Thursday, August 5, 2021
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Powers should remain in hands of people

Anna Hazare, who is mute on burning issues of India, found slamming Thackeray govt seeking ‘Indirect Sarpanch Polls’ by calling it autocratic. Criticizing the Maha Vikas Aghadi government, Hazare stated that the indirect sarpanch polls were threat to democracy. The government is set to table the indirect sarpanch polls bill during the budget session of the Maharashtra Assembly to reverse an earlier decision under which people directly elected the village sarpanch (headman). The rule for direct election of sarpanch was brought in by the previous BJP-led Devendra Fadnavis government amending respective clauses of Maharashtra Gram Panchayat Act of 1958 to facilitate the election of a sarpanch (gram panchayat heads) directly from among the people of the village. But the Uddhav Thackeray-led government seeks its reversal which has been stalled by Governor BS Koshyari, who refused to sign the promulgation of an ordinance on this. Highlighting the importance of Gram Sabha polls, Hazare invoked Mahatma Gandhi’s thoughts on electoral democracy. Stating that once a person turns 18, he becomes a part of the Gram Sabha, Hazare said that it was a natural and organic body. Moreover, he reminded that the Gram Sabha voters who elect the Legislative Assembly MLAs and Lok Sabha MPs. He added that while the above-mentioned legislative assemblies changed every five years, the Gram Sabha was permanent. Elaborating on the various Gram Sabhas, he said each voter of the Gram Sabha change the MLAs and the members of the district, thus changing the village Gram Panchayat. He concluded that as the Gram Sabha was supreme, the sarpanch must be elected by the voters and not the political party representatives, as proposed in the bill.

Hazare believes that the current government did not believe in transparency and therefore, wanted sarpanches to be elected by councilors. He added that not only sarpanches but also the Chief Minister should be directly elected by the people. The former Devendra Fadnavis-led BJP government had scrapped the procedure of electing sarpanches from among the elected gram panchayat committee members, and had started a new process whereby sarpanches would be elected by the people through an election. Recently, however, the MVA government reinstated the old process but did not get the governor’s nod on the decision which is why its implementation was pending. Hazare is backing the direct election of sarpanches. He expressed his apprehension saying, “If the direct process is scrapped, there will be a direct threat to democracy and there are chances of increasing dictatorship in the state. It is not decentralization in the true sense. Powers should be in the hands of the people otherwise the importance of political parties will increase and it will affect democracy.”

The Gram Sabha is the fulcrum of the Panchayati Raj and village development. People use the forum of the Gram Sabha to discuss local governance and development, and make need- based plans for the village. The Panchayat implements development programs under the overarching mandate, supervision and monitoring of the Gram Sabha. All decisions of the Panchayat are taken through the Gram Sabha and no decision is official and valid without the consent of the Gram Sabha. The Panchayat Secretary after obtaining approval of the Sarpanch should organize the Gram Sabha. Gram Panchayat Sarpanch has to convene a Gram Sabha meeting when either 10 per cent members of Gram Sabha or 50 persons of Gram Sabha (whichever is more) submits their requisition for holding a Gram Sabha. However, those members have to inform the purpose for the meeting. A written request for the meeting must be handed over to the Sarpanch during office hours 5 days before the date of meeting. If the Sarpanch fails to hold the meeting on the requested date, the members who requested the meeting can then organize the Gram Sabha meeting. Gram Sabha has its own protocol and functionary, in such circumstances ‘indirect Sarpanch Polls’ is not vice idea. The term Gram Sabha is defined in the Constitution of India under Article 243(b). Gram Sabha is the primary body of the Panchayati Raj system and by far the largest. It is a permanent body. Gram Sabha is the Sabha of the electorate. All other institutions of the Panchayati Raj like the Gram Panchayat, Block Panchayat and Zila Parishad are constituted by elected representatives. The decisions taken by the Gram Sabha cannot be annulled by any other body.

The power to annul a decision of the Gram Sabha rests with the Gram Sabha only. Anna Hazare always had a brutal struggle against one or the other unreasonable arrogance of government. Indians keep oscillating between total apathy to mass hysteria when it comes to serious issues. While corruption is a serious issue, the mass hysteria often ignores the root causes of corruption. Causes for Indian corruption are too deep and it cannot be fought without fixing other basic issues. The struggle has to be a holistic one that tries to fix the problem in a more practical manner. All he asked us to do was open our eyes to reality. To stop living under the illusion that things will magically change without us doing anything. He brought us together in a fight against corruption in a way that no one has since the Gandhian era. He is the most peaceful protester ever. His methods may not be working in today’s times. But he is NOT undermining democracy or thrusting anything upon us. If anything he is doing us a favour. He’s asking us to question the authenticity of so many executive actions that affect US. That is our money which is lost in every scam that comes out. Political parties take the advantage of their power when they rule, they make amendments in rules or they integrate things that are suites to their survival. Hope Anna Hazare can restore democracy by making politicians accountable.

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Dr Vaidehi Taman
Dr Vaidehi an Accredited Journalist from Maharashtra is bestowed with Honourary Doctorate in Journalism, Investigative Journalist, Editor, Ethical Hacker, Philanthropist, and Author. She is Editor-in-Chief of Newsmakers Broadcasting and Communications Pvt. Ltd. for 11 years, which features an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, monthly magazines like Hackers5, Beyond The News (international) and Maritime Bridges. She is also an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, Certified Security Analyst and is also a Licensed Penetration Tester which caters to her freelance jobs.

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