Proposed Amendments Appear to Curtail the Power of Elected and Enhance Power of Govt. Officials: Jolly

Port Blair, Jan 19: Former State President BJP-ANI, Shri Vishal Jolly has raised objection against the proposed amendments in A & N Islands Grant-In-Aid to Panchayati Raj Institutions Rules, 2021 through a letter addressed to Lt. Governor, ANI, Chief Secretary, A&N Administration, Secretary, RD, PRI&ULB and Director, RD, PRI &ULB.

Jolly raised the following preliminary objections with respect to the manner in which the proposed amendments have been introduced in the public domain:-

The claims & objections were invited by making a small sized newspaper notice by indicating that the proposed amendments could be downloaded from the A & N Administration’s websites. It is well known to all that the network connectivity in our Islands has still not improved in many Islands and therefore, it was not possible for people or other stakeholders residing at those Islands to go through the same, analyze the same and file their respective objections, if any.

Secondly, the most concerned stakeholders who would like to submit their claims and objections would be the elected members of Panchayati Raj Institutions, whereas it is a matter of fact & of record that there are no elected representatives as the local bodies elections were not held for the past more than one and a half years. Therefore, it is not a right time to notify the proposed amendments and let the same be published/notified only after the elections with respect to the Panchayati Raj Institutions are held, representatives are elected and bodies are constituted. This would enable the elected representatives to give their respective views, claims and objections, if any.

In the normal course, any proposal for amendments must be published widely and this being an amendment to one of the most important grass root level democratic institutions, the amendments ought to have been published widely in all daily newspapers properly and the same should have been displayed prominently in the newspaper itself and not in the website.

Jolly also suggested that let the amendments alone be published and not the entire rules which are not proposed for amendments. Furthermore, let the publication be made in a comparative tabular format highlighting/displaying the present rules in one column the proposed rules in the other column, so that a clear picture is made available to the stakeholders/general public for arriving at a conclusion with respect to changes or modifications which the administration has proposed. The stakeholders, the general public should be clearly able to figure out the proposed amendments, in order to give their respective views.

The administration should assign reasons for the proposed amendments clearly justifying the same and its requirements. It has to be placed in public domain as to what were the reasons and objectives for which the administration has come up with a proposal for amendments. It also needs to be placed on record as to who proposed these amendments, why and by whom it was routed and for what reasons.

Moreover the provisions contain only regarding the two tier set up i.e. Gram Panchayats and Zilla Parishads, whereas recently it has been brought to our notice that the middle tier i.e. Panchayat Samiti is being reconstituted. Therefore, let the same include the provisions pertaining to Panchayat Samitis also.

Jolly lastly mentioned that from a bare reading of the overall provisions, it is almost understandable that the proposed amendment couldn’t serve the purpose of absolute grass root democracy and strengthening the PRI system in these Islands. It appears from various provisions of the proposed rules that the powers of Elected heads have been curtailed, restricted and contained with a view to enhance the powers of the Government officials.

The former BJP State President thus requested that all the above objections be considered categorically and the existing rules do not call for any interference and needs no amendments at all.