Nandurbar district authorities have launched an investigation into an alleged open auction held recently in a village for the post of sarpanch. A video of the alleged auction had gone viral on social media a few days ago with activist Anna Hazare decrying it as “auction of democracy”.
The video shows a crowded village square with an open auction underway. The winning bid was Rs 42 lakh after which the winner was carried on the shoulders of his followers. Shot in the village of Khondamali in Nandurbar taluka, this was an apparent auction for the post of sarpanch.
Initial inquiries have shown that village residents had decided to raise money to renovate the village temple and the auction was held for this purpose. “This auction was ostentsibly for temple renovation and the winner was supposed to become the sarpanch. However, the person who won the bid has not filed any nominations for the village panchayat elections,” said a revenue official.
The state government recently announced holding of elections for village panchyats, which were long overdue. Elections to these primary bodies, although held without party symbols, are keenly contested with money and muscle power flowing freely. Khondamali is one of the 14,231 village panchayats for which elections have been announced. District authorities from Nandurbar confirmed that Khondamali village had decided to hold the elections unopposed.
Dr Rajendra Bharud, district collector of Nandurbar, said the tehshildar has been asked to hold an inquiry in the matter.
Gram panchyat elections this year have highlighted a trend wherein village residents favour unopposed elections in lieu of monetary donations for developmental work in the village. “Works which can’t be financed by government funds are being financed in this manner,” said an official.
In his press release, Hazare said, “Participatory democracy will die in this fashion. Village panchayat is the reflection of the state of democracy at large and so, this trend is highly problematic.”
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