Govt allots negligible powers to ZPs


Politicians in Goa appear to have been making a mockery of the panchayati raj system by snatching every possible opportunity. This time, it is making powerless the zilla panchayats, constituted for the first time in the history here.

Almost two months after the ZPs were elected, the GPP-BJP coalition government has formally allotted them powers merely to keep them functional. "We don't want to keep them non-functional", admits chief minister Francisco Sardinha.

After appointing a committee to prepare a report on the functioning of the equally non-functional state finance commission, yet another cabinet committee has been appointed to study the recommendations of the SFC.

While its report would probably be ready by May end, the cabinet has allotted hardly Rs two crore to make the ZPs function in limited sectors, only seven out of total 27 different areas allotted for the ZPs to control.

"Time being these are the powers we have allotted", says Sardinha while avoiding a straight reply to why no major powers are not being allotted to the ZPs. Except in the sectors of minor irrigation, non-conventional energy and rural water supply, major powers of other sectors are still vested in the hands of the state government.

In fact the intention of the ruling legislators to defeat the basic purpose of decentralisation of powers becomes visibly clear with powers of only maintenance and supervision given to the ZPs in the sectors of agriculture, roads, buildings, bridges and ferries as well as education and health.

Over 75 per cent powers of all other sectors, though demarcated in the Goa Panchayati Raj Act, are still in the hands of the state government. It includes land improvement, animal husbandry, fisheries, small scale industries, primary, technical and adult education, rural electrification, poverty alleviation and welfare of weaker sections and even markets and fairs.

While Sardinha keeps on claiming that these are not delaying tactics, it is however a fact that the state finance commission has remained only on paper all these years and the fund devolution still takes place from the state budget directly.

This has happened in spite of constitution of municipal councils in 1996 and village panchayats in 1997, based on the constitutional amendments for devolution of powers. In fact the state was compelled to hold ZP elections in February only after the All Goa Panchayat Parishad approached the high court and not out of its own will.

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