Friday, April 16, 2010

Empowering local governments alone Can stave off violence: Dr. JP

Lok Satta Party President Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan today wholeheartedly welcomed the Union Government’s move to amend the Constitution to empower local governments.

Talking to the media, he said the move has not come a day too soon. He recalled that as early as in 1998, both the then NDA Prime Minister A, B. Vajypayee and Congress President Mrs. Sonia Gandhi had shared the dais at a panchayati raj sammelan and committed themselves to empowering local governments. He could not understand why it had taken so far to translate their words into action when both of India’s national parties had no differences on the issue. He quoted an Urdu saying -- “Mia Bibi Raji To, Kya Kare Kazi” – (the cleric or kazi has no role to play if the spouses have reached a compromise) – to underline that there was no justification for the delay in bringing about the Constitutional amendment unless their commitment was not genuine.

Dr. JP said it was high time an effective and empowered third tier of the federal set-up was unveiled, considering that the country was facing a grave crisis with potential for outbreak of violence on a large scale. “People today feel frustrated and disempowered. Democracy has been reduced to a farce of voting once in five years with no consequences in terms of the voter’s welfare. State legislators have become monarchs of their fiefdoms. Parties and ideologies have lost all relevance. Political parties have transformed themselves into warring factions to control State’s resources. Poverty has not been eradicated although lakhs of crores of rupees have been spent for decades, because politicians have squandered or swindled or misdirected public resources. Monumental corruption, miserable delivery of services and mindless populism have all sapped people’s faith in governments.”

Dr. JP said that “it is a sense of helplessness and despair over lack of control over their lives that are driving a section of people to embrace naxalism. They are frustrated because their vote has not translated into public good and their tax contributions have not led to delivery of services. The 73rd and the 74th Constitutional amendments aimed at empowering local governments have remained on paper because State Governments are not sincere or serious about implementing them.”

Dr. JP said that transfer of powers mentioned in the 11th and 12th schedules of the Constitution to local governments should be mandatory. The States shall be stripped of their discretionary powers. MPs and State legislators should have no role to play in local governments. There shall be an elected district council representing both rural and urban areas. The District Collector shall be made Secretary of the district council.

Empowerment of citizens through strengthening the local governments will go a long way in mitigating the evils of the present centralized system of administration, he said.

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