails their power to use panchayat funds.
The circular, issued last month, makes it mandatory for the elected village sarpanch to get a nod from his talati — the village secretary who is a representative of the state government — for utilising gram panchayat funds. Sarpanches view it as an encroachment upon their powers and a direct attack on the panchayati raj system. Previously, the sarpanch and one of the elected members of the gram panchayat could use the funds for any official work. According to the new circular, the sarpanch and one of the elected members now have to require the signature of the talati before using panchayat funds.
The controversial circular follows an amendment to the Gujarat Panchayats Act passed by the Assembly in March this year. The government had defended its decision, saying that it was necessary as most of the sarpanches are illiterate.
“Many sarpanches are illiterate. And when they unwittingly sign on some improper expenditure it results in their suspension. Now, with talati’s signature being made mandatory, it will make him/her accountable and will prevent suspension of the concerned sarpanch. This was the most important purpose in amending the Act. It certainly is not an attack on the powers of sarpanches,” said Panchayat Minister Jayanti Kavadiya.
The sarpanches on the other hand, think otherwise. “We are elected members of the village. And this government wants that we cannot use funds for our village without the signature of the talati who is their representative. By bringing this rule, the government wants to control the gram panchayats,” said Narendrasinh Barad, sarpanch of Bol village near Sanand GIDC. He said that he is a BJP supporter, “but if the government tries to snatch our powers, we will not sit”.
“Today we submitted a memorandum to the mamlatdar. We are waiting for the government’s response. We are going to hold a meeting of sarpanches of nearby two to three talukas to challenge this move of the Gujarat government. And if the government does not accept our demand, we will work against the BJP in the upcoming Assembly elections,” Barad added. According to him, the move will make it very difficult for elected body to carry out development works. “There is a dearth of talatis in Gujarat and in many cases, one talati has the charge of three to four villages. In such a situation, it is not possible for a talati to visit every village every day,” Barad says.
Before this, a similar event to oppose the government circular was organised by sarpanches of Dhari taluka of Amreli district. Similarly, sarpanches of Kadi taluka of Mehsana district are likely to meet on the issue shortly.
Varshaben Thakor, sarpanch of Thol gram panchayat, said: “Today, I held a meeting of elected members of our Thol gram panchayat on this issue. All the members are opposed to the government circular. I will be talking to other sarpanches of Kadi taluka before holding a formal meeting against the circular.”
“If we have to take permission of the talati for using the funds, what is the purpose of us getting elected as village heads,” Thakor added.