Friday, January 23, 2009

District governments a panacea to Regional disparities: Dr. JP

Formation of district governments will be a potent antidote to regional disparities and animosities, declared Lok Satta Party President Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan here today.

Just as the Congress Party declared ‘purna swaraj’ on January 26, 1930, the Lok Satta today declared the formation of district governments all over the State and pledged itself not to rest until the goal is realized. Today happens to be the birth anniversary of Netaji Subhashchandra Bose, who had served as Calcutta Commissioner – the first to be chosen from among citizens -- and as an elected Mayor.

Addressing a meeting held at Kukatpally to mark the Ranga Reddy district government formation and declaration, Dr. JP said entrusting the administration of a district to an official like the collector is nothing but a travesty of democracy because many districts in Andhra Pradesh are bigger than half the countries in the world. Mr. BPR Vithal, Prof. K. Nageswar, Mr. Solitipeta Ramachandra Reddy, Mr. Uppala Gopala Rao, Ms. Maligireddy Sudha and Party leaders Mr. DVVS Varma, C. Narasimha Rao, B. Rammohana Rao, B. Krishna Reddy, Srinivasan, N. Ravinder also participated in the function.

Dr. JP recalled that the 73rd and 74th amendments were enacted to strengthen the third tier of government in the belief that citizens’ affairs should be handled from a local government closest to them. Matters calling for economies of scale and managerial expertise are to be left to be handled by State and Central governments.

“Unfortunately we have inverted the logic behind this philosophy and turned local governments impotent and State and Central governments all powerful. Once people have no control over their destiny, the link between their vote and public good snaps and the vote becomes a purchasable commodity.

“The system resulted in a centralized bureaucracy which remains unresponsive and unaccountable, and lead to collapse of public services, neglect of vital sectors like education, health, agricultural extension and social welfare, and accentuation of regional disparities and animosities. A solution lies in unveiling fully empowered and adequately funded elected local governments driven by purposive and competent leaders.”

The Lok Satta President said the concept of district governments comprises five elements.

  • A directly elected premier for a district with full and effective control over bureaucracy
  • Adequate devolution of resources and powers to legislate, regulate and execute in all matters under their charge. District governments will have jurisdiction over all other local governments both in rural and urban areas. The primary tier of government – the panchayat/municipality – will be entrusted with the provision of all basic services and amenities. Panchayat will have direct power and responsibility to provide quality drinking water, eradicate public defecation and eliminate belt shops and illicit distillation.
  • Apart from normal funding, wards and divisions in panchayats and municipalities will get a per capita grant of Rs.1000 to address local needs (A village with a population of say 5,000 will get an annual grant of Rs.50 lakh). People will be guaranteed safe drinking water, a toilet for every household, all-weather roads and public transport, and 24-hour quality power supply in every village.
  • There will be decentralization and convergence of all services and agencies. Local mobile courts in each mandal, access to land records and birth certificates in each panchayats, voter registration through post offices, integration of revenue and development functions, farmers’ control of local markets, agri-clinics in each village – all these and other measures will be integral to district governments.
  • 1000 small towns will be built at a cost of Rs 40,000 crores to provide urban amenities close to village, and create employment to 50 lakh youth.

The districts are cabinets being formed in each district with experts and prominent citizens and activities in each district. These district cabinets would function as shadow cabinets and promote public awareness, study local problems, identify solutions and work with local public agencies to implement them.

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