The ensuing three-tier panchayat polls has thrown up quite a few paradoxes with several candidates not having mobile phones, bank or post office passbooks. As per the sworn affidavits furnished at the district election office, there are instances of candidates in the fray having no movable or immovable property of their own. Penniless nominees neither have mobile phones nor bank savings. As the electioneering for three-tier panchayat polls coming to an end, a number of candidates in the fray are little aware of cashless economy or digitalised empowerment of village body. Of the 117 candidates who have filed their nomination papers for 32 Zilla Parishad zones, around a dozen of nominees do not have a savings bank or postal account. Equal numbers of candidates are bereft of access to mobile phone facility. Take the case of Ranjit Mallick (38), an independent nominee from ZP (zilla parishad) zone-27 in Rajkakina block.
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“I have no property. I have also no savings. I am yet to operate a bank account as I could hardly save from daily earning to open an account. I am contesting the polls as we poor people are fed with corrupt practices by the elected members of village bodies. Flow of funds for village development is pouring in. But sizeable chunk of it is being siphoned off”, he said.
Another nominee, Chittaranjan Mallick (25), who has no assets and not used to mobile phone use, said “Our area is hit by poor mobile phone service. The net connectivity here is also erratic. So concept of cashless transaction from smart phones and digitalised empowerment of society is impracticable in far-flung rural pockets”.
There is almost zero-awareness about the Internet and operational knowledge of computer. Use of mobile phone is also the lower side because of poor network. People are being deprived of the benefit from myriad existing services that provide weather forecasts and market prices through text messages, said contestant from ZP zone-27 in Rajkanika block, Paramanand Mallick (65).
Post-demonetisation, people who had no access to banks have no doubt opened savings accounts. However they are yet to be familiar with the basics of cashless economy. Two computer sets were installed at the Damarapur village panchayat office. But the sets are hardly being used as the elected members have no operational knowledge. The panchayat office is not covered with net connectivity, said contestant from ZP Zone-18 in Pattamundai block, Sarathi Das (46).
Movable and immovable assets owned by at least seven candidates are either zero or meagre by present standard. An estimated 17 candidates own property and wealth over Rs 20 lakh. Incidentally two crorepati nominees have thrown their hats in the ZP poll race this time, according to the sworn affidavits submitted by nominees.
Pradip Mallik (31) who is out on the contest for ZP zone-1 in Aul area, has no property whatsoever in sharp contrast to wealthy profile of some of the candidates for the ZP polls. He has a bank account with a deposit of Rs 29 only! Chinmoy Jena, contestant from ZP zone-28 in Mahakalpada block has zero bank balance. He is bereft of no other form of movable and immovable property. It’s a healthy development. Many from marginalized families have come forward to take a plunge in the poll race, said analysts.